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Environment & Science

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

State environmental regulators say tests done Friday show below-background levels of radiation at the site of a partial shoreline collapse into the Detroit River. 

Group of men sitting on a hill
U.S. Library of Congress

Today on Stateside, an old industrial site contaminated with uranium since the World War II has partially collapsed into the Detroit River. Plus, a group of West Michigan musicians have brought old Michigan folk songs once sung by sailors and lumberjacks back to life.

Tyler Petroelje / SUNY-ESF

Scientists say gray wolves relocated to Isle Royale National Park are adjusting nicely to their new surroundings and finding plenty of prey.

Officials released findings Monday from observations of wolves that were captured on the mainland and taken to the Lake Superior park during the past year.

Dustin Dwyer / Michigan Radio

Officials from the federal, state and county government will be at a public meeting in Manistee on Tuesday to talk about shoreline erosion.

The meeting is at 6 p.m. Tuesday at the Little River Casino Resort in Manistee.

High water levels on the Great Lakes have caused flooding and erosion all along the Michigan coastline this year.

Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

Today on Stateside, we hear about the plan for a unique “net-zero” community in Ann Arbor. Plus, dispelling the stereotype that Michigan wine can't compete on the world stage. 

aeiral view of flooded Grand River
City of Grand Rapids / Facebook

A majority of Michigan’s rivers have more water than usual for this time of year. That’s according to measurements from the U.S. Geological Survey.

Elevated water levels are causing issues for water infrastructure in the state.

City of Howell

The Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy has discovered a toxic chemical in the air near a manufacturing plant in Howell.

Groceries, including milk, eggs and produce, sitting on a counter.
Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Today on Stateside, what newly-released emails between state officials reveal about the behind-the-scenes negotiations that allowed federally-protected gray wolves to be killed in the Upper Peninsula. Plus, on the 50th anniversary of President John F. Kennedy's assassination, a look into the former president's long list of health problems and why they were hidden from public view.

Running faucet
Melissa Benmark / Michigan Radio

In the past several years, dozens of communities across Michigan have learned their drinking water is contaminated with per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances. This group of chemicals, commonly referred to as PFAS, are “forever chemicals.” They persist in the environment and in the bodies of people regularly exposed to them without breaking down.

Velsicol Chemical operating on the banks of the Pine River in St. Louis, Michigan.
Pine River Citizen Superfund Task Force

According to a report by the federal Government Accountability Office, 60% of Superfund sites nationwide are threatened by floods, wildfires, and hurricanes that are becoming worse due to climate change.

In Michigan, twenty toxic sites are at a high risk of spreading due to increased flooding. The sites are scattered across the state, but most are located near former industrial hubs, including the Velsicol Chemical Company in St. Louis

Photo courtesy Tom Dykstra

Bouncing along a sodden farm pasture, Brad Johnson stopped his state vehicle when he came upon the newborn calf, or what remained of it.

The veteran wildlife handler had been to this patch of farmland in the western Upper Peninsula several times the previous fall, when a dozen calves from the Dykstra beef ranch were reported missing.

Jeff Reutter / Ohio State University

Scientists have concluded it's going to be more difficult than they initially thought to reduce phosphorus loads into Lake Erie by 40%.

That's the target set by Great Lakes states.

Phosphorus is a crop fertilizer that also encourages cyanobacterial blooms. 

Rebecca Muenich worked on a study to evaluate ways to control the blooms. 

Meunich is a former researcher at the University of Michigan's Graham Sustainability Institute, and now an assistant professor at Arizona State University.

Dustin Dwyer / Michigan Radio

The swirling liquid rushes into concrete channels behind a black chain-link fence.

“That is what sewage looks like,” says Nicole Pasch, who works in Environmental Services for the city of Grand Rapids.

Pasch is showing off the wastewater treatment facility, along with the various stages the sewage has to pass through before it can be sent back into the nearby Grand River, which flows into Lake Michigan.

"Here we are again:" Decades after PBB crisis, echoes seen in current PFAS crisis

Nov 18, 2019
Dale Young / Bridge Magazine

In 1973, an accident at a chemical plant in the small town of St. Louis in the middle of Michigan’s mitten triggered one of the largest mass poisonings in American history.

PFAS clean-up costs are increasing. Michigan taxpayers may have to foot the bill.

Nov 18, 2019
Terry and Tom Hula exit a shed that contains a 1,500-gallon water tank on their property in Belmont.
Steve Jessmore / Bridge Magazine

Terry Hula loves Christmas. So much so, she and her husband, Tom, bought a home 28 years ago that was surrounded by a Christmas tree farm.

