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 Radio

Until recently, if a home solar array produced more electricity than the house used, it would go through the meter onto the grid. Residents with solar power arrays got paid for that power at the same rate as the power company charged other residents.  Power that comes in/power that goes out: same price. This even exchange is called net metering.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

Eleven years ago on a cold January day, volunteers for the Huron River Watershed Council, Rochelle Breitenbach and Mary Bajcz trudged through the snow and thicket to get to a pristine little stream that flows into the Huron River.

Raquel Baranow / Flickr Creative Commons http://bit.ly/1xMszCg

 

Update: On June 18th, 2018, The Home Depot announced it would phase out paint stripping products containing methylene chloride and NMP by the end of the year.  

The Environmental Protection Agency and at least one retailer have done an about face on a chemical linked to dozens of deaths, but health advocates want more.

Methylene chloride is an ingredient in paint strippers. It’s sold at hardware stores and it’s also used commercially.

Serious acute risks

A green roof can help reduce the heat island effect.
EPA

The amount of tree cover in our cities is dropping, and we have more paved surfaces. Those are the main findings from a national study by the U.S. Forest Service.

Gary Stolz / USFWS

This time of year, it’s good to keep an eye out for turtles that might be slowly crossing the road.

Lori Sargent is a wildlife biologist with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources.

“They’re on the move because they’re looking for good nesting spots and some species move more than others,” she says.

She says Blanding’s turtles and snapping turtles are the ones you’ll see on the road most often. Sargent says Blanding’s turtles are on the decline in Michigan, mainly because so many get hit by cars.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Three communities in Michigan are taking a much closer look for lead in their drinking water this year.

Asian Carp Regional Coordinating Committee

The Asian carp action plan for this year is out. It's the plan U.S. and Canadian agencies put together to try to stop carp from spreading.

Charlie Wooley is the deputy regional director for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's Midwest region. 

“The most important priorities for us in controlling Asian carp is to keep them out of the Great Lakes,” he says.

Tracy Samilton / Michigan Radio

The state's energy regulating agency has issued some decisions that should relieve some of the financial burden on large companies that want to become greener.

UC San Diego Health

The first major results are in from the American Gut Project. It’s a citizen science project to get a better understanding of the microbial communities inside our bodies.

People pay $99 to send in a sample – a swab from their hands, their mouth, or a stool sample.

Daniel McDonald is the project’s scientific director at the University of California-San Diego.

“So it turns out that most of the people sending us samples tend to send us fecal samples. We think it must just be the sexy thing to do,” he says. “But I think a lot of individuals are sending us these samples because they’re curious to learn a little bit more about these organisms that are important for your health that we are just beginning to understand in the scientific community.”

Mosquitoes after a blood meal.
R. Rico-Hesse lab.

It’s not just the mosquito bite that’s a problem. When a mosquito bites you, it also drools on you.

Silke Paust is an assistant professor of pediatrics at Baylor College of Medicine and Texas Children’s Hospital.

“During this poking around phase, basically, and during the feeding, it automatically secretes saliva proteins," she says.

She says there are more than 100 proteins in mosquito saliva. Paust and her team found those proteins trigger a complex immune response.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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