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Environment & Science

A picture of wet wipes removed from sewer system.
Macomb County Public Works Office

Macomb County’s Public Works Commissioner wants the public to be aware of a growing problem menacing municipal sewer systems: flushable wipes.

Candice Miller says those wipes are “causing probably about 90 percent of the sewer problems that we’re having right now.”

“They sort of get together and they almost act like a rope,” Miller said. “They're choking pumps, sanitary sewer pumps. And they’re causing huge backups.”

Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore
Rhonda Noren / Flickr, http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

The National Park Service is seeking public input on how to manage a dramatic increase in visitors to Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore in Michigan's Upper Peninsula.

Lakeshore Superintendent Dave Horne tells the Mining Journal of Marquette that the number of visitors has doubled over the last five years.

National Park Service officials have been hosting open houses and gathering feedback on a proposed lakeshore's visitor use management project.

The Detroit incinerator
tEdGuY49 / Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

A coalition of groups is demanding Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan shut down the city’s controversial incinerator.

The groups, led by Breathe Free Detroit, delivered a petition with nearly 15,000 signatures to Duggan’s office Friday morning.

Ahmina Maxey, regional director for the group Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives, says most of the waste burned at the incinerator comes from outside the city, but Detroiters suffer the most from negative health and quality of life effects.

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

Michigan will spend $1.7 million to test water supplies around the state for certain kinds of industrial chemical contaminants. The chemicals are known as PFAS, which stands for per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances.

Stateside 5.17.2018

May 17, 2018

Today on Stateside, we discuss a report that says Wayne County can seize your home no matter how much you owe in taxes. And, we hear how the EPA and St. Louis, Mich. residents are working together on an effort to clean up the Velsicol Chemical plant.

Courtesy of Jane Keon

In 1973, a plant owned by Velsicol Chemical made a mistake and shipped a toxic flame retardant chemical to a livestock feed plant.

A congregation of moose on Isle Royale.
Rolf Peterson

The last two wolves on Isle Royale are still hanging on. 

The wolf-moose research study on the wilderness island in Lake Superior is now in its 60th year, and the report from the past year of the study is out today.

lake sturgeon
Tennessee Aquarium

The Center for Biological Diversity is petitioning the federal government to protect lake sturgeon under the Endangered Species Act.

The Center's Mark Finc says there used to be 15 million lake sturgeon in the U.S.  There's now just a few thousand.

While Michigan and some other states have taken steps to protect lake sturgeon, Finc says it's not enough.

"What we have found is it's fairly haphazard," says Finc, "and that it really needs to be more consistent across the board,  instead of just a couple spots here and there."

Aaron Selbig/Interlochen Public Radio

Mining companies would be able to modify onsite facilities without an environmental permit amendment under legislation that has passed the Michigan House.

Lawmakers voted 63-45 on Tuesday to advance the bill to grant companies more flexibility in moving and adjusting their mining sites and buildings. The proposed change would allow mining companies to modify the facilities provided they give Michigan's Department of Environmental Quality a 30-day notice and if the changes don't add environmental risk.

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

Public comment is being sought on a draft of a conservation plan expected to help reverse eastern monarch butterfly population declines.

Michigan's Department of Natural Resources says the Mid-America Monarch Conservation Strategy builds on existing efforts by state, federal, and local agencies and private organizations and individuals.

Monarch butterflies found east of the Rocky Mountains have declined by more than 80 percent over the past 20 years primarily due to habitat loss, including reduced milkweed required for reproduction and fewer nectar plants.

Power plant
Courtesy of Duke Energy

A majority of Americans say the federal government isn’t doing enough to protect air and water quality.

That’s the latest from a national Pew Research Center survey.

The survey found 69 percent of Americans think the government isn’t doing enough to safeguard water quality, while 64 percent say the government isn't doing enough to protect air quality. 

This photo of Microcystis, a kind of cyanobacteria, was taken in Lake Erie.
Rebecca Williams / Michigan Radio

We’re coming up on the time of year when people will be testing lakes for toxic blooms of cyanobacteria.

Jason Deglint wants to speed up that testing process. Right now, he says it can take at least a few days.

Mackinac Bridge
Julie Falk / Flickr

A coolant spill in the Straits of Mackinac did not harm the Great Lakes. That’s according to the Coast Guard and Michigan Department of Environmental Quality.

A copper mine in the Upper Peninsula.
Richie Diesterheft / Flickr - http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

Some environmentalists are worried a bill moving through the state Legislature would give mining companies too much leeway.

Under the bill, mining operators would be able to make certain changes to their permits without going through an amendment process or public review. Instead, they’d be required to give written notice of modifications to the Department of Environmental Quality.

frankieleon / Flickr Creative Commons HTTP://MICHRAD.IO/1LXRDJM

Michigan health and environmental advocates are calling on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to maintain current federal clean car standards.

