Lester Graham | Michigan Radio
WUOMFM

Lester Graham

Reporter / Host, Stateside & The Environment Report

Lester Graham reports for The Environment Report and also hosts Stateside (Fridays). He has reported on public policy, politics, and issues regarding race and gender inequity. He was previously with The Environment Report at Michigan Radio from 1998-2010.

He has been a journalist since 1985. Graham has served as a board member of the Public Radio News Directors Inc., and also served as President of the Illinois News Broadcasters Association. He is a member of the Radio-Television Digital News Association (RTDNA), Society of Professional Journalists and other professional groups.

Lester has received 15 first place national awards for journalism excellence and scores more at the national, regional, and state levels.

Ways to Connect

Emma Winowiecki / Michigan Radio

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

The State of Michigan is finding industrial chemicals known as PFAS in the tissue of fish. So it's been issuing “Don’t Eat the Fish” advisories along lakes, rivers and streams. But there are concerns about whether state officials are doing as much as they should. 

Before we get too far into the story, we have to start with a little science.

The reason PFAS chemical contamination in fish is such a concern is because of something called bioaccumulation.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

One of the contaminated PFAS sites first documented in Michigan was in Oscoda Township near the former Wurtsmith Air Force Base. The base has been closed for years.  Firefighting training there used a fire suppressant foam containing a PFAS chemical.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

There have been more news stories in recent months about water contamination from a group of industrial chemicals. PFAS chemical pollution seems to have come out of nowhere. That’s not exactly true. PFAS contamination has been known to be a problem. What's different is we’re discovering the problem is bigger than imagined.

In recent months, the State of Michigan has found several places where drinking water and fish are contaminated by a class of chemicals called PFAS. This pollution is coming from a variety of sources.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

Michigan Radio’s Stateside colleagues April Van Buren and Mercedes Mejia challenged the Cheers! team to make a pina colada using paw paw.

The Cheers! drink expert, Tammy Coxen of Tammy’s Tastings, loved the idea.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

Riding a bike to work might be good for the environment, but automobile drivers are still getting used to the idea of sharing the road. 

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

It’s after Labor Day, but the weather has been pretty hot in Michigan. The Cheers! team of Tammy Coxen and Lester Graham are not thinking about apple cider and fall cocktails just yet.

“Because it’s been so hot, I thought I’d take us in a Tiki direction today,” Tammy said as she was grinding ice in a vintage contraption (more on that later).

She’s been researching beer cocktails for an upcoming Tammy’s Tastings cocktail class. Beer might not be the first thing you think about in a fruity Tiki cocktail.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

The elk is an important Michigan symbol. It’s even on our state flag. But have you ever seen an elk in the wild in Michigan?  Did you even know there are elk in Michigan?

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

This shop is Fidler Furniture Company… headed up by Steven Mark Fidler.

“We do primarily custom metalwork. We do some woodwork where we have exotic woods we mix with our metalwork. Sometimes people want a table and they want a wood top, but a metal base and we can do both of those,” Fidler explained. 

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

The Cheers! team met at the Alley Bar in Ann Arbor to taste a cocktail made with a new Michigan-made spirit. It’s a fairly new spirit to the U.S., but Tammy Coxen of Tammy’s Tastings noted we have played with this spirit before.

The spirit is aquavit.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

It’s a two for one as we visit Gemini Handmade in downtown Grand Rapids as part of our Artisans of Michigan series.

The boutique-studio-workshop is home to two businesses. Jacob Vroon’s company is Harbinger Leather Design. Elyse Welcher owns Littlewings Designs.

The two artisans are married.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

The son of retiring Congressman Sander Levin won the Democratic nod to replace his father. Andy Levin defeated former state representative Ellen Lipton and Martin Brook.

“They were sharp. They had a strong message. They really made our campaign better,” Levin said after claiming victory.

Both his father, Sander Levin, and his uncle, former U.S. Senator Carl Levin gathered with supporters who were waiting for election results in the ninth Congressional district.

Cheers! We've got a honey of a Michigan cocktail for you.

The website for Bløm Meadworks suggests, “…if the word ‘mead’ automatically conjures a drinking hall filled with Vikings for you, think of ours as its friendly, approachable descendants, without the pillage and plunder.”

Cute.

But we’re taking the Vikings to Mexico.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

It is the most famous drink to ever come out of Detroit. It is known worldwide as the hummer.

“This was created by a bartender at the Bayview Yacht Club named Jerome Adams in 1968,” explained Tammy Coxen of Tammy’s Tastings.

Adams had recently gotten a job as a bartender at the Detroit yacht club. He wanted to come up with a drink that would impress his colleagues and impress his customers, Coxen said.

