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Environment & Science

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

Research into the Defense Department’s records finds hundreds of military installations are contaminated with PFAS. The toxic substances are confirmed to be in the tap water or ground water in 328 military sites. They’re suspected in the water at 350 more sites. (See map here.)

wind turbines and solar panels in a field
pkawasaki / Adobe Stock

Utility companies are required to file long-term plans with the state government. DTE Energy filed a plan in 2018 and the Michigan Public Service Commission had concerns. One of them was DTE’s plans to meet Michigan’s 15 percent renewable energy requirement. The Commission thought DTE’s numbers were vague.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is suspending enforcement of some environmental laws duing the COVID-19 outbreak.

The State of Michigan’s environmental agency will still provide regulatory oversight.

Back of a school bus
Pixabay

The State of Michigan is using some of the settlement money from Volkswagen’s Clean Air Act violations to subsidize new school buses. Volkswagen installed a device to fool emissions tests to show its cars polluted less than they did. 

The state received a total of nearly $65 million and more than 20% (almost $9 million) is going to replace old diesel school buses. 

Realtors and interest groups opposed to regulation are shaping septic system policies in Michigan's state and local politics.

Realtors don't like the idea of inspections tied to home sales. Anti-regulation lawmakers don't like the alternatives.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

A pair of storm sewers are being rerouted around Flint’s former Buick City site to try and keep PFAS out of the Flint River.

“We have on the site some storm water lines, old ones, that when they’re below the groundwater table, contaminated groundwater can leak into those storm sewers and migrate to the river,” says Grant Trigger. He's the cleanup manager for the former General Motors properties in Michigan. 

Trigger says they’ll spend the next three to four months replacing more than 3,600 feet of storm sewer lines.

Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

Enbridge Energy is advancing plans for a bedrock tunnel for its Line 5 pipeline under the Straits of Mackinac. 

CDC / wikimedia commons

Officials say five people who worked in a Michigan wildlife disease lab were diagnosed last year with a latent form of tuberculosis.

The Department of Natural Resources lab processes thousands of deer heads during hunting season to check for chronic wasting disease and bovine TB.

Courtesy of Washtenaw County

The city of Ann Arbor has detected very low levels (0.039 parts per billion) of 1,4 dioxane in its drinking water for the second time. 

Similar levels (0.030) were found about one year ago.

The city tests its drinking water monthly.

According to city officials, the curent detectable levels in the city's drinking water are not considered a health risk.

"They're very, very low," said Brian Steglitz, Ann Arbor's water treatment services manager. "And well below, over ten times lower than the EPA identified risk level." 

Lake Erie at Massie Cliffside Preserve.
Rebecca Williams / Michigan Radio

An Ohio judge has declared the Lake Erie Bill of Rights to be unconstitutional. Judge Jack Zouhary called his decision “not even close” and declared the bill invalid in its entirety.

The bill was approved by Toledo voters in a special election in 2019, passing with 61 percent of the vote. It was immediately challenged by the Drewes Farm Collective, who said that LEBOR was a liability to its business. Drewes Farms says it fertilizes its fields “pursuant to Ohio law, best practices, [and] scientific recommendations,” but it can never guarantee that all of its runoff can be prevented from entering the Lake Erie watershed. 

Breanne Humphreys / U.S. Air Force

The U.S. Air Force says it will prioritize the PFAS cleanup at the former Wurtsmith Air Force Base in Oscoda, Michigan, allocating an additional $13.5 million for the effort.

water faucet
Flickr user Bart / http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

Governor Gretchen Whitmer will not use her executive powers to end water shutoffs in Detroit.

Civil rights groups, including the ACLU, petitioned Whitmer in November, asking for her to declare the shutoffs a public health emergency and to put a moratorium on such shutoffs. 

USFWS

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is seeking public comment on its recovery plan for the eastern massasauga rattlesnake. The snake has been listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act since 2016. State officials say Michigan has the largest population of massasaugas, but disappearing wetlands are jeopardizing its habitat.

Amy Bleisch is the DNR’s endangered species coordinator. She’s hopeful the state can help ensure the long-term viability of the snake.

An overhead shot of the Oscoda-Wurtsmith airport
United States Geological Survey

Cape Canaveral might have a bit of competition up here in the north. The Oscoda-Wurtsmith Airport near Lake Huron is being considered as a spot for a horizontal rocket launch site. Stateside spoke to Justin Kasper, a professor with the Department of Climate and Space Sciences and Engineering at the University of Michigan, about how the site might be used and Michigan’s past and future place in the space industry. 

piqsels.com

One of the nation's largest electric utilities says it will reach net zero carbon emissions by the year 2040. 