The standards were adopted in 2012 to set fuel efficiency and carbon emission requirements for companies that manufacture cars and light trucks.

Anglers want lethal control for a fish-eating bird

May 10, 2018
USFWS

Fishermen in northern Michigan say the federal government is doing nothing while double-crested cormorants eat up fish the anglers would like to catch. For more than a decade, the government used lethal force to keep cormorant numbers down.

A lawsuit ended that and now the birds are showing signs of rebounding in places they are not welcome.

The Marmorkreb, or marbled crayfish, can clone itself.
Golden library, courtesy of the MDEQ.

There are five new invasive species on the “least wanted list.”

That’s a list the Great Lakes St. Lawrence Governors and Premiers puts together. The leaders of the eight states and two provinces on the Lakes decide which species pose the highest risk.

Erol Ahmed on Unsplash

A lot of cities have pledged to cut greenhouse gas emissions in the wake of President Trump's decision to withdraw the U.S. from the Paris climate accord.

That could mean things like cleaner busses – or energy efficiency. But a sizable chunk of our carbon footprint can be traced to how we get and use our food.

Roxbury Group

Cities like Flint and Detroit are redeveloping former industrial sites along their waterfronts.

Now it's hopefully Ann Arbor's turn, says a developer working for DTE Energy. David Di Rita is with the Roxbury Group.

He says DTE Energy wants to redevelop the former MichCon coal gasification plant on Broadway, along the Huron River.  The plant was closed in 1938.  

In 2010, oil spilled into a creek near the Kalamazoo River from Enbridge Line 6b
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

The U.S. government has fined Enbridge Inc. more than $1.8 million after accusing the Canadian oil transport company of missing deadlines for pipeline inspections following a gigantic oil spill in southwestern Michigan.

Stateside 5.3.2018

May 3, 2018

Today on Stateside, we learn the EPA is telling Michigan to clean up smog just as the agency unwinds clean air regulations. And, as foreign car makers ditch the Detroit auto show, organizers consider a date change.

Detroit industry
Don...The UpNorth Memories Guy... Harrison... / FLICKR - http://bit.ly/1xMszCg

The EPA has handed down a clear message to Michigan: your air is not clear. The agency says too many people are living in areas with unacceptable smog levels, and it is giving the state three years to come up with a plan to clean up the air.

Michal Pech on Unsplash

Air quality has gotten better in the U.S. over the last several decades.

But more recently, nitrogen oxide and carbon monoxide emissions have not been decreasing the way people expected.

Microbeads on a penny.
Courtesy of The 5 Gyres Institute

Microplastic pollution appears to affect creatures at the bottom of the food web the most. That’s one of the main takeaways from an analysis of 43 studies looking at the effects of microplastics on aquatic life.

Microplastics are tiny beads that get into waterways from our consumer products or tiny fibers that wash out of our clothing.

The John Ball Zoo's Amur tiger
Courtesy of John Ball Zoo

The Michigan Legislature is considering a bill that would allow both zoos and other facilities to breed large carnivores, such as lions, tigers, and bears.

Such breeding was outlawed in 2000. But House Bill 5778 would lift that ban.

Ln beetles are predatory, and scientists hope that they will spread and eat adelgids off the hemlocks.
Courtesy of Mark C. Whitmore

An invasive insect is attacking hemlock trees in Michigan and along the East Coast. The hemlock woolly adelgid is an aphid-like bug, and it can kill hemlocks.

In Michigan, people are watching what happens out east, where the pest has been established longer.

Wind turbines
Priscilla Du Preez / Unsplash

Stateside has been looking into changes to the Public Utility Regulatory Policy Act (PURPA). The federal act requires electric utility companies to buy energy from solar, wind, and other renewable generators as long as they don’t have to pay more than it costs to generate that power themselves.

Michigan Congressman Tim Walberg's bill would alter PURPA in a way that would let utilities decline to purchase energy from renewable resources.

We recently talked to the Congressman and a solar energy provider, but we felt like we needed to know more about PURPA itself.

A factory next to a harbor
Jacob Szetela / http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

A trio of bills making their way through the state legislature would change how environmental regulations are determined in Michigan.

The Great Lakes from space.
NASA

Republicans who correct misinformation on climate change can be even more persuasive than scientists.

Eric Jones / USGS

Some people in Michigan could feel the earthquake that happened last week in Ontario.

It turns out, earthquakes east of the Rockies can be felt much farther away than earthquakes out West.

Oliver Boyd is a research geophysicist with the U.S. Geological Survey.

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