Jackson County

Do you have an idea on how to cleanup the Mississippi Sound?

Pascagoula High takes the Restore Summit challenge

Students worked out ways to filter storm runoff and help end water quality alerts in the Mississippi Sound.
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Students worked out ways to filter storm runoff and help end water quality alerts in the Mississippi Sound.

Trevor Perry, who scored 30 on his ACT, has some ideas on how to clean the water that runs off highways and yards along the Coast, before it gets into the Mississippi Sound.

And starting in January, the state wants to hear your ideas, too.

Perry was one of 20 Pascagoula High School students who took up the challenge Tuesday issued by the state Department of Environmental Quality at the state’s Restoration Summit at the Coast Coliseum and Convention Center.

MDEQ has thrown down the gauntlet and will accept all ideas on how to end water-quality alerts and the warnings that close sections of the Mississippi Sound to swimming. The challenge is to specifically address the outfalls, or drainage pipes, that allow untreated stormwater to flow into the Sound.

The challenge is open to everyone, but MDEQ will determine if applicants are eligible. After formal ideas are selected, then the state will use some of the $60 million set aside for water quality that Gov. Phil Bryant announced at Tuesday’s summit to put the designs into action. It’s a form of cleanup funded by the BP oil disaster.

Perry and his teammates came up with a system of filters to get oil and nutrients out of water that runs off the Coast. His team’s design would rely on oysters — natural filter feeders — to do some of the cleaning. Pascagoula High’s best marine and environmental science minds were divided into nine teams and came up with other ideas as well.

Why pit high school students against professional engineers?

“We want to leave no stone unturned for possible ideas,” said Marc Wyatt, director of the MDEQ Office of Restoration. “That includes residents who say, ‘I’ve known how to fix that for years.’ Now will be their chance.”

The Beach Outfalls Challenge will begin in Jan. 9 through March 15. There’s a website and Facebook page set up for registration. The ideas and designs will be vetted by a panel.

The challenge is funded by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation’s Gulf Environmental Benefit Fund grant of $544,600 to MDEQ to improve natural resources after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.