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Environment & Science

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

The plume of 1,4 dioxane in Washtenaw County's groundwater is one step closer to getting federal help with its cleanup. The Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy requested today that the Environmental Protection Agency initiate the assessment of the site for the National Priorities List of Superfund sites.

steve carmody / Michigan Radio

It appears the United States Air Force is in no hurry to abide by Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s request to use Michigan’s standards for cleaning up PFAS contamination at a former Air Force base.

Courtesy: Michigan Department of Natural Resources

A group opposed to wolf hunting in Michigan has sued the Department of Natural Resources. The lawsuit claims appointments to the Wolf Management Advisory Council are heavily in favor of wolf hunting in Michigan.

“The appointments to the council are clearly stacked in the favor of wolf hunting – and don’t get me wrong, wolf hunters have a voice too – but this is grossly in favor of wolf hunters,” said Karol Miller, President of the wolf advocacy group The 06 Legacy.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

Wisconsin regulators are investigating why it took Enbridge Energy more than a year to report the full extent of a petroleum product spill.

Enbridge did report a spill of 1.3 gallons of from a valve in its Line 13 pipeline, 30 miles southeast of Madison in April of 2019.

Fifteen months later, Enbridge reported a different amount.

Courtesy Macomb County Public Works

Apparently, people are using a lot more personal wipes and baby wipes during the pandemic. Then, they’re flushing them down the toilet. Officials in Macomb and Oakland counties say those so-called “flushable” wipes are wreaking havoc on sewer pipes and pump stations.

“A couple of years ago, we had about 70 tons of these things, but just recently we completed a cleanup that was 270 tons. So just a huge increase,” said Candice Miller, the Public Works Commissioner of Macomb County.

Report: Lake Michigan is 'running a fever.' More storms, less fish possible.

Apr 2, 2021
Courtesy: NOAA, Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory

Diminished surface ice is just the beginning: Climate change is warming Lake Michigan and other big lakes all the way down to their chilly depths, according to new federal research.

In a first-of-its kind study, scientists with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory have used the only known long-term dataset of deep-lake temperatures to determine that Lake Michigan’s temperature is slowly increasing over the past 30 years.

The former Wurtsmith Air Force base
Mike Fritcher / Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

Governor Gretchen Whitmer is hoping that a federal law will be able to help speed up Department of Defense cooperation with cleaning up contamination from per- and polyfluoralalkyl sybstances, or PFAS, in Oscoda Township near Wurtsmith Air Force Base.

In 2020, the National Defense Authorization Act included section 332. It allows a governor to request changes or an entirely new cooperative agreement over remediation at sites by PFAS as a result of DOD activities.

Is the Line 5 tunnel a bridge to Michigan's energy future or a bad deal?

Apr 1, 2021
Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

As Canadian officials lobbied a Michigan Senate committee in March to keep the Line 5 pipeline open, Sen. Winnie Brinks (D-Grand Rapids) grew frustrated with a conversation that, up to that point, had focused mainly on the immediate economic and safety implications of a possible shutdown.

In flooded Michigan neighborhoods, who should pay for sea walls?

Mar 30, 2021
Kelly House / Bridge Michigan

The floodwaters have receded from Jefferson Chalmers for now, but evidence of the neighborhood’s recent crisis is hard to miss:

Dried algae on the sidewalks. Appliances bolted to basement walls to keep them dry. Water lines on the sides of buildings. And massive orange “tiger dams” snaking through backyards, waiting for the water to rise again.

The neighborhood — a labyrinth of canals leading to the Detroit River on the city’s far east side — is often called Detroit’s version of Venice. But for the past two summers, as Great Lakes water levels reached record highs, it has looked more like a floodplain.

Public Domain

Fisheries biologist David Jude has been studying a small prey fish called the deepwater sculpin for decades. And for years, there's been one question he couldn't stop thinking about. 

“I’ve always had this passion about trying to figure out where deepwater sculpin spawn because no one has ever documented it,” Jude said. 

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

Updated March 25, 2021 at 5:29 p.m.

The University of Michigan is pledging to achieve "net zero" carbon status for its $12.5 billion endowment by 2050. The board of regents approved a plan Thursday that calls for shifting investments away from companies that produce fossil fuels and toward those generating renewable energy.

It pledges $140 million in new investments in wind and solar power and projects to limit carbon emissions. It would continue the current practice of not investing in the top 200 oil, gas and coal companies or those that extract tar sands oil.

Downtown Ann Arbor
Katie Raymond / Michigan Radio

A lot has changed in how we relate to the public spaces around us this year. Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, some main streets have closed to cars and opened to pedestrians, to give passersby more room. Restaurants — those that survived — got creative with outdoor seating. And people stuck at home suddenly found themselves seeking local outdoor spaces — where they're available — for recreation and physically distanced socializing. All these shifts in how we use our spaces got us thinking: What does a “return to normal” look like for cities?

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

A circuit court judge has scheduled new hearings for May that will likely result in more aggressive cleanup of a source of pollution in Washtenaw County.

The case involves a plume of contamination from Gelman Sciences that's been spreading in the groundwater for decades.  

Michigan recently dramatically lowered the standard for 1,4 dioxane in groundwater.  That's the chemical in the plume spreading in the Ann Arbor and Scio Township areas. 

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

Climate change in the Great Lakes region means more intense storms. Already some towns are finding they’re flooding where they never have before. One city in Michigan is finding the solution is nature.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

Midland and other cities were hit hard by a flood caused by heavy rains and the failure of a weak dam.

More than 2,500 homes were damaged. There was an estimated $245 million dollars in property damage.