'Wind farm' takes on a new, and for some uncomfortable' meaning in Huron County
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Wind energy became popular because it can reduce the need for polluting coal and gas generated electricity. But, things are shifting now.

“The primary driver is economics,” said Stanley “Skip” Pruss with Five Lakes Energy, a consulting firm on sustainable energy.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

New tariffs are putting some Michigan newspapers and printers at risk of going out of business.

There’s more than a little irony in the fact that a state which built paper mills all over, no longer makes the kind of paper that newspapers use.

Courtesy: Alliance for the Great Lakes and Environmental Consulting & Technology, Inc.

How can cities reduce flooding caused by increasingly intense rain storms?

More often, it's flooding in areas not known for a lot of flooding in the past. That happened in Detroit in 2014. It caught everyone by surprise as interstates and neighborhoods were suddenly under water.

Bill Braunlich

What happens if your dog likes to swim in the lake, but there might be toxins in the water?

It can happen in a local lake or somewhere like the western basin of Lake Erie. Toxin-producing cyanobacteria appear. Some people still call it blue-green algae.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

Eric Sooy is showing me some of his percussion skills on a snare drum. He made that drum. Sooy is the president and founder of Black Swamp Percussion in Zeeland, Michigan. His company makes percussion instruments that have made it to symphony concert halls, rock and roll stages, and recording studios.

quagga mussels in lake michigan
Greg Marks / NOAA Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory

Beaches along Lake Michigan are closed when E. coli bacteria gets too high. But a nasty critter found on the bottom of the lake might help keep the beaches open.

Still from Casperson campaign video.

New laws signed by Governor Rick Snyder last Friday set up commissions to oversee the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality. Environmentalists say those commissions will be stacked with business and industry people and give them more influence in the environmental rulemaking process.

Michigan Truth Squad: Gretchen Whitmer depicts Michigan teachers in poverty

Jun 26, 2018
Gretchen Whitmer at a Democratic gubernatorial debate
Twitter

In her bid to become Democratic nominee for Michigan governor, former state Sen. Gretchen Whitmer has made improving education and better supporting classroom teachers a campaign centerpiece. Whitmer, for instance, released a plan that would make the first two years of college debt-free, and she would spend more state money to phase in universal preschool.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

We’re outside the blacksmith shop of Joel Sanderson of Sanderson Iron near Quincy, Michigan. 

There's a steady putt-putt sound that comes from the heart of Sanderson Iron.

Michigan Truth Squad: Bill Schuette’s record on pollution under fire

Jun 18, 2018
Jim Malewitz / Bridge Magazine

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette, a Republican candidate for governor, frequently touts his conservative credentials by mentioning his opposition to environmental protections rolled out under President Barack Obama.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

This spring, the Last Word’s Casey Miller had just returned from being named one of three Midwest Finalists in the 2017 United States Bartending Guild, Incorporated’s World Class competition. (His colleague at The Last Word in Ann Arbor, Giancarlo Aversa, has also been among the finalists in years past.)

“This cocktail I call the Kibby Cobb. It’s named after a little region of Jackson, Michigan where we would always go back in the summer,” Miller said. While his family was from Michigan, Miller grew up in Tokyo.

He says the cocktail includes ingredients that make him think of summers and springs in Michigan.

Michigan Truth Squad: Bill Schuette talks tough on Line 5 pipeline

Jun 15, 2018

In Michigan politics these days, one environmental issue seems to trump all others: Line 5.

The 645-mile oil pipeline has become a magnet for environmental concerns. That’s largely due to its age (65-years old); the checkered transparency record of its Canadian owner, Enbridge Energy; and because its section of twin pipelines stretches beneath Straits of Mackinac, the gateway between Lake Michigan and Lake Huron.

A diver inspects Enbridge's Line 5 pipeline under the Straits of Mackinac for a possible dent.
Enbridge inspection video shared with the state of Michigan

A Canadian company will turn in a report tomorrow outlining whether it thinks a tunnel under the Straits of Mackinac is a feasible option for its pipeline. A tunnel was suggested by Michigan Governor Rick Snyder.

Michigan Radio

Until recently, if a home solar array produced more electricity than the house used, it would go through the meter onto the grid. Residents with solar power arrays got paid for that power at the same rate as the power company charged other residents.  Power that comes in/power that goes out: same price. This even exchange is called net metering.

Michigan Truth Squad: Michigan Republican Tonya Schuitmaker attacks foe on DACA

Jun 11, 2018
Tonya Schuitmaker
Bridge Magazine

With less than three months until its Lansing convention, the two Republican candidates for Michigan attorney general are pitching their message to a small, impassioned audience: the estimated 2,000 delegates who will choose between House Speaker Tom Leonard and state Sen. Tonya Schuitmaker.

Pages