The Environment Report | Michigan Radio
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The Environment Report

The Environment Report, hosted by Lester Graham, explores the relationship between the natural world and the everyday lives of people in Michigan.

Michigan Allocates $20 Million to relieve customer water debts

Oct 19, 2020
© J. Carl Ganter / Circle of Blue

Michigan residents who are behind on their water bills will soon be getting some relief.

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services will distribute more than $20 million to 116 water utilities, through an intermediary, to cover water bill debt that their customers accrued since March 1 when the pandemic emergency began.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

The Canadian pipeline company Enbridge Energy has been eager to show news media its new Enbridge Straits Maritime Operations Center in Mackinaw City. Its purpose is to try to prevent another anchor strike or other damage to Line 5, the dual pipelines carrying oil and natural gas liquids.

One Michigan county tells the story of a nation plagued by water pollution

Sep 24, 2020
J. Carl Ganter / Circle of Blue

Farms housing thousands of animals are one of several sources contaminating the Pine River and dividing a mid-Michigan community.

Murray Borrello, wearing khakis and a loose-fitting brown button-up, walked down a backroad during the summer of 2019 listening to the sounds of the woods. Water from the Pine River flowed slowly beneath him as he looked out over a bridge.

“Oh, I hear a frog,” the Alma College geology and environmental studies professor said. “That’s a good sign.” 

© J. Carl Ganter/Circle of Blue

At the shoreline, between lake and land, Melissa Wiatrolik reflects on those who were here before Michigan became Michigan. She had been raised in a community that honored the dead, that understood that their ancestors were always present. As a child, she had watched her own family clean the gravestones of those before her. She had attended ghost suppers to both celebrate and feed the deceased. She had grown up with remembrance, and now, at the shores of Lake Michigan, Wiatrolik worked to keep her ancestors at peace.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

The flood that was caused by heavy rains and the failure of two dams near Midland caused property damage far downstream. But the long term damage might be in the contamination of wildlife.

Michelle Hurd Riddick (used with permission)

The two dams that broke near Midland caused a massive flood that swept away bridges, roads, and damaged a lot of property. Because Midland is home to Dow’s original chemical complex, a lot of people were concerned about hazardous waste or waste in ponds at Dow.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

Michigan residents are sending more trash to the state’s landfills than they have since before the Great Recession.

Last year Michigan homes and businesses sent more than 43 million cubic yards of trash to the landfills.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency indicates it will take years to regulate PFAS in drinking water, if it does at all. 

The USEPA has proposed to regulate two forms of the thousands of chemicals in the per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances family. PFOA and PFOS were the most commonly used.

Tracy Samilton / Michigan Radio

Tom and Michelle Joliat's lovely home in Metamora, Michigan is situated high on a hill with a stunning view of the woods below.  

Normally, it's peaceful and idyllic here. Metamora Township is a rural area about 25 miles southeast of Flint.  

But in the distance, you can sometimes hear the faint drone of the U.S. EPA drilling yet another monitoring well. The wells are monitoring the movement of a plume of groundwater contaminated with 1,4 dioxane and other toxic chemicals.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

Wildlife are being poisoned and much of the time people using the poisons are not even aware of the danger. One Michigan resident is on a crusade to make people understand what’s at risk when they use rat poison.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

We know that burning fossil fuels releases a lot of greenhouse gases. But there are other human-caused sources that contribute to climate change. As Lester Graham with the Environment Report found, one of them is how farmers plant crops.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

You can hear a flock of geese calling, but there’s not a single goose. It’s a bunch of humans, warming up for the goose call contest at the 72nd annual Pointe Mouillee Waterfowl Festival held last weekend.

An emaciated deer stands near a fence.
Terry Kreeger / Wyoming Game and Fish Department/CWD Alliance

To help combat chronic wasting disease, Michigan is banning deer baiting and feeding across big parts of the state. It’s highly unpopular with some hunters and lawmakers.

But, banning bait will only slow CWD from spreading to new areas, and more aggressive approaches that might actually stop it could be just as unpopular.

white woman smiling in front of foliage
Courtesy of Logan Vear

 


The constant barrage of news about climate change, drinking water contamination, and pollution in the Great Lakes region can feel overwhelming. If you care, it’s hard to know what to do or where to start.

That's where Stateside's new series comes in. We're featuring ordinary people who identified a problem – no matter how big or small – and chose to act. 

