Environment & Science | Michigan Radio
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Environment & Science

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Michigan’s Department of Environmental Quality should update its rules on the level of lead that’s considered acceptable in drinking water.

That is the one thing most everyone at a public hearing in Lansing Thursday night did agree on.

But many Flint activists and environmentalists say the proposed changes to lead rules don’t go far enough. Others, especially those running community water systems, say changes go way too far, presenting major legal and cost issues.

Courtesy of Victor Li

Michigan isn’t alone in the struggle to repair crumbling roads and bridges.

The American Society of Civil Engineers has given America's infrastructure a grade of "D" based on years of underfunding and delayed maintenance.

Victor Li may have the key to solving this nationwide struggle.

Tracy Samilton / Michigan Radio

Early in February, Eastern Michigan University canceled classes due to a sloppy snowstorm. 

But it didn’t cancel a big event it had planned for a long time – the ceremonial flipping of the switch on its energy pride and joy: a brand new co-generation plant.  

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

Environmental groups are crying foul over a new bill (H.B. 5638) they say would make it easier for agribusiness to get approval for large scale groundwater extraction proposals.

Drinking water fountain.
Gabrielle Emanuel / Michigan Radio

The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality is moving forward with proposed changes to the lead and copper rule. If approved, Michigan would hold the toughest regulations on lead in drinking water in the nation.

Among the policy revisions is a motion to lower the acceptable lead level in a community’s tap water. If the law passes, the “action level” of 15 parts per billion (ppb) of lead would drop to 10 ppb.

”Though no amount lead is safe in water, reducing that down is going to be very important,” says Chris Kolb, president of the Michigan Environmental Council.

A graph shows thousands of data points representing water test results in Flint, Michigan.
Kaye LaFond / Michigan Radio

Last month, the state of Michigan declared Flint’s drinking water quality "restored." To get to this point, it’s taken, among other things, more than 30,000 water tests.

Cypress Creek Renewables

Cypress Creek Renewables has been lining up farmland in Michigan for more than a year now.

The object? Leases for enough land to install several hundred megawatts worth of new, emissions-free solar projects. Combined, that would equal the electricity output of a small coal-fired power plant.

But a bill introduced in Congress by U.S. Rep. Tim Walberg, R-Mich., could put a halt to those plans, as well as the plans of other renewable energy companies that want to set up shop in Michigan and states across the nation.

Modernizing PURPA, or gutting it?

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

Lake Superior, the largest freshwater lake in the world, is awe-inspiring on many levels. But it’s also challenged. Though it seems pristine, a couple centuries of exploitation have taken their toll.

A new book Sustaining Lake Superior: An Extraordinary Lake in a Changing Worldpublished by Yale University Press, traces the history of the lake and some of the indignities it's suffered at the hands of humans.

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

Let's talk about water.

That's the invitation from the Michigan Humanities Council to communities and organizations around the state. The council is accepting applications for groups to host Third Coast Conversations: Dialogues about Water in Michigan.

Inconsistent lead level readings led to the closure of three buildings on Northern Michigan University's campus.
Flickr user Bart / http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

Low-income, rural areas are the most vulnerable to drinking water quality violations that could affect people’s health, according to a new nationwide study.

Sir Francis Galton in 1893
WikiCommons

This week marks the 196th birthday of someone who occupies a place of dishonor in the annals of science. Sir Francis Galton was born this week in 1822. He was interested in a wide range of fields: meteorology, psychology, and biometrics, but it was his social theory on eugenics that left an unsavory and unhappy mark on the world.

steve carmody / Michigan Radio

State and federal officials say they expect to make headway this year on an underground chemical plume expanding from a former Air Force base.

The chemicals (perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) are linked to firefighter training on the former Wurtsmith Air Force Base. The firefighters used the foaming chemicals to extinguish jet fuel fires starting in the 1960s. The base closed in the 1990s. But while Wurtsmith’s been closed for decades,  the chemical plume continues spreading through the groundwater into local wells and nearby open water.

Hundreds race to catch "dinosaur of a fish"

Feb 13, 2018
A fisherman heads across Black Lake before the sturgeon fishing season starts on February 3.
Morgan Springer / Interlochen Public Radio

This month, hundreds of spear fishers went to Black Lake in northern Michigan. They competed to catch just six lake sturgeon before the fishing season ended. Sturgeon are a state threatened species, and their harvest is tightly regulated.

Stateside 2.12.2018

Feb 12, 2018

Could a fungus from the bottom of the Great Lakes hold a cure for cancer? That answer comes today on Stateside. We also discuss why lawmakers are exploring the option to eliminate no-fault auto insurance.

fungi growing on cheerio
Courtesy of Robert Cichewicz

Could a fungus from the bottom of the Great Lakes hold a cure for cancer?

The final answer is still far in the distance, but a team of scientists believes there is promise in newly discovered Great Lakes fungi.

bottle of water
Wilson Hui / Flickr / http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

The Michigan Legislature is considering three bills that would change how the state determines environmental rules. One of the bills would create an environmental rules committee that could reject or change any rule the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality issues.

