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Environment & Science

Pickpik

Fungi foragers rejoice: a new mushroom-hunting season is upon us. Many species of wild mushrooms grow throughout Michigan, and this is the perfect time of year to try to find them. But before you savor that tempting toadstool, make sure you’ve done your research. (No, really.)

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

A scientific expert says Canadian pipeline company Enbridge Energy has not submitted enough information to the state for permits to build a tunnel under the Straits of Mackinac. The groups Oil and Water Don’t Mix and the National Wildlife Federation included a geological engineer who build tunnels in an online news conference.

Brian O’Mara reviewed the reports in the tunnel proposal submitted to the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy. O’Mara says Enbridge did not take nearly enough core samples of bedrock along the route of the tunnel, and what they did take showed it’s not solid bedrock all the way across.

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.

Consumers Energy

The Michigan Public Service Commission says it will update state requirements for long range plans submitted by electric utilities.

The agency is asking stakeholders to submit recommendations for how these plans, known as Integrated Resource Plans, or IRPs, should change to help meet the governor's new target of carbon neutrality by the year 2050.

Carbon neutrality means on balance, no new carbon dioxide emissions are added to the atmosphere, through a combination of carbon emissions reductions and carbon offsetting, via things like planting forests and other carbon capture projects.

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.” 

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

Detroit will be spending more than $9 million to deal with lead-based paint in homes. Although lead-paint has been banned since the 1970s, the old paint on walls, floors, and window sills is still toxic and a leading cause of high blood lead levels in children.

The federal grant from Housing and Urban Development had very specific requirements.

Steven Katovich, USDA Forest Service, Bugwood.org

The state of Michigan is expanding quarantines to try to stop a pest from killing hemlock trees. Michigan’s 170 million hemlock trees are important because they help prevent erosion along streams and keep them cool, which helps fish habitat. The Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD) says hemlocks are also important to the timber and lumber industries, nursery and landscaping industries, the Christmas tree industry and the tourism industry.

The Hemlock Woolly Adelgid is the insect pest killing hemlocks in five counties along Lake Michigan: Allegan, Muskegon, Oceana, Ottawa, and Mason. It feeds on the starches of the trees.

Michigan State University

The state of Michigan is launching a pilot effort to establish a wastewater surveillance system for COVID-19.

Yes, the novel coronavirus can be detected in human poop—even when people are asymptomatic, or have yet to show symptoms. And there are a number of pre-existing wastewater testing programs already running in Michigan.

© 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.

someone getting a shot
Wikimedia Commons / http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

Some clinical trials for potential COVID-19 vaccines are going well—but don’t expect a vaccine any time this year, says an infectious disease specialist with Detroit’s Henry Ford Health System.

Dr. Allison Weinmann is involved in phase three clinical trials for Moderna's mRNA-1273 Coronavirus Efficacy (COVE) vaccine study. Henry Ford is participating in the national study, which has recruited 30,000 volunteers to receive either the vaccine or a placebo, and monitor the results for both safety and efficacy.

Note: An audio version of this story aired on NPR's Planet Money. Listen to the episode here.

Laura Leebrick, a manager at Rogue Disposal & Recycling in southern Oregon, is standing on the end of its landfill watching an avalanche of plastic trash pour out of a semitrailer: containers, bags, packaging, strawberry containers, yogurt cups.

None of this plastic will be turned into new plastic things. All of it is buried.

Velsicol Chemical operated on the banks of the Pine River in St. Louis, Michigan from 1938 to 1978. It was the site of the infamous PBB mixup. The entire plant was buried in place and now it's leaking.
Pine River Superfund Citizen Task Force

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency finished the second phase of a new method for chemical pollution cleanup at a Superfund site in St. Louis, Michigan.

This site is 52 acres where the Velsicol Chemical plant once stood. It manufactured DDT, polybrominated biphenyls (PBBs), and chlorobenzene among other toxic chemicals. 

Kristen Dage

Way up in the Andes mountains sits a little bit of East Lansing. On the Cerro Pachón mountain in Chile, the Southern Astrophysical Research, or SOAR, telescope looks out at the stars. It’s a partnership between four institutions including the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Michigan State University. Talk about working remotely.

Demonstrators unfurled a large "Shut Down Line 5" sign during the flotilla.
Emma Winowiecki / Michigan Radio

The State of Michigan is holding a number of public meetings online regarding the proposed tunnel under the Straits of Mackinac for Enbridge's Line 5. The first is being held Tuesday evening at 6 p.m. by the Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy.

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel’s office has settled a case dealing with leaky underground fuel tanks. The state will be getting $35 million to clean up the sites now owned by Premcor Refining Group, Inc.

“We entered into this settlement with the group because Premcor is the entity that is liable under state law for the releases at these sites. So, you know, we're just trying to reach a settlement if that's sound and enforceable and it's in the best interest of the public,” said Ryan Jarvi, spokesperson for the Attorney General’s office.

International Joint Commission

Another of Michigan’s Areas of Concern has been cleaned up and taken off the list. Under the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement, the governments of Canada and the U.S. identified 43 pollution hot spots around the Great Lakes and identified them as Areas of Concern.

The Lower Menominee River at the Wisconsin and Upper Peninsula border was one of them. It has now been removed from the Areas of Concern list.

a large expanse of lake surrounded by trees at dusk with a purple blue sky
Amy Sacka

In the latest edition of National Geographic, you'll find a big spread dedicated to exploring how ice coverage has dramatically decreased on the Great Lakes over the past 40 years. The photos you'll see, of not-so-solid lakes, and people navigating warmer Michigan winters, were taken by Detroit photojournalist Amy Sacka.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

The state will try to order the company that owns the Edenville and Sanford Dams to fix failures that caused extensive flooding along the Tittawabassee River in May.

That action was announced Tuesday by the state Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE).

Map of 1,4-dioxane plume in Ann Arbor.
Scio Residents for Safe Water

Between 1966 and 1986 a manufacturing plant owned by Gelman Sciences used a chemical called 1,4 Dioxane. Today, ground water is contaminated by that chemical. While there have been previous court agreements on cleanup, a fourth amendment has been proposed to require stricter cleanup levels, and more monitoring wells to track the underground plume of Dioxane.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

A new report finds nuclear power plants in this region will face heat stress in the future because of climate change. The analysis from Moody's Investors Service is titled "Nuclear operators face growing climate risk, but resiliency investments mitigate impact."

In the report, analysts found the Cook, Fermi, and Palisades nuclear power plants in Michigan and the nearby Davis-Besse plant in Ohio fall into the High Risk category (although Palisades is scheduled to close in 2022).

Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

Environmental groups are supporting a permit that further restricts spreading animal manure on farm fields.

Livestock farmers and the Michigan Farm Bureau are suing the Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy to stop changes in the general operating permit for Confined Animal Feeding Operations. Now environmental groups are siding with the agency to enforce the stricter regulations, seeking to legally intervene.

white propane tank in backyard
Carolyn Franks / Adobe Stock

One of the major arguments against shutting down the Enbridge Line 5 pipeline is that it supplies propane to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and the northern portion of the Lower Peninsula. A new company plans to use an existing pipeline to ship propane from Sarnia to the Gaylord/Kalkaska area.

Jeff Reutter / Ohio State University

More than one billion dollars has been spent in the U.S. since 2010 dealing with algae blooms that potentially harbor toxic cyanobacteria. A report by the Environmental Working Group’s analysis found the majority of that money was spent in Ohio. That state has spent more than $815 million as it struggles to control algae blooms in Lake Erie and some other inland lakes. Lake Erie is a hot spot for cyanobacteria.

The group’s analysis found Michigan only spent thousands of dollars around Lake St. Clair and that came from communities and homeowners.

At the start of the 20th century, one in seven farmers in the United States was Black. In the decades that followed, however, Black Americans were dispossessed of an estimated 13 million acres of land. Many descendants of Black farmers moved north to seek jobs in other industries, removed from familial agricultural backgrounds.

Muskegon Lake
Muskegon County

Muskegon Lake was designated an Area of Concern by the federal Environmental Protection Agency in 1985. For decades now, state and local groups have been completing a wide variety of projects in order to clean up the area and get it off the Areas of Concern list. One of the groups that’s been working on projects to restore the lake, the West Michigan Shoreline Regional Development Corporation, says that its goal is to have all of the projects completed by the end of 2021, and off the EPA’s list shortly thereafter.

Birds
USFWS Midwest

Every year about 93% of all the Kirtland’s Warblers in the world fly from the Bahamas to Michigan. The rare bird is making a comeback from the brink of extinction.

The Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center and the Georgetown Environment Initiative teamed up to go the Bahamas and put tiny radio trackers on the birds.

It was thought when they got to Michigan the birds paired up and nested, end of story.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

Environmental groups and consumer advocates want electric utilities to think more long term. The Citizens Utility Board of Michigan, the Michigan Environmental Council, the Natural Resources Defense Council, and the Sierra Club formed a coalition and hired a consultant to do an analysis of Michigan’s future demands on the electric distribution system. The coalition submitted testimony to the Michigan Public Service Commission regarding a proposed rate increase from Consumers Energy.

A dive team works on Line 5 under the Straits of Mackinac.
Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

 This story was updated 8:00 p.m. August 19, 2020. 

Groups representing business, environmentalists, and Native Americans are calling on Governor Gretchen Whitmer to shut down Enbridge's Line 5.

The more than 600 mile long pipeline carrying crude oil and natural gas liquids is 67 years old. A section of Line 5 sits on the bottom of the Straits of Mackinac, which connects Lakes Michigan and Huron. The pipeline splits into twin pipelines under the Straits.

work being done under Mackinac bridge
Enbridge

Four tribes can now participate in the Line 5 permitting process, after a ruling from a state judge last week.

The move comes as the energy company Enbridge wants to put a replacement section of the pipeline in a tunnel under the Straits of Mackinac.

Enbridge

A newly constructed segment of the Enbridge Line 5  is now operating. This section is under the Saint Clair River just south of Port Huron, Michigan and crosses into Sarnia, Ontario.

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