Environment & Science | Michigan Radio
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Environment & Science

Catt Liu

If you hit the grocery stores in the Toledo area a couple weeks ago, hoping to pick up some bottled water, you were out of luck.

Several stores completely sold out, thanks to rumors that the city would soon be issuing another “do not drink” advisory for tap water. It didn’t.

But water pollution in the Maumee River and western Lake Erie is creating harmful blooms so large, you can literally see them from space.

Lead service line
Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Most water systems operators around the state had a hint this was coming.

The Flint water crisis has reverberated among water professionals working from Muskegon and Grand Haven all through the state and to the Detroit metro area; where the bulk of the state's drinking water lines are still buried.

Map from the MDEQ of affected area
MDEQ

More people in West Michigan might be getting their drinking water tested for chemical contamination.

The state has added 300 homes to its investigation, about 10 miles north of Grand Rapids.

Courtesty of US Air Force

 

Nobody ever thought they would find it: the P-39 fighter plane that Tuskegee Airman Frank Herman Moody, originally of Oklahoma, was flying over Lake Huron when he crashed.

But then, as luck or fate would have it, there was a bad storm on Lake Huron in April of that year, a barge and tug went down, and a cleanup was scheduled.

It was during this cleanup that a set of almost perfectly intact wings were found on the lake's floor.

Saugatuck Dunes
Norm Hoekstra / Creative Commons

Some Michigan residents are saying no to a potential development along the Kalamazoo River in Saugatuck.

The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality held a public meeting last night to hear from residents about a proposed development project along dunes on Lake Michigan.

OER Training / FLICKR - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

Congress is reviewing the Obama administration’s fuel efficiency standards.

There’s been a slew of op-ed pieces from conservative think tanks calling for a rollback of rules that increase fuel efficiency. They’d rather let the market decide – a market that trends toward less efficient trucks and SUVs.

Environmental groups are saying we’ll save fuel, save money, pollute less, and reduce the greenhouse gases that cause climate change.

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

People are gathering in Buffalo this week for the annual Great Lakes restoration conference.

At the top of their list is making sure Congress fully funds the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative in the 2018 budget.

President Trump’s proposed budget included massive cuts to the GLRI.

Todd Ambs is the campaign director for the Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition.

M. Horath

Canada geese have been spending their winters farther north.

Scientists have figured out geese are drawn to cities for safety more so than for food.

Michael Ward is an associate professor in the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He’s an author of a study on Canada geese in the Chicago region.

Ward and his team fitted Canada geese with radio collars and tracked them for two years, trying to understand why there are so many geese in Chicago during the winter.

“And what we learned was that they weren’t going there for food, they were going there because there were no hunters,” he explains. “So all of the Canada geese that spent the winter in Chicago survived, whereas half of the birds that decided to leave the Chicagoland area and go to areas where hunting is allowed and more prevalent were harvested.”

Ward says geese are all about conserving energy.

A lighthouse on Pelee Island in Lake Erie.
Richard Hsu / Flickr

A new partnership has a plan to keep Lake Erie clean. The MI CLEAR group is made up of farmers, conservationists, environmental leaders, and more. Those groups are teaming up with the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development.

Jamie Clover Adams is the Director of the Department of Agriculture. She said the multiple perspectives will help improve the lake’s water quality on a variety of fronts.

“This didn’t happen overnight and it’s not gonna be fixed overnight,” she said. “This is a very complex problem that will call for many solutions.”

Wolverine tannery neighbors threaten suit to force cleanup

Oct 15, 2017
Map from the MDEQ of affected area
MDEQ

Residents who live near an old leather tannery waste dump in western Michigan are threatening to sue Wolverine World Wide to force it to clean up the site.

Attorneys for 40 residents near the long-forgotten dump sent Wolverine a notice of intent to sue on Friday.

They want the Rockford-based global footwear company to remove contaminated soil from the 76-acre property, rebury it in a pit lined with a hazardous waste liner and then encircle the property with a slurry wall to contain polluted water.

Courtesy Photo / Air National Guard | Tech. Sgt. Nic Kuetemeyer

A combat center in northern Michigan has become the third military installation in the state to test positive for contaminated groundwater.

Capt. Brian Blumline says preliminary results came in this week for tests conducted at five locations at the Alpena Combat Readiness Training Center earlier this year. He says all the sites showed elevated levels of perfluorooctanoic acid and perfluorooctyl sulfonate.

The contaminants are from fire-fighting foam that used to be involved in training at the base.

group of activists
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

More than 3,000 progressive activists are expected to be in Detroit later this month for the Women’s Convention.

Many of them will receive an education on Flint’s and Detroit’s water issues.

Groups from Flint and Detroit plan to host a workshop for  conventioneers on the eve of the weekend-long event.

Pete Markham / Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

Lake Superior is cold, deep and clear. But it’s no longer the clearest of the Great Lakes.

Lakes Michigan and Huron have gotten clearer, bumping Lake Superior to number three.

Scientists have been able to figure how much clearer by using satellite imagery.

Kerry Wixted / Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

Forests in our region are under attack from a shrub.

