Ohio Teen Sends Out an S.O.S.

Pollution along the shores of Lake Erie inspired teens to help clean up their waterways. (Photo: Robbt [CC BY-2.0]/Flickr)

As a kid, Angela Primbas loved to play in the stream behind her house. So when she learned that is was becoming polluted, along with the entire watershed feeding nearby Lake Erie she decided to do something about it. Here’s how green teen Angela Primbas put out an S.O.S. to save the planet.

Mother Nature Network: When did you first learn about that pollution in Lake Erie?

Angela Primbas: When I was a kid, I can remember seeing a sign that was posted on one of the beaches at Lake Erie that said the beach was closed to swimming because of pollution. That was a big wake-up call for me. I also learned about pollution in my seventh-grade science class. Environmental issues weren’t really part of my school’s curriculum, but I was lucky enough to have a science teacher who really cared about the environment and shared with us some facts about pollution. Between those two avenues, I learned about the toll that pollution is having on our community.

Why did you decide to get involved?

Two friends who were in that science class with me were also really concerned about what they were hearing. So we got together and founded a group called Save Our Stream (S.O.S.) We were really concerned about non-point source pollution which is essentially a form of pollution that cant’ be traced back to any one source. It comes from the entire watershed. We were interested in figuring out where this came from and what we could do to stop it.

So we did a little but of digging and research and found out that there was a certain type of fish called the native Ohio brook trout that is becoming endangered because of this non-point source pollution. This fish is one of the only native fish to our area and it’s only found in Ohio. If we lose it here, then it’s gone forever. If this fish dies out then the entire food chain ... all of the streams and rivers ... gets thrown off balance. Other species will die as a result of it. The entire cold water ecosystem would essentially be destroyed by this pollution.

So that’s where my friends and I decided to start. We first learned about pollution while we were sitting in the classroom and then we saw its effect first -hand on a stream that ran right past my house that had brook trout in it. We wanted to stop this from happening because this is one of our unique natural species that you can’t get back once it’s gone.

What advice do you have for other teens who want to launch a similar project?

My best advice? Don’t let anything stop you.

I was at a college interview the other night and I was describing one of the environmental projects that I work on to keep non-point source pollution and invasive species out of Lake Erie. The interviewer responded by saying that he thought my project was pointless because invasive species are just going to get into the lake anyway. My response to him was that no, I don’t believe it’s just going to happen anyway, especially if we can educate boaters to clean out their ballast water so there is less of a chance that an invasive species can be transferred from one body of water to another. I was so surprised that this guy would just completely criticize everything I was doing and everything I believe in. So even if you’re faced with this kid of criticism, you can’t let it stop you. There are going to be people who don’t want to listen and there are going to be people who don’t want to take what you’re saying very seriously. But if it’s something that you really believe in, you have to just go for it. When you do you’ll find that there are a lot of people out there who want to help you, especially if you’re young because they are thrilled to have bright new energy involved in the environmental movement.

For more of my interview with Angela and other amazing green teens, check out The Green Teen: The Eco-Friendly Teen's Guide to Saving the Planet.