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Environment & Science

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.

Potter Park Zoo

North American river otter Nkeke is a new mom following the birth of two pups Sunday, February 9 at Lansing's Potter Park Zoo.

The two pups are the second successful birth for Nkeke and otter dad Miles.

Dustin Dwyer / Michigan Radio

Many residents in northern Kent County say they're happy with a proposed settlement agreement over contamination from chemicals known as PFAS in the area, though some said they wish the agreement would go further. 

The Michigan attorney general's office held a forum to hear public comments on its consent decree Monday night in Rockford. More than 100 people showed up.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

Environmentalists, the Michigan Attorney General, and many others are keeping an eye on every step of the process of replacing Line 5 at the Straits of Mackinac. Enbridge’s Line 5 is the pipeline that crosses the Upper and Lower peninsulas of Michigan to transport oil and liquid natural gases to Canada.

But there’s another place where Line 5 is going under a body of water that’s part of the Great Lakes. Enbridge is replacing that pipeline under the St. Clair River just south of Lake Huron.

The City of Charlevoix is known for its beaches, lighthouse and fishermen. The Anishinaabe call it “Zhingwak Ziibing” or “Pine River.”

It’s less well known as a superfund site.

Pollution was first discovered in the city’s groundwater in 1981. The city quickly switched to Lake Michigan drinking water, as legal restrictions were put on the groundwater.

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.

These trees will have to be removed in order to clean up the bank and bed of the Huron River in Ann Arbor.
Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

The Ann Arbor City Council has approved $3.8 million worth of upgrades to improve the city’s water system. $3.4 million of that money will go to UV-treatment upgrades in order to combat a parasite called cryptosporidium.

Running faucet
Melissa Benmark / Michigan Radio

State Attorney General Dana Nessel announced that paperwork has been filed on a proposed settlement with Wolverine Worldwide over PFAS contamination.

Nessel’s office announced a tentative agreement in December. The state and two townships in northern Kent County had filed lawsuits against the shoe company for contaminating water with chemicals in the PFAS family.

Courtesy Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy

The Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy is giving two companies in Detroit until this Friday to come up with a new protections for the Detroit River. Two previous plans have been rejected as inadequate.

A dock collapsed along the Detroit River in November. EGLE instructed Revere Dock, LLC and Detroit Bulk Storage to submit an interim plan to keep further aggregate rock and soil from getting into the river.

A photo of the pit in the EPS basement before the 2017 emergency clean-up.
U.S. EPA

When Detroit firefighters found pits filled with liquid in the basement of a warehouse owned by Gary Sayers, state officials had to assume the worst.

That's because similar pits in the basement of Electro-Plating Services in Madison Heights were heavily contaminated with hexavalent chromium, a known carcinogen.  

Chromium turns liquids green, which resulted in a "green ooze," spilling from the EPS site onto I-696 in December.

Now, test results show that the liquid in the warehouse pits is in fact contaminated, but primarily with heavy metals. 

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

If you want to weigh in on the state's proposal to regulate seven different types of PFAS chemicals found in drinking water, you have until midnight on Friday, January, 31.

EGLE

Preliminary test results indicate pollution from Electro-Plating Services in Madison Heights is not contaminating drinking water, nor is it moving into residential areas.

Work continues this week on the Enbridge tunnel planned beneath the Straits of Mackinac. The tunnel would house replacements for the twin pipelines known as Line 5. Michigan leaders are still locked in legal action with the company over the project. Last week, a panel of the Michigan Court of Appeals rejected a state request to halt construction.

work being done under Mackinac bridge
Enbridge

Today on Stateside, we talk to the head of Enbridge's tunnel project about what's happening with Line 5. Plus, a conversation with the Detroit-based metal band I Prevail, which is nominated for two Grammy Awards this year.

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