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Environment & Science

Title screen of 'Beneath the Surface.'
Detroit Public Television

The Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines have made national headlines, but could Enbridge's Line 5 under the Straits of Mackinac pose the biggest environmental risk of all?

That's the question posed by a documentary airing tonight on Detroit Public Television.

It's called "Beneath the Surface: The Line 5 Pipeline in the Great Lakes."

The study found fruits and vegetables were the category of food Americans throw away the most.
FDA

In the U.S., we waste about a pound of food per person per day. The things we throw away the most often? Fruits and vegetables.

Lisa Jahns is a research nutritionist with the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service. She’s an author of a new study looking at American diets and what we throw away.

“Healthier diets were linked to greater food waste,” she says.

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.

Michigan Department of Environmental Quality

More than 100 Brighton homes will be tested for the cancer-causing chemical trichloroethylene (TCE), according to state officials. 

Sharon / FLICKR - http://bit.ly/1xMszCg

Have you seen any stink bugs in your house? Over the last few years, the brown marmorated stink bug has invaded the southern half of the Lower Peninsula. The invasive species is more than just a nuisance. It’s a threat to crops, too.

Amy Irish-Brown, a senior educator at Michigan State University Extension, and Jim Engelsma, president of J. Engelsma Orchards, Inc., joined Stateside to discuss the characteristics of stinkbugs that make them so difficult to monitor, control, and predict.

From the Collections of The Henry Ford / Benson Ford Research Center

As President Trump and Chinese leaders swap threats of trade tariffs, we've heard a lot of talk about what a 25 percent Chinese tariff might mean to soybean farmers in the U.S. and specifically in Michigan, one of the top soybean-producing states.

Workers install solar panels on a roof
Alex Snyder / Wayne National Forest/Wikimedia Commons

Starting some time next year, electric utilities will be able to submit lower reimbursements to the Michigan Public Service Commission to compensate their solar customers.

Right now, when a customer with a solar roof creates more electricity than needed, it becomes available to the grid.

Utilities pay the customer the same rate that they themselves charge.

Mike Bell / Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

This truly is the winter of our discontent – even if spring officially arrived a month ago.

As challenging as the snow, ice, and flood advisories are across the Lower Peninsula, snow has really hammered the Upper Peninsula. In just one example, more than two feet of snow fell in Menominee over the weekend. Some drifts were ten feet high. And that snow is threatening deer in the U.P.

Michigan Association of Environmental Professionals

Protecting the Great Lakes and Michigan's natural resources is a crucial task that's best accomplished by Michiganders working together.

That means all Michiganders, including the First Peoples. How can non-Indigenous people be good allies to Indigenous people?

Michigan officials have approved an energy company's request to build two natural-gas-fired turbines outside Detroit.

Sybil Kolon
Rebecca Williams / Michigan Radio

In Michigan, we have laws in place that give the state the power to essentially rope off polluted areas instead of cleaning them up. Instead, those laws tell the public: don’t drink the water or build your house here.

NOAA Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory / FLICKR - http://bit.ly/1xMszCg

Late summer is when we wind up seeing those unwelcome blooms of cyanobacteria and algae in western Lake Erie.

But right now, spring, is when the blooms are set up by a sort of equation: fertilizer plus spring rain equals phosphorus loading, which leads to those late-summer algal blooms.

Michigan's Iron Belle Trail
Michigan Department of Natural Resources

Hiking and bicycling routes that will traverse Michigan have secured $10.5 million in private donations. Gov. Rick Snyder on Tuesday shared the fundraising update on the Iron Belle Trail at an Ann Arbor event. He was joined by philanthropists including officials with the Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Foundation, which has pledged roughly $5.5 million for trail design and development in Washtenaw County and Detroit. A group has been formed to help raise an additional $155 million in private money.

There are land use restrictions at more than 2,000 sites around Michigan. Officials say they are necessary at sites with environmental contamination to keep people from coming into contact with harmful chemicals.
Kaye LaFond / Michigan Radio

 

At more than 1,600 sites across the state of Michigan, you can’t drink the groundwater. Well, you could, but it wouldn’t be safe or legal.

quagga mussels in lake michigan
Greg Marks / NOAA Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory

The U.S. Senate is expected to soon take up an authorization bill for the Coast Guard that includes the "Vessel Incidental Discharge Act."  

Environmental groups think the Discharge Act would be really bad for the Great Lakes.

The Discharge Act gives the U.S. Coast Guard sole authority in setting regulations for ballast water discharges into the lakes. 

The Mackinac Bridge
Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

An electrical cable that leaked hundreds of gallons of mineral oils into the Straits of Mackinac will be inspected – as soon as the weather clears up.

Unified Command is a team of local, state and federal officials that responded to the spill reported earlier this month. The owner of the cable line, American Transmission Company is also on the team.

The plan is to send a remotely operated vehicle (ROV) under the water to inspect the line.

A male deer
Michigan DNR / http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

Wildlife biologists are worried about how prolonged wintry weather will affect deer in Michigan's Upper Peninsula.

State Department of Natural Resources supervisor Terry Minzey says things looked good for the U.P. deer herd a month ago, but the situation has deteriorated as winter has held on.

Deer fitted with radio collars for DNR studies have suffered a 13.5 percent mortality rate so far this winter, with 11 percent of adult female deer dying.

A diver inspects Enbridge's Line 5 pipeline under the Straits of Mackinac for a possible dent.
Enbridge inspection video shared with the state of Michigan

There's been more than a little concern regarding Enbridge's oil and gas pipeline known as Line 5. It crosses under the Mackinac Straits near the Mighty Mac Bridge, and it's more than 60 years old.

Some of its protective coating is missing and there's been some interior corrosion, but Enbridge says Line 5 is safe.

But, recent vessel activity – presumably an anchor strike – damaged submerged electric cables and also dented Line 5 in three spots. 

A Kirtland's Warbler
Joel Trick / U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

State and federal wildlife agencies say the Kirtland's Warbler can safely be removed from the endangered species list. 

The yellow breasted songbird breeds only in stands of young jack pines, trees found mainly in northern Michigan, but also in the U.P., Wisconsin, and Ontario.

The bird numbered only about 330 individuals at its lowest point in 1987, but it has since recovered and now numbers about 4,600.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service describes how the warbler got into trouble:

A packed public comments hearing on the recent Nestle permit.
Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Earlier this month, the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality approved a permit that allows the Nestle Corporation to pump up to 400 gallons of groundwater per minute to feed its bottled water operations in Osceola County.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Last week, Michigan Radio published a story about the Village of Beverly Hills, Michigan; a Detroit suburb located in southern Oakland County. The village currently has the highest 90th percentile for lead in water in the state.

A snapshot of BirdCast's migration forecast.
Kyle Horton

People who study birds are now using radar to make maps that can forecast migration at night. They say these maps could help by reducing the number of birds that collide with buildings and wind turbines.

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

Polychlorinated biphenyls are toxic chemicals that were widely used in industry until they were banned in the 1970s.

PCBs can build up in fish.

A new study finds that levels of PCBs are declining in the air in the Great Lakes region. Except for one kind. It’s called PCB-11 and its levels are holding steady.

If you see the old label on the left, the piece of upholstered furniture likely contains flame retardants. If you see the new label on the right, it will tell you for sure whether it contains flame retardants.
Mark Brush and Arlene Blum

Flame retardant chemicals are in our furniture, in carpet padding, electronics and car seats, but they don’t stay put. They leach out of these products and get into our bodies.

Some of these chemicals, called polybrominated diphenyl ethers or PBDEs, were phased out of use starting in 2004.

A new study in the Journal of Exposure Science and Environmental Epidemiology finds levels of PBDEs in kids' blood have been declining.

Wikimedia Commons

Now that the state has approved a permit for Nestle to remove more water from its Osceola County well, opposition is growing.

Among the critics: Macomb County Public Works Commissioner and former Republican congresswoman Candice Miller.

Ian Geoffrey Stimpson / FLICKR - http://bit.ly/1xMszCg


The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality is now considering a proposal that could put Michigan in the forefront of potash mining. 

A packed public comments hearing on the recent Nestle permit.
Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

The Department of Environmental Quality has approved a permit for Nestlé Waters North America to boost the amount of groundwater it pumps from its well in Osceola County, near Evart.

Nestlé is now pumping up to 250 gallons per minute from that Evart well – water that is bottled under its Ice Mountain label.

The new permit allows it to pump up to 400 gallons a minute.

Flower Creek Dunes Addition Complete
LAND CONSERVANCY OF WEST MICHIGAN

Visitors to a public nature preserve in western Michigan will be able to enjoy an additional 17 acres (7 hectares) of Lake Michigan sand dunes as the result of a $1.95 million project. The Land Conservancy of West Michigan has announced the added 1,000 feet (305 meters) of Lake Michigan frontage and 1,200 feet along the Big Flower Creek to the Flower Creek Dunes Nature Preserve near Montague. 

Two women
Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Jennifer Gilchrist moved from New York City back home to the Detroit suburb of Beverly Hills in 2016. She moved to help take care of her mom Joellen, a retired Detroit high school teacher, and to fix up her childhood home.

That’s when a plumber told them they had a lead service line.

A packed public comments hearing on the recent Nestle permit.
Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

The Michigan DEQ has approved a permit from Nestle Waters North America to increase the amount of groundwater it pumps from its well near Evart, Michigan.

The state says Nestle has to complete a monitoring plan and submit it to the DEQ for approval. After that happens, Nestle will be authorized to pump up to 400 gallons of water per minute from its White Pine Springs well.

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