the environment report | Michigan Radio
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the environment report

album cover of space odyssey soundtrack
User Per-Olof Forsberg / Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

Today on Stateside, why a large diversion of Lake Michigan water approved by the state of Wisconsin in 2010 is drawing new scrutiny. Plus, ringing in the first weekend of fall with a Michigan version of a tropical cocktail.  

satellite map of Michigan, the Great Lakes
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

When Peter Annin, director of the Burke Center for Freshwater Innovation at Northland College, was completing research for an updated version of his book The Great Lakes Water Wars, he discovered a detail about Great Lakes water diversions that had gone unnoticed for 8 years.

According to his findings, the state of Wisconsin never announced that in 2010, it approved the village of Pleasant Prairie's request to extract seven million gallons of water per day from Lake Michigan, the largest water diversion in the state.

Michigan Radio will make changes to its environmental coverage beginning in October. 

The Environment Report, which has explored the relationship between the natural world and the everyday lives of people in Michigan for nearly twenty years, will no longer air at fixed times on Tuesday and Thursday mornings and afternoons.

Tracy Samilton / Michigan Radio

Two years ago, residents of Alden Village, a small subdivision directly east of Ford Motor Company's Livonia Transmission, got a letter from the automaker.

It was not good news.

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.

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 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.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

Eleven years ago on a cold January day, volunteers for the Huron River Watershed Council, Rochelle Breitenbach and Mary Bajcz trudged through the snow and thicket to get to a pristine little stream that flows into the Huron River.

Piping plover
USFWS

Piping plovers are little shorebirds, and they're an endangered species in the Great Lakes region. But they’re making a comeback thanks to conservation efforts and even some heroics.

Ross and Donna Tingley
Kaye LaFond / Michigan Radio

At least 14 communities in Michigan have water contaminated with a family of chemicals known as per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS.

One of those sites, in West Michigan, has gotten a lot of attention recently. This month, the state abruptly announced a cleanup standard for PFAS.

But these chemicals have been a pollution problem in the state for years.

In Oscoda, some residents are wondering why remediation is taking so long.

Should we ever leave invasives alone?

Dec 21, 2017
Rebecca Thiele

Invasive plants and animals are an expensive problem in the United States.

Federal agencies spent more than $104 million last year to control them. But a study on the garlic mustard plant shows that it might be better to leave some invasives alone. 

Garlic mustard is a forest plant with heart-like leaves and clusters of white flowers. It can grow up to about four feet tall and is often the first green plant you’ll see in the spring.

Europeans settlers brought it to the United States in the 1800s as an herb for cooking. It was also used to treat ulcers and gangrene.

Paul Vugteveen, a chef in Battle Creek, uses the plant in his cooking. He says it has a garlicky, oniony flavor and is best served raw. 

D. Tallamy, courtesy of Desiree Narango

Native plants are better for birds than non-native plants.

That’s the main finding of a study on chickadees and the caterpillars they eat.

Courtesy of Kraig Biocraft Laboratories

The silky strands made by spiders are prized for their strength and suppleness. Now, scientists in the Great Lakes region are using technology to reproduce spider silk. And there's a wide range of users – from the Army to a famous British fashion designer.

Courtesy Seth Herbst

A couple weeks ago, this guy in Kalamazoo County sees something a little odd: what looks like a tiny lobster, trying to cross the road.

He takes a picture of it, and sends it to the man who’s been dreading this moment: Seth Herbst, the aquatic invasive species coordinator for the fisheries division at the Department of Natural Resources.

“And as soon as I saw that photo, it was a clear as day that that was a red swamp crayfish,” Herbst sighs. But his day was only going to get worse. Later that very morning, he heard from another person in that same area – Sunset Lake in Vicksburg – who saw a red swamp crayfish walking around in their yard.

This was bad news.

Bottles of water
Flickr user Daniel Orth / FLICKR - HTTP://J.MP/1SPGCL0

Should a judge force the government to deliver bottled water, door to door, to everybody in Flint?

The Flint water crisis has gone to federal court: a group of activists say the state’s efforts really aren’t reaching a lot of people – especially older, sick, or low-income people.

There’s several plaintiffs here:  a group called the Concerned Pastors for Social Action, the Natural Resources Defense Council, and a Flint resident/activist named Melissa Mays.

Jane Kramer photographing the American lotus.
Rebecca Williams / Michigan Radio

Plants usually don’t get as much love as cute animals. Sometimes it’s hard to get people fired up about an endangered plant.

But Jane Kramer’s trying to do that anyway.

She’s a fine art photographer. She takes photos of the shadows of rare or threatened plants, and then prints them on paper she makes out of invasive plants like garlic mustard and purple loosestrife.

user mytvdinner / Flickr

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say 48 million Americans get sick from eating contaminated food each year. That's one in six people.

One of the big challenges for companies is tracing those food products and getting them off the shelves quickly.