The culprit is an ornamental plant called Japanese barberry. It was introduced from Asia in the late 1800s. It’s been in used in landscaping in Michigan for decades, but it’s considered invasive.

I just found out I have some in my front yard.

They’re pretty, with bright red berries that birds love to eat.

bill mckibben
Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

Despite consensus among most scientists that climate change is real, and that humans are contributing by burning fossil fuels, there is still resistance to actually doing something about it.

Oil, gas, and coal companies are fighting it. So are businesses that rely on fossil fuels, and politicians who are more worried about the economic costs today than they are about threats to life and the economy down the road.

corn in a box
Maia C / FLICKR - HTTP://J.MP/1SPGCL0

The United States was once considered an agricultural nation, but these days, most people are two or three generations away from the farm. Fewer than two percent of Americans live on farms, and many don’t understand where their food comes from, how it’s grown, or how it’s processed.

A new effort at Michigan State University is trying to change that. The College of Agriculture and Natural Resources is leading an initiative called Food @ MSU.

The Velsicol Superfund sites in St. Louis, Michigan.
Kaye LaFond / Michigan Radio

Researchers find there could be more health effects lingering decades after a toxic contamination of Michigan’s food supply.

steve carmody / Michigan Radio

A couple hundred Michigan water activists gathered in Flint this weekend.

They represent a variety of different groups, from water rights activists in Detroit and Flint to groups opposed to corporations bottling and selling Michigan water.

Conferences speakers included representatives of the Council of Canadians, Flint Democracy Defense League and the Detroit People’s Water Board

twurdemann / Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

A recent article in The Conversation asks this question: “If we stopped emitting greenhouse gases right now, would we stop climate change?”

The article’s author Richard Rood, a climate change scientist with the University of Michigan, brought Stateside the answer today.

Stateside 9.28.2017

Sep 28, 2017

Today on Stateside, we learn Toledo water is safe to drink despite bacteria blooms, "but we're not out of the woods yet." And, campus sexual assault researchers say the focus on due process comes at victims' expense.

eutrophication&hypoxia / Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

If you’ve been on social media the past 24 hours, you might have noticed photos trending of what looks like the Chicago River on St. Patrick’s Day.

But nobody will be dying that river for another six months, and this river isn’t in Illinois.

Mark Savage / Entergy

The Palisades nuclear power plant will stay open until 2022 after all.

Late last year Entergy, the company that owns the plant, announced that Palisades would shut down early, in the fall of 2018.

Palisades spokesman Val Gent says they told employees Thursday morning, when executives unfurled a big banner that read “2022.”

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.

Two beekeepers looking at a frame.
Rebecca Kruth / Michigan Radio

Most veterinarians probably don't picture themselves working with bees. But thanks to new federal regulations, more and more might soon find themselves with six-legged patients.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Michigan State University’s yet-to-be completed massive physics research facility is about to achieve an important milestone.

In the next three to four weeks, M-S-U’s Facility for Rare Isotope Beams, also known as FRIB,  will accelerate its first particles.    

When the $730 million facility is operational in 2022, it will become a leading center for scientific research.   

pressure gauge
Observe The Banana / Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

The Next Idea

 

So many innovative ideas begin with inventors observing simple events. Take Newton’s falling apple, for example, or Archimedes’ overflowing bathtub. 

For Emil Ureel of West Michigan, it was building an ice rink in his backyard — or rather designing a refrigeration system to keep it from melting.

 

“I thermodynamically ended up producing a chiller system from a used central air unit,” Ureel said. “Going through the process, I learned something related to thermodynamics that’s referred to as saturation vapor pressure.”

image of Asian carp at the Shedd Aquarium
Kate Gardiner / http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

People worried about Asian carp infecting the Great Lakes have been anxiously awaiting a long-overdue carp "battle plan" from the Army Corps of Engineers — a report held up for six months by the Trump Administration.

Now the Army Corps is free to talk details, and as it does, the reaction among some in Michigan is disappointment and disbelief.

That's because the Army Corps says it will take eight years — until 2025 — to get this fix in place.

MRPOLYONYMOUS / Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

Does killing coyotes make things safer for livestock?

Last winter, Stateside did a story about a sporting goods store near the Irish Hills that held a bounty hunt on coyotes. The store said the hunt came in response to customers who expressed worry about their chicken coops and family dogs.

Megan Draheim, a lecturer in conservation biology and human dimensions of wildlife at Virginia Tech, joined Stateside today with a differing perspective. She said there’s no evidence that killing coyotes makes livestock safer. In fact, she said it can make the coyote-human problem even worse.

Courtesy photo / 110th Attack Wing, Battle Creek Air National Guard Base

There’s a new guy running the drinking water division at the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality.

Eric Oswald served 12 years of active duty in the Air Force. He spent the last five years as a commander at the Air National Guard Base in Battle Creek.

Oswald is not a drinking water expert.

Courtesy of Michigan Department of Natural Resources

Before Europeans arrived in Michigan, “moose were pretty much all over” the state, said Rachel Clark of the Michigan History Center.

After that arrival, the moose population declined as settlers began over-hunting the animal and damaging its habitat.

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