PFAS foam on lakeshore
Michigan Department of Environmental Quality / Flickr http://bit.ly/1xMszCg

The state of Michigan is a step closer to establishing the limits of PFAS in drinking water. PFAS is a family of chemicals that have been discovered in high levels in drinking water at sites across the state. Yesterday the Environmental Rules Review Committee voted to move the draft regulations forward. If approved, the new regulations will be among the strictest in the nation. The next step is a public comment period along with public hearings, which are expected to be announced before year's end. 

A cyanobacterial bloom on Lake Erie in 2013.
Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

Ohio Governor Mike DeWine has rolled out a comprehensive water quality plan for his state. The plan has been named H2Ohio.

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

The Flint water crisis showed the state—and the country—that clean drinking water isn't something we can take for granted. But it isn’t just Flint. Recent water samples put St. Clair Shores on the list of Michigan communities with high levels of lead in their water. Other areas of the state are worried about PFAS contamination.

Multi-colored books.
Kimberly Farmer / Unsplash

Today on Stateside, we hear from two sisters working to increase Muslim representation in the books at libraries. Plus, we talk to the director of the Detroit Zoo about the role that zoos can play in addressing the impacts of climate change. 

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

We know that burning fossil fuels releases a lot of greenhouse gases. But there are other human-caused sources that contribute to climate change. As Lester Graham with the Environment Report found, one of them is how farmers plant crops.

man vaping
Fotofabrika / Adobe Stock

Doctors at a Detroit hospital have performed a double lung transplant on a man whose lungs were damaged from vaping.

No other details of the transplant were released Monday by Henry Ford Health System, which has scheduled a news conference Tuesday. The patient has asked his medical team to share photographs and an update to warn others about vaping.

U.S. EPA

Gary Sayers, the owner of a Madison Heights electroplating company, has been sentenced to a year in prison. 

That's after he violated hazardous waste storage laws for more than two decades.

Mackinac Bridge
Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

Fourteen civic, environmental and tribal groups have urged Governor Gretchen Whitmer to take immediate new steps to protect the Great Lakes in case of a possible wintertime rupture of Enbridge's Line 5, the pipeline that runs under the Straits of Mackinac.

In an October 25 letter, the groups asked Whitmer to tighten standards that would trigger a shutdown of Line 5 during rough seas and ice.

PFAS foam on lakeshore
Michigan Department of Environmental Quality / Flickr http://bit.ly/1xMszCg

Former Governor Rick Snyder stirred controversy when he appointed business and industry representatives to the Environmental Rules Review Committee (ERRC), a regulatory oversight board to oversee rulemaking within the Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy.

 

Now, that board is slowing down the advancement of new drinking water standards that limit acceptable levels of chemicals from the PFAS family in Michigan’s drinking water.

A cyanobacterial bloom on Lake Erie in 2013.
Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

Researchers say the harmful cyanobacteria bloom on Lake Erie this past summer was the fifth largest since they began ranking them going back to 2002.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says the bloom covered about 700 square miles by the end of August.

woman walking on beach
soupstock / Adobe Stock

High Great Lakes water levels are threatening some homes and other structures. On Tuesday, Governor Gretchen Whitmer and the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) announced a new plan to aid Michigan shoreline property owners affected by land erosion by those high lake levels.

State of Michigan

For the third consecutive year, Flint water is testing below state and federal action levels for lead, according to data the state released on Wednesday.

In the first half of 2016, at the height of the city’s water crisis, Flint’s 90th percentile result for lead-in-water samples was 20 parts per billion.

Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

When you call the city of Melvindale’s Department of Water and Public Works these days, you’ll hear a message that goes like this:

“If you’re calling regarding recent lead sampling results for the city of Melvindale, please note that the water supply we are provided from Great Lakes Water [Authority] is safe. This applies to properties that have lead service lines going into their home.”

Want to support more reporting like this? Consider making a gift to Michigan Radio today. 

A sea lamprey close up
T. Lawrence / Great Lakes Fishery Commisison

A number of destructive invasive species have invaded the Great Lakes in the past several decades. These non-native creatures can do significant damage to native ecosystems. Biologists work hard to control them, but it's an ongoing battle. 

Cory Brant of the Great Lakes Fishery Commission has captured the story of one particularly prolific invasive species in his new book Great Lakes Sea Lamprey: The 70 Year War on a Biological Invader.

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