Vincent Duffy / Michigan Radio

Some state lawmakers want to shift control of environmental rules from the Department of Environmental Quality to state-appointed boards, a move environmentalists say would put the fox in charge of the henhouse.

Senate Bill 652 would create an 11-member committee, mostly from industry groups like manufacturing, small business, oil and gas, and agriculture, to oversee all DEQ rule-making. And SB 653 would form another board with the ability to modify or reverse DEQ decisions.

Van Etten Lake in Oscoda, Michigan
Kaye LaFond / Michigan Radio

People who live in Oscoda are concerned about foam containing toxic chemicals known as per-and-polyfluoroalkyl substances – or PFAS – that keeps appearing on Van Etten Lake.

The serene lake in Northeast Michigan is surrounded by trees and houses. But it also has foamy stuff that looks like soap scum floating along its shores.

Residents are wondering why the state isn’t doing more about it.

A cyanobacterial bloom on Lake Erie in 2013.
Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

An advisory board with the International Joint Commission says the U.S. and Canada should do more to keep nutrient pollution out of Lake Erie.

Michigan Office of the Great Lakes

Autonomous vehicles are making their way towards the highways and streets of America, and between the automakers and the American Center for Mobility at Willow Run, Michigan is playing a big role in developing the technology for autonomous vehicles.

Since Michigan is surrounded by the Great Lakes, what about autonomous vessels on the lakes?

Rita McNamara.
Morgan Springer

Near a landfill in northern Michigan, residents have been dealing with undrinkable water for decades. Now, a new proposal at the landfill makes them even more concerned.

In 2005, Rita McNamara’s well broke and she needed a new one. McNamara says she was walking her property with a well driller when a woman from the county health department drove up.

Stateside 2.5.2018

Feb 5, 2018

Today on Stateside, we hear from a researcher who's found a link between the Legionnaires' disease outbreak in Genesee County and the switch to Flint River water. And, we talk about the crucial moment of Super Bowl LII when two former Wolverines mattered most.

Flint river
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Researchers have linked a Legionnaires' disease outbreak in Genesee County to a switch to the Flint River for drinking water.

During the Legionnaires' disease outbreaks in 2014 and 2015, twelve people died and 79 people became sick.

steve carmody / Michigan Radio

Michigan wildlife officials are launching a five-year study to see if deer movement is spreading a serious disease.

Since 2015, 58 cases of Chronic Wasting Disease have been identified in the state.  CWD attacks the brain of infected animals, resulting in death.  The outbreak started near Lansing, but has spread to other areas.

MSU professor David Williams is fitting deer with collars to see if their movements are increasing their contact with infected herds.

MDEQ

The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality has approved a permit for a new marina near Saugatuck.

It's slated to be part of a housing development on the shore of Lake Michigan.

David Swan is president of the Saugatuck Dunes Coastal Alliance. He says the marina will spoil an otherwise mostly pristine area.

"It is a 1600 foot long, 200 foot wide, 18 foot deep trench through Michigan's critical dunes," says Swan.  "(This area) is completely unique. The river mouth and the beaches are essentially undeveloped."

George Redgrave / FLICKR - http://bit.ly/1xMszCg

The late 1960s saw the birth of many activist groups fighting to change the status quo, particularly in light of the ongoing Vietnam War and Civil Rights movement.

Science for the People was one such group. It was made up of radical scientists who challenged the relationship between their work and political and economic power.

Sampling locations in the Great Lakes region.
USGS/courtesy of Michelle Hladik

Insecticides widely used on farms, lawns and gardens — known as neonicotinoids — are showing up in rivers across the Great Lakes region.

Asian carp leaping out of a river.
Great Lakes Fishery Commission

On Wednesday, Gov. Rick Snyder announced an interstate partnership with leaders of the Great Lakes states to reduce the risk of invasive carp from entering the Great Lakes by strengthening defenses in a Chicago-area waterway. Michigan, Ohio, Wisconsin, and Ontario are the founding members of the partnership, representing more than 90% of the Great Lakes surface area.

The initiative contributes to reducing costs of upgrading the Brand Road Lock and Dam near Joliet, Illinois, a key choke point between the carp-infested Illinois River and Lake Michigan.

Eric Minbiole / FLICKR - http://bit.ly/1xMszCg

Tomorrow morning there will be a lunar trifecta: the super blue blood moon.

Mary Stewart Adams of the Headlands International Dark Sky Park in Emmett County joined Stateside today to explain what this rare lunar event is, what Michiganders will be able to see, and when.

Suzannah Tobin

The climate solutions caucus in the U.S. House is a group of more than 60 Democrats and Republicans who want to address climate change. Representative Fred Upton from St. Joseph just joined the caucus.

Last fall, Representative Jack Bergman, R-MI 1st District, announced he was joining the caucus. He represents northern Michigan.

A group of Traverse City high schoolers were the unlikely lobbyists who helped convince Bergman to join the caucus.

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