Kaitlin Wowak is an assistant professor of management at the University of Notre Dame Mendoza College of Business. She’s the lead author of a new study in the Journal of Business Logistics. She says a number of factors determine how difficult it is to recall a food product quickly.

Life stages of ticks.
CDC

It's tick season once again, and according to Michigan Radio's The Environment Report, Michiganders should be diligent when they're outdoors this summer. 

According to Rebecca Williams' recent story, the tick that we should be concerned about is the blacklegged tick. However, if you're starting to look for them now, good luck. They are currently in the nymph stage and are about the size of a poppy seed.

DNR Fisheries Biologist Tim Cwalinski holds a sturgeon with Michigan State University students on the Black River.
MSU

Lake sturgeon are a threatened species in Michigan. And there’s one spot in the state where the fish are in particular danger.

One group gets together every year to watch over them, and they want your help.

Most people never see this rare fish -- which is too bad, because they’re quite a sight. Lake sturgeon can live to be 100 years old and can weigh hundreds of pounds.

They spawn in several rivers in Michigan in the spring – but parts of the Black River in the northern-lower-peninsula are shallow, so you can see these fish as they swim upstream.

This map shows the probabilities of where oil might go after a spill in the Straits of Mackinac.
From the UM Water Center report

Enbridge Energy has maintained that their twin oil and natural gas liquid pipelines under Lake Michigan at the Straits of Mackinac are safe.

But what if one of them did break open? Where might the oil go?

Today, the University of Michigan’s Water Center released new computer simulations to help answer that question.

David Schwab is a hydrodynamics expert with the Water Center.

“I don’t know any place where the currents are as strong, and change direction as quickly, and as frequently as in the Straits of Mackinac,” Schwab said.

Flickr user USFWSmidwest / Flickr / http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

White-nose syndrome is a deadly disease caused by a fungus. It’s killing bats in 27 states including Michigan, and five Canadian provinces.

It was first discovered in North America around a decade ago. Researchers think it came over from Europe, possibly on the shoes of a tourist or caver.

Mackinac Bridge
Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

Enbridge Energy’s Line 5 goes right under Lake Michigan at the Straits of Mackinac.

At the Straits, it splits into two pipelines. Both pipelines are 63 years old (they were installed in 1953).

Right now, we don’t have all the information about the condition of those pipelines. As we’ve reported many times, Enbridge holds all the cards. The company has shared some information with the public, but not a lot.

Kate Langwig and her team have found evidence that some bats may be developing resistance to the deadly disease.
Jennifer Redel

White-nose syndrome is killing millions of bats in 27 states and five Canadian provinces. It’s a disease caused by a fungus.

Five of Michigan’s nine bat species can get the disease. The bats that hibernate underground are the ones at risk. And the northern long-eared bat is getting hit especially hard.

Researchers at the University of California Santa Cruz are studying bats in China that appear to be resistant to the fungus. 

Flickr user tmray02/Flickr

How do you decide if your milk is fresh enough to drink? You might be one of the many Americans who relies on sell-by dates to determine when to throw it out. But it turns out we could be dumping perfectly good milk. 

A physics professor thinks he’s hit on a better way to tell if food is fresh. And he’s taking it to market.

A worker holds a lead service line removed from a home in Flint.
Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

In Flint, there is no shortage of testing going on.

Right now, the state, the EPA, and outside researchers are testing all kinds of water samples collected throughout the city.

The Environmental Protection Agency's Flint on-scene coordinator Mark Durno says all parties will get together in a few weeks to go over the data they've collected.

MDEQ

The St. Clair River is on a list of toxic hot spots in Michigan. They’re called Areas of Concern.

The river is on this list because of a long history of industrial pollution. But people have been working to clean it up.

In order to take the river off the list, there are a number of problems that have to be fixed.

One of these is beach closings. Those can happen when untreated sewage gets into the river during storms. But officials say things are getting much better on that front.

The hidden costs of pollution

Feb 25, 2016
markbwavy / Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

We often hear about the economic costs of environmental regulation on the energy industry.

But there’s a flip side to that equation — the price society pays for pollution.  One scientist has added up those costs. And she found they’re going down.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

If you’ve never had norovirus, you’re a very lucky person. It’s highly contagious and can knock you down.

“Either diarrhea or vomiting. Some people also have both at the same time, which is obviously the most unpleasant of all the outcomes,” says Christiane Wobus, an associate professor at the University of Michigan Medical School who studies norovirus.

Roughly 150 students got sick with the virus on the University of Michigan’s Ann Arbor campus last week.

If you’re a scientist, this outbreak is an opportunity.

Bert Cregg, MSU

You might’ve noticed there’s something strange going on with the spruce trees in your neighborhood.

It’s called spruce decline and it’s mostly affecting Colorado blue spruce.

Spruce decline is pretty much what it sounds like – the lower branches on the tree start turning brown and dying.

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