People stand in the water, holding both ends of a large net.
Kaye LaFond / Michigan Radio

A new nonprofit is training citizen scientists to collect data on fish in the Great Lakes. They think it could be a game-changer for research in the region, and even help prevent the establishment of invasive species.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

Researchers are finding some of the chemicals used in pavement and driveway sealants are making their way into the environment. That could be putting the health of people and aquatic life at risk.

These chemicals are called Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons, PAHs. They’re commonly found in low levels just about anywhere something is burned. But, the levels of PAHs are much, much higher in certain pavement sealing products, coal tar based sealants.

red tractor sitting on a green field with trees in background
Matthew T Rader / Unsplash

 

 

Climate change is affecting the world in a lot of ways. The planet is warming, more rain is falling. There are colder winters, and warmer summers. And all of this is having a profound effect on agriculture.

Nicky Marcot, her husband and two children sit on lawn with red tshirt
Courtesy of Nicky Marcot

The constant barrage of news about climate change and drinking water contamination and pollution in the Great Lakes can feel overwhelming. If you care, it’s hard to know what to do or where to start.

Stateside is kicking off a new ongoing series that features ordinary people who decided to do something about it. They identified a problem – no matter how big or small – and chose to act. 

withered, brown leaves on an apple tree.
Peter Payette / Interlochen Public Radio

Fruit growers in northern Michigan are having a tough time with all the rain this year, because that moisture helps fungus and bacteria thrive.

Ford Motor Company

Next time you're at the mall or grocery store, look around. You won't see many, if any at all, electric vehicles. Maybe a few hybrids.

But you'll see lots of pickup trucks and big SUVs, which by comparison still merit the derogatory phrase, gas guzzlers.

young african american girl in a blue tshirt using an inhaler outside
Adobe Stock

 

Climate change doesn’t just hurt our environment. It affects food production, insect outbreaks, precipitation. And, as health professionals are starting to see, it’s causing problems for human health.

A woman with silver hair and a turquoise shirt stands next to a woman in a navy T-shirt with short brown hair and glasses. They stand on the grass in front of a tent, under which is displayed information about climate change.
Ben Thorp / WCMU

Public opinion surveys show older Americans are less concerned about climate change than young people. But some experts say older Americans may be an untapped resource when it comes to climate activism.


Penguins at the Polk Penguin Conservation Center
Courtesy of the Detroit Zoological Society

Given the myriad ecological challenges facing our world today, there are plenty of reasons to feel overwhelmed and powerless. 

But there are also many people and organizations dedicated to leading community conversations about climate change and conservation through education and example.

A bridge over a murky river has a drain with bars across it.
Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

From January 2018 through May 2019, 6.7 billion gallons of diluted or partially treated sewage, called combined sewer overflows (CSOs) spilled into Michigan waters.

CSOs are the result of sewer systems that drain both stormwater runoff AND human and industrial waste. Eighty municipalities in Michigan have such systems, known as combined sewer systems.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

Each year in Michigan, billions of gallons of raw or partially treated sewage end up in the state's rivers and eventually in the Great Lakes. That pollution can make people sick. There are two causes. One is poor sewer systems. The second is heavy rains. 

And climate change could be making the problem worse. 

A roll of "Voted" stickers
Element 5 Digital / Unsplash

 


Today on Stateside, Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson comments on how an increase in the number of absentee ballots could impact elections without a change in state law. Plus, the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians is building a manufacturing center in an effort to diversify the tribe's economic ventures.

people holding climate change protest signs
Bob Blob / Unsplash

All this week, Michigan Radio's Environment Report will be focusing on climate change and how it's already affecting us in the state of Michigan, and what's expected to change in the future. It's a huge crisis we face now — and that generations to come will face — and it will affect every aspect of our lives, from what we eat, to how we travel, to how we live inside our homes.

Photo shows the inside of a culvert. It's square with concrete walls and a very shallow stream of water is running through it.
Kaye LaFond / Michigan Radio

Climate change is likely to bring more extreme rainfall and flooding to Michigan. So, flood risk in the next 100 years will probably look very different than in the last. But, much of our infrastructure, like culverts, bridges, and storm drains, is still being designed and built based on the floods of the past.


A flooded beach near Lake Michigan.
Kaye LaFond / Michigan Radio

The last major outbreak of avian botulism on Lake Michigan was in 2016, when hundreds of dead birds washed up on shore. The bacterial disease has affected waterfowl like loons and mergansers in the Great Lakes for decades. But high water levels on the lakes are good news for the birds, at least temporarily.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

The U.S. and Canada are working to restore populations of a prehistoric fish in the Great Lakes that was nearly wiped out. We went out with a crew of researchers to see what they’re doing to bring the sturgeon back.

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