It's the most ambitious goal yet for a U.S. electricity company. Five electric utilities, including DTE Energy, have committed to reaching net zero by 2050.

Net zero carbon emissions means a combination of eliminating and offsetting carbon dioxide emissions to achieve zero carbon emissions attributable to the company.

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.

A rusty barrel in the woods
Bryce Huffman

Minnesota-based 3M will pay $55 million to Wolverine Worldwide to address PFAS contamination in Kent County.

Wolverine Worldwide is based in Rockford. It has said it could spend $113 million to meet its obligations in a settlement with the State of Michigan and two townships over PFAS. That money includes $69.5 million to extend a municipal water system to more than 1,000 residences where PFAS has been found in well water.

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.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

A proposed large solar farm is moving ahead for approval. The 24 megawatt solar installation could power the equivalent of five thousand households. 

“When you add in the hydro energy that we generate, as well as the methane that we capture from the landfill, this gets the city of an obvious municipal operations government footprint — our electrical use — to about zero. Hundred percent powered with clean, renewable energy,” said Missy Stults, Sustainability and Innovations Manager for the City of Ann Arbor.

U-M student speaks at regents meeting
Caroline Llanes / Michigan Radio

The Board of Regents of the University of Michigan announced at a meeting on Thursday that it will put a freeze on new fossil fuel investments. This means that it will not make new investments in the fossil fuel industry while it studies its own investment policy.

The announcement came from Regent Mark Bernstein, right after U-M Central Student Government President Ben Gerstein discussed a Big Ten resolution, where student governments from Big Ten universities called on their institutions to freeze fossil fuel investments.

Photo by Heather Adams / University of Michigan

There may be hope for bat populations devastated by a disease caused by a fungus. 

lake michigan coastline
Dustin Dwyer / Michigan Radio

While waves and record high water levels pound away at shoreline properties, state lawmakers are trying to pound away on new laws to protect property.

One bill debated Tuesday in the House would allow property owners to build temporary shoreline barriers to protect against erosion, even without a permit.

Jed Jaworski

Large waves and Lake Michigan’s record high water level are breaking down the barrier that protects the historic Point Betsie Lighthouse in Frankfort.

Key parts of the structure are fractured and falling apart. Supporters of the lighthouse are trying to get repairs done. 

But Interlochen Public Radio's Taylor Wizner reports that a lengthy process may stand in the way.

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.

surgical scissors on tray
Wikimedia Commons

Michigan and ten other states are urging the U.S. EPA to set stricter limits on emissions of a known carcinogen called ethylene oxide, or EtO.  The chemical is used to sterilize medical equipment.   In a letter to the EPA, state attorneys general say the agency is six years behind schedule in setting stricter limits on EtO.  The chemical is linked to a higher risk of breast cancer, among other health issues.   

Ann Arbor city hall.
Heritage Media / FLICKR CREATIVE COMMONS HTTP://MICHRAD.IO/1LXRDJM

The city of Ann Arbor is considering a carbon tax on internal operations that rely on fossil fuels and carbon emissions. This comes three months after the city declared a climate emergency and set a goal of carbon neutrality for the city by 2030.

Asian Carp
Kate Gardiner / Flickr - http://bit.ly/1rFrzRK

President Donald Trump's proposed budget won’t fund a barrier to stop Asian carp from entering the Great Lakes despite recent remarks that he would protect the lakes from the invasive fish.

It does, however, include one win for the Great Lakes: another $123 million in 2021 to build a new lock in Sault Ste. Marie ($75 million was already appropriated to start construction on the lock in 2020).

Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha speaks at a book signing
umseas / CreativeCommons

Flint pediatrician, Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha, testified during a House hearing on Tuesday for the Environmental Protection Agency's proposed changes to the Lead and Copper Rule.

The proposal has been criticized for not being aggressive enough to effectively decrease lead levels in lead-contaminated drinking water.

a screen that says mega millions and 173
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Today on Stateside, what the worsening erosion of Great Lakes shorelines looks like from a bird’s eye view. Plus, an expected flood of absentee ballots this November has some of Michigan's clerks nervous about timely reporting. We talk to a state senator who says accuracy is more important than speed when it comes to counting votes. 

A white house sinks down a sand dune into Lake Michigan
Dustin Dwyer / Michigan Radio

Record high water levels in the Great Lakes are wreaking havoc on Michigan’s shorelines. Dramatic erosion along the shore has put both private homes and public infrastructure at risk. Randy Claypool, aerial videographer and owner of Truly Michigan Aerial, captured footage that shows just how severe erosion is along Lake Michigan.

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