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Environment & Science

Stateside 8.7.2018

Aug 7, 2018

Today on Stateside, we hear from county clerks around the state about what Election Day has looked like at their polling stations. Plus, the sad end of the Milky Way's long-lost sibling, and what it might tell us about our own planet's fate. 

Beach
Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Like many of us, listener Steven Drews, from Lapeer, and his family love spending time at Lake Michigan during the summer. But for the past couple of years, Drews has noticed some changes at the his family's favorite Elberta, Michigan beach. The last time they visited, Drews said the beach they normally love to walk along was no longer there. Instead, there was a cliff. 

Richard D'Souza / University of Michigan / Compiled images from Wei-Hao Wang / NASA, JPL and NSF

Space is the final frontier, as Star Trek's Captain Kirk observed. It is almost always yielding exciting surprises and discoveries.

The latest finding is that our Milky Way galaxy once had a sibling. Sadly though, that sibling galaxy came to an unhappy end at the hands of our closest neighbor.

Eric Bell, professor of astronomy at the University of Michigan joined Stateside to tell us more about our long-lost galaxy sibling.

Map of Michigan
Limnotech

Scientists are creating an experimental warning system for meteotsunamis in the Great Lakes.

Meteotsunamis are potentially dangerous waves that are driven by storms.

Eric Anderson is a physical oceanographer with the Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory, with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

“Meteotsunamis are a very particular kind of wave and we don’t yet have the ability to forecast when and where they’re going to occur,” he says.

Dan Dillon

Methane is one of the big three greenhouse gasses, next to carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide.

Peter Groffman is a professor at the City University of New York Advanced Science Research Center at the Graduate Center, and a senior research fellow at the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies. 

“Its concentration in the atmosphere has been going up at a rather high rate since the Industrial Revolution,” he says.

The Kirtland's warbler
National Audobon Society

Amidst concern about animal species on the verge of extinction, we wanted to look at some success stories: species that were highly endangered, but whose populations are now making a comeback in Michigan.

The Kirtland's warbler is one of those species. Fifty years ago, the songbird was nearly extinct. Today, it has an estimated population of around 5,000.

A person holding a northern pike
Flicker user megankhines / http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

Health officials are warning people not to eat fish from parts of a southeastern Michigan river because of chemical contamination.

The emergency "Do Not Eat" advisory issued Saturday applies to all fish from the Huron River from Oakland County's Milford to the Livingston and Washtenaw county border. That includes lakes connected by the river, including Kent Lake.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Dry months of the year have been getting hotter in large parts of the U.S.

Felicia Chiang is the lead author of a new study on droughts and climate change, from the University of California-Irvine.

“Essentially we found that droughts are warming faster than the average climate in the southern, the midwestern and the northeastern states of the U.S.,” she says.

Photo by C. Daly, courtesy of Jo Latimore

If you’re out on a lake this summer and you stumble on a blob that looks like an alien life form, it could actually be a good thing.

Jo Latimore got an email recently about a weird-looking greenish-gray gelatinous blob that a boater found in Juno Lake in Cass County. Latimore is an aquatic ecologist at Michigan State University.

She says she got an email from the boater saying, “We found something that’s pretty gross attached to the bottom of one of our pontoon boats and we’re afraid of what it might be.”

Granite Island
Anne / FLICKR - http://bit.ly/1xMszCg

NASA researchers have cast their eyes on a little island in Lake Superior that sits about 12 miles northwest of Marquette.

Granite Island has been chosen as a site for NASA research that could help scientists better understand the way clouds and aerosol particles in the atmosphere affect global climate change.

NASA is working with Northern Michigan University on the project.

The Poweshiek skipperling at rest.
Cale Nordmeyer

One of the 27 Michigan species facing extinction is a tiny butterfly called the Poweshiek skipperling. They are small, about an inch long, and live in native prairie habitats throughout the Midwest.

They were once a common sight in Michigan, but Oakland County is one of the very few remaining places where you can find a Poweshiek skipperling. 

