Student creates flood of participation in water quality program

Jacob Cantor (right) presents a poster to Virginia Tech President Timothy Sands (left) Provost Mark McNamee, and Erin Ling, coordinator of the Virginia Household Water Quality Program, that illustrates the results of his outreach on the Eastern Shore.

Jacob Cantor (right) presents a poster to Virginia Tech President Timothy D. Sands (left) Provost Mark McNamee, and Erin Ling, coordinator of the Virginia Household Water Quality Program, that illustrates the results of his outreach on the Eastern Shore.

By Amy Loeffler

Jacob Cantor’s path to educating residents of Virginia’s Eastern Shore about household water quality started in faraway Oaxaca, Mexico.

A senior from Fairfax, Virginia, majoring in biological systems engineering, Cantor became interested in how his academic training could benefit international development projects. So he volunteered south of the border at the Hunger Project and worked on water quality issues in a small village.

But Cantor wanted to do more. He received funds from the Austin Michelle Cloyd Honors Scholarship and thought they would stretch further if he stayed closer to home. He decided to work with water quality issues in the commonwealth through Virginia Cooperative Extension’s Virginia Household Water Quality Program.

The program provides practical information to homeowners about maintaining and protecting private water systems, such as wells, springs, and cisterns.

And Cantor was a big part of the program’s success on the Eastern Shore in 2014.

He raised the participant level of the water quality program by speaking at high schools, farmers markets, and at the local community college to help educate residents about things that can affect private well water quality, including bacteria and other contaminants.

“It was rewarding talking to the people about things that they might not know about but could do to make the quality of their water safer,” Cantor said.

In the future, Cantor says he’d like to continue to work with communities to maintain high standards of water quality.

“It’s really what we do in our everyday activities that makes the difference between poor and sustainable water quality,” he said.

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