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Environment & Science

Michigan cities must begin replacing lead pipes. But who has the cash?

Jan 15, 2021
Courtesy of the City of Jackson

It’s the first month of a 20-year effort to replace every lead service line connecting a Michigan home to a public water supply. Already, Jeff Lampi is predicting his city won’t meet the deadline.

“I requested an additional 10 years, so that we don’t hit the ratepayers as hard as what they’re telling us to,” said Lampi. 

Flint residents unimpressed by Snyder charges linked to lead exposure

Jan 14, 2021

As volunteers loaded her trunk with cases of bottled water Thursday at the RL Jones Community Outreach Center, a weekly ritual that involves waiting for hours in a line of cars that snakes far down the highway, Paula Stephenson simmered with anger.

Days after Flint residents learned that former Gov. Rick Snyder and other officials would face criminal charges for their role in the water crisis that poisoned Flint residents, news emerged that Snyder would face two misdemeanors for, in Stephenson’s words, “destroying us.” 

City of Flint Water Plant
Adobe Stock

Nine individuals were indicted January 14 on criminal charges related to the Flint water crisis, including former Michigan Governor Rick Snyder. This case, overseen by State Attorney General Dana Nessel’s office, is one of several seeking justice for the people in Flint who’ve suffered loss of life and irreversible health damage because of tainted water flowing through their city’s system.

A water tower advertising the Detroit Zoo
Courtesy of the Detroit Zoological Society

Ron Kagan, who’s run the Detroit Zoo for 28 years, will retire from his role as executive director and CEO of the Detroit Zoological Society this summer. He led the zoo through significant changes, bringing it from an entertainment-based attraction to a conservation-focused, educational destination. Stateside spoke with Kagan about his approach to his work and some of the zoo’s accomplishments under his leadership.

Years After Flint Water Crisis, Lead Lingers in School Buildings

Jan 13, 2021
Photo: 2016 Photo © J. Carl Ganter / Circle of Blue

 

In its 2021 budget, Congress included millions for