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologist Tamara Smith studies the butterfly and joined Stateside to talk about what’s driving the steep decline in population.

michigan monkey flower
Michigan State University Extension

A recent proposal by the Trump administration could mean big changes for the Endangered Species Act.

That law was passed some 40 years ago. It was designed to keep endangered plant and animal species from going extinct.

EPA proposes new rule for asbestos

Jul 31, 2018
CDC

Asbestos is known to cause cancer. It’s banned for some uses in the U.S., but it’s not entirely banned.

The Environmental Protection Agency is proposing a new rule, and new ways to evaluate the safety of asbestos.

Monarch Butterfly
flickr user Paul VanDerWerf / http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

It’s breeding season for monarch butterflies, and government officials from the U.S., Canada and Mexico want your help collecting data on them.

The second International Monarch Monitoring Blitz is underway, now through Sunday, August 5.

Mara Koenig is with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's Midwest Region. She says you can write down the number of monarch butterflies you see this week, and take a close look at any milkweed plants you find.

chase and steve moskalik in front of cases of bottled water at Parchment high school
Catherine Shaffer / Michigan Radio

Late last week, Michigan declared a state of emergency in Kalamazoo County. The state told 3,100 residents of Parchment and nearby Cooper Township to stop drinking and cooking with municipal water.

Running faucet
Melissa Benmark / Michigan Radio

Michigan officials say state agencies will be providing additional help for two communities near Kalamazoo dealing with chemical contamination of the public water system.

The governor's office said Sunday that a state of emergency has been declared for Kalamazoo County over the health concerns in Parchment and Cooper Township, where water test results announced Thursday revealed high levels of substances known as PFAS.

US Ecology exterior
Jennifer Fassbender

US Ecology, an Idaho-based company, is close to receiving approval for a large expansion of its hazardous waste facility on Detroit’s east side, near Hamtramck.

The expansion would increase the facility’s storage capacity nine-fold, from 76,000 to 677,000 gallons. 

Stateside 7.27.2018

Jul 27, 2018

Today on Stateside, a facility in Detroit that stores and processes toxic waste is waiting on approval from the state to expand. Plus, worries over fraudulent claims have led Michigan State University to halt payments to Nassar survivors for counseling costs. 

Takeout containers
Tracy Samilton / Michigan Radio

There's a scene in the 1967 film The Graduate where a well-meaning friend of the family pulls Dustin Hoffman's character aside at his graduation party, and gives him this advice:

"There's a great future in plastics - think about it, will you think about it? ... That's a deal."

But back then, the downside of plastic wasn't apparent.

Michigan Air National Guard A-10 Thunderbolt IIs and a KC-135 Stratotanker fly over their home station of Selfridge Air National Guard Base along the shore of Lake St. Clair in Macomb County, Mich.
Master Sgt. Elizabeth Hollicker / U.S. Air National Guard

 


 New reporting from MLive has found that Selfridge Air National Guard Base is a major source of chemical contamination in the Clinton River and Lake St. Clair.

MLive reporter Garrett Ellison filed a Freedom of Information Act requst to obtain the results of water testing done by the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality at the site in February.

This data indicated five stormwater drainage outfalls near the air base had tested positive for per- and polyfluoroalkyl – or PFAS – contamination. 

Wetland in Kalamazoo
Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

The state Legislature is considering bills that would speed up wetland restoration in Michigan.

“Wetlands are nature’s answer to a lot of our societal woes that we’re facing right now,” says Gildo Tori, director of public policy for the Ducks Unlimited Great Lakes/Atlantic Region office. His group has been pushing for these new bills. He says the process for getting permits to restore degraded wetlands takes too long.

“We should be doing all we can to make it easier, quicker and more streamlined to get these wetlands back on the landscape,” he says.

CDC

More than 16,000 ticks have arrived in Nate Nieto’s mailbox.

He’s an associate professor of microbiology at Northern Arizona University, and he launched a citizen science project to learn more about the diseases ticks can transmit. 

People from 49 states sent him (and his collaborators at Colorado State University) the ticks they found on themselves or other people or dogs.

'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.

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