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DDO teen’s science project could solve Quebec’s pothole problem

WATCH ABOVE: West Islander David Ballas has found a unique way to fill the city’s potholes – with feathers. Global’s Billy Shields has more.

DOLLARD-DES-ORMEAUX – West Island College student David Ballas, 14, has a new idea for fixing Quebec’s pothole problem – mixing chicken feathers with asphalt to make it largely waterproof.

“Water doesn’t pass through it, and if it doesn’t pass through it, it doesn’t freeze up, lift the asphalt and doesn’t crack,” Ballas said from his living room.

By creating a mixture of asphalt that is two percent chicken feathers, Ballas says that only 6mm out of half a litre of water passes through the paving surface during his tests.

With his project, Ballas was able to tie for first prize in his school’s science fair.

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READ MORE: Fix those potholes, Montreal told by province

He’s going to enter the Montreal Regional Science Fair in late March with the idea, one that he got while he was going to hockey practice with his mother.

“It was right at the point when he had to give them his idea,” said his mother, Joy Struzen.

“And we’re in the car driving and potholes came up. I wasn’t very happy about it. I didn’t see them.”

Ballas points out 5 million chicken feathers a year are squandered in Quebec through poultry processing.

One of his first challenges came when he tried to find a source of feathers that didn’t kill the birds.

He found a small farm in the unincorporated rural community of Shacklefords in Virginia, USA that collects chicken feathers as the birds moult.

READ MORE: City of Montreal may not have enough asphalt to fill potholes

Ballas says a box costing $11 can supply enough feathers to pave his five-block street.

He says he’s planning on sharing his idea with public officials after the regional fair.

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“It will cost more at the beginning,” he said.

“But in the long run it will save everyone money.”