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Environment & Science

'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.

Lake Michigan at sunrise.
Elvis Kennedy / FLICKR - HTTP://J.MP/1SPGCL0

There's nothing better during a Michigan summer than spending time at the Great Lakes.

Stateside asked you what questions you had about the state's freshwater seas, and we'll be bringing you answers all summer long. 

We'll start today with a question from listener Ted Bonarski in Grand Rapids. 

"Are there areas of the Lower Peninsula where the aquifer is filled with Lake Superior water, so that someone pumping up from a well was getting water that was chemically traceable to Lake Superior?" 

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.

If you see this label, your piece of furniture likely contains flame retardant chemicals.
Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

The International Joint Commission has released recommendations to limit the toxic impacts of flame retardant chemicals in the Great Lakes environment.

Human-like robot
Franck V. / Unsplash

 


From the Jetsons’ Rosie to Data on Star Trek, robot companions have long held a special place in pop culture.

But now, artificial intelligence has moved off the screen and into our everyday lives.

From an autonomous helper for astronauts to Siri playing your favorite song when you ask, robots are increasingly intertwined into our workplaces and homes.

And as that happens, artificial intelligence is starting to look and sound more like real humans.

The DEQ PFAS Investigation Map near Rockford, MI
From Google map provided by Wolverine Worldwide

 

There are calls today for a state investigation into why the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality apparently failed to act on a warning of PFAS contamination written in 2012.

Studies suggest that PFAS exposure is linked to some cancers, thyroid problems, higher cholesterol and other diseases.

Credit: NOAA derived image from EUMETSAT Copernicus Sentinel-3a satellite dat / NOAA

Researchers with Ohio Sea Grant and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) say cyanobacterial blooms in Lake Erie will likely be smaller than last year.

The forecast relies on satellite imaging and computer models to predict the toxic blooms every summer. 

Christopher Winslow, Director of the Ohio Sea Grant College Program, says this summer's prediction is about 6 on a scale of 10. 

A man sits in front of an old tractor. Signs read "This tractor is the same age as the Line 5 pipeline. Both are as good as new. Not"
Kaye LaFond / Michigan Radio

The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality held a public hearing on Wednesday evening in Mackinaw City, taking comments on proposed new anchor supports for the Line 5 oil pipelines.

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.

Stateside 7.11.2018

Jul 11, 2018

Today on Stateside, as more states (including Michigan) consider legalizing recreational marijuana, how will cops be able to tell who is too stoned to drive? Plus, there was no spitting, cussing, or mitts allowed in the "gentlemanly game" of early baseball.  

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.

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.

Enbridge releases final reports on Line 5 risks

Jun 29, 2018
One of the anchors used to hold Line 5 in place under the Straits of Mackinac.
Screen shot of a Ballard Marine inspection video / Enbridge Energy

Enbridge Energy released three final reports related to an oil pipeline running under the Straits of Mackinac called Line 5. The reports were required under a November 2017 agreement with Governor Snyder. Snyder has said that he will use these reports, and a pending risk analysis by researchers from Michigan Technological University, to make a decision about Line 5 in the fall. 

The reports address three subjects: detection of underwater leaks, preventing anchor strikes, and identifying all of the vulnerable waterways in Michigan that could be at risk from a leak.

Lake Victoria, Mwanza, Tanzania
Jonathan Stonehouse / Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCL0

 


The North American Great Lakes region has some of the world’s leading experts on freshwater issues. A new nonprofit wants to share this expertise with researchers working with the Great Lakes across the Atlantic in Africa. 

Ted Lawrence is executive director of the African Center for Aquatic Research and Education. He joined Stateside to talk about the similiarities between the North American and African Great Lakes, and what they can learn from each other. 

Field of corn
Flickr/Vampire Bear

 


Farmers are expressing frustration over the fedearl government’s unclear policies on ethanol. 

As a candidate, Donald Trump promised corn growers he would support increased use of corn ethanol in fuel.

But in recent days, EPA chief Scott Pruitt has been criticized for his handling of renewable fuel standards, which requires oil refineries mix renewable fuels such as ethanol with gasoline.

Daniel Raimi headshot
Daniel Raimi

 


Michigan has used methods of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, for decades. The national debate over the use of fracking began only ten to fifteen years ago when companies began drilling down and across. 

Now companies can drill deposits one to three miles wide.

Author and University of Michigan Professor Daniel Raimi discusses the nuances and misconceptions of fracking in his new book “The Fracking Debate: The Risks, Benefits, and Uncertainties of the Shale Revolution.”

A box of Ice Mountain brand water bottles
Steven Depolo / http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

Many residents were outraged when the state granted Nestlé a permit to significantly increase the amount of water it pumps out of a well near Evart, Michigan.

More than 80,000 people submitted public comments opposing the decision. The environmental group Michigan Citizens for Water Conservation has since challenged that permit.

A living room, with a couch and a window, is shown with inches of mud piled on the carpet.
Kaye LaFond / Michigan Radio

Record rainfall devastated large parts of Houghton County earlier this month. Flash flooding killed a 12-year-old boy when the basement of his house collapsed. It damaged hundreds of homes and caused at least $100 million in damage to infrastructure.

Stateside 6.27.2018

Jun 27, 2018

Today on Stateside, Taiwanese company Foxconn will be able to use nearly 6 million gallons of Lake Michigan water every day, even though it's outside the Great Lakes basin. Plus, before Vegas became known for 24-hour chapels, Michigan was the go-to place for a quickie wedding. 

To hear individual interviews, click here or see below: 

Lake Michigan just south of Racine County
GSA.GOV

 

President Trump and House Speaker Paul Ryan will be in Wisconsin this Thursday for the groundbreaking of the $10 billion Foxconn plant.

The Taiwanese electronics company has promised thousands of jobs in Racine County and in return has been offered $4.5 billion in tax incentives. 

The plant will also require 5.8 million gallons of water a day diverted from Lake Michigan for operations. 

Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha
Kathryn Condon / Michigan Radio

 


The world knows her as the doctor who used science to force the state of Michigan to admit it had caused the Flint water crisis.

 

A close-up shot of a cannabis plant
Charlón / FLICKR - http://bit.ly/1xMszCg

On Monday, the Food and Drug Administration made history. For the first time, the agency approved a hemp-derived product for use in treating epilepsy. 

The decision comes as more and more Michigan farmers and researchers have their eye on producing hemp for commercial and medical uses. 

Peeling lead paint.
Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

The Environmental Protection Agency has proposed tighter standards for lead in dust on floors and window sills. Lead dust can be a big source of lead exposure for kids when chips of old paint flake off, or when older homes are renovated. The proposed standards would affect most homes built before 1978 and places where kids spend a lot of time, like day care centers.

Endangered plovers face new threat: snowy owls

Jun 26, 2018
A plover and her chicks.
USFWS

 

A new predator has emerged for a little shorebird in our region, the piping plover.

Snowy owls often spend time out on Great Lakes beaches in the winter. It’s a good habitat for them. But something unexpected happened this year.

Vince Cavalieri is the piping plover coordinator with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

“It became very apparent early this year that there were a lot of snowy owls still being seen,” he says.

He says the owls hung around later than usual.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

A Michigan lawmaker is looking to amend the rules governing trust fund money intended to grow public land for resource protection and recreational opportunities.

a bumbleebee on a pink flower
Jice 75 / Flickr - http://bit.ly/1xMszCg

Bees might be small, but they play an outsize role in food production. In fact, one of every three bites of food we eat is made possible by bees.

While a lot of attention on the shrinking bee population focuses on honeybees, they aren't the only pollinators in our state. Michigan is also home to hundreds of native bee species that play an equally important role in our environment and economy. 

Stateside 6.21.2018

Jun 21, 2018

Today on Stateside, a CDC report on the health effects of PFAS, initially buried by the White House and EPA, recommends a much lower threshold for exposure to the chemicals. Plus, a quirky summer festival that combines Great Depression-era farming and ooey-gooey sticky buns. 

To hear individual interviews click here or see below: 

The DEQ PFAS Investigation Map near Rockford, MI
From Google map provided by Wolverine Worldwide

 


PFAS is a family of chemicals often used in the manufacturing of nonstick and waterproof products. In the past several years, the chemicals have been showing up in high levels in people's drinking water across the state.

News came out Wednesday that a report on the dangers of PFAS exposure had been blocked by officials at the Environmental Protection Agency and the White House. 

Alexis Temkin is a toxicologist at the Environmental Working Group in Washington D.C. She spoke with Stateside on the implications of this new development. 

Lisa Barrett

If you’ve ever tried to keep a raccoon out of your trash can, you know they’re smart. At my house, it takes a brick on top of the trash can and a bungee cord on top of the lid to keep the raccoons out.

New research looks at how animals with complex cognitive abilities might do better in cities, but could end up in more conflicts with people.

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