If that flood happened a few years ago, the damage could have been worse. But, there’s been a change. One thousand acres of restored wetlands helped reduce the severity of that flood.

cougar in ontonagon county in the upper peninsula august 2020
Michigan Department of Natural Resources

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources reports 14 confirmed cougar sightings in 2020, all located in the Upper Peninsula. That's the highest number reported since 2008, when the DNR first began tracking cougars.

The sightings were spread across seven counties: three of the sightings were in Delta County, three were in Luce County, and another three were in Mackinac County. The others were spread across Baraga, Chippewa, Ontonagon, and Schoolcraft Counties.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

Birds are beginning to migrate north. The Great Lakes flyway means a large number of those birds will be flying over Michigan. It also means at night birds will be crashing into buildings with lights on. Artificial light confuses them.

“And a city that produces a lot of artificial light at night from building and industry in a place with a lot of bird migration is going to have a high risk for bird mortality,” said Ben Winger, an assistant professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at the University of Michigan.

© Photo by Whitney Gravelle

Michigan's Indigenous communities hold long-standing legal right to protect lands and waters.

On any given day, Jacques LeBlanc Jr. spends as many as 14 hours on the water catching whitefish. Out on his boat by the time the sun breaks the horizon over the Great Lakes, he moves between Michigan, Huron, and Superior for the best spots. In this part of northern Michigan, at the eastern end of the Upper Peninsula, fishing is a staple of LeBlanc’s Bay Mills Indian Community, one of the Sault Ste. Marie bands of Chippewa.

map of Line 5
Enbridge Energy

Fifteen members of Congress, including five Republicans from Michigan, are asking President Joe Biden to support the Line 5 oil pipeline.

During his first days in office, President Biden revoked a permit for the Keystone XL pipeline, stopping its construction.

This week, U.S. Representatives Jack Bergman (R-Watersmeet), Lisa McClain (R-Bruce Twp.), Tim Walberg (R-Tipton), Peter Meijer (R-Grand Rapids) and Fred Upton (R-St. Joseph) signed a letter on Michigan’s most controversial pipeline.

Deep below the cold, dark surface of Lake Superior, sensors strung like pearls along a vertical steel cable sway with the currents. Recording the lake’s dropping temperatures as winter sets in, their gentle rhythm belies their worrying readings: the lake is getting warmer.

Too few farmers are curbing pollution in Lake Erie. Should they be forced?

Mar 9, 2021
Dale Young / Bridge Michigan

As climate change complicates Lake Erie's algae problem, scientists say farmer must do far more to reduce phosphorus runoff. But will enough farmers change their ways without a government mandate?

West Michigan is getting $1.2 million dollars to improve household recycling rates in the region.

State leaders say it’s part of a goal to double Michigan’s recycling rate by 2025.

“Michigan’s current recycling rate is the lowest in the Great Lakes region and also ranks among the lowest in the nation,” says Elizabeth Browne, director of the Materials Management division at the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy. “To ensure we reach this goal, recycling across Michigan is receiving a major boost in 2021.”

Al Hicks / USFWS

White nose syndrome has killed millions of bats in the U.S. since the fungal infection came here in the early 2000’s. Some kinds of bats have been hit harder than others.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service determined the northern long-eared bat was threatened rather than endangered even though about 99% of the bats in its primary living area died.

The agency said 40% of the bat’s range, including Michigan, was not as severely affected and did not expect the infection to spread quickly enough to threaten extinction.

Rights vs. Regulations: Property rights big barrier to septic system codes

Mar 2, 2021
Soil Science via Flickr, CC BY 2.0

In Michigan, with public health departments fully occupied with COVID-19, septic systems have been pushed back as a priority.

But even before COVID-19, it wasn’t much of a priority in the Legislature, because the last time an attempt was made to get Michigan statewide regulations for septic systems was in 2018.

steve carmody / Michigan Radio

State lawmakers are considering a resolution to end some restrictions on deer hunting.

The restrictions are in place in parts of the state known to have chronic wasting disease. CWD is a neurological disease in deer the state has been trying to contain.

The antler-point restrictions are meant to protect younger male deer and increase the number of older male deer in Michigan.

But critics complain the study actually threatens to spread CWD outside its current core area, which includes Kent and Montcalm counties.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

Mussel-Phosphorus puzzle: Invasive mussels are reshaping the chemistry of the Great Lakes

Feb 26, 2021
D. Jude / University of Michigan via NOAA/GLERL Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0

Since the late 1980s, four of the five Great Lakes have played host to an increasing number of invasive mussels. First came zebra mussels, followed shortly thereafter by quagga mussels, both members of the Dreissenid family whose native range includes the waters around Ukraine.

Today, the filter-feeders comprise more than 90% of the total animal biomass of the Great Lakes (barring Lake Superior, whose depth and water chemistry make it a less suitable habitat for the two species of mussel).

30 years later: Mussel invasion legacy reaches far beyond Great Lakes

Feb 26, 2021
Bob Nichols / USDA

The way J. Ellen Marsden remembers it, when she first suggested calling a new Great Lakes invasive species the quagga mussel, her colleague laughed, so the name stuck.

At the same time, it was no laughing matter. The arrival of a second non-native mussel, related to the already established zebra mussel, was a major complication in what was becoming one of the most significant invasive species events in American history.

LITTLE TRAVERSE BAY BANDS OF ODAWA INDIANS

A state senate committee Wednesday approved a resolution to push state wildlife officials to authorize a wolf hunting season this year.   

The resolution by State Sen. Ed McBroom (R-Vulcan) calls on the Natural Resources Commission to authorize and the Department of Natural Resources to organize wolf hunting and trapping as part of this year’s wolf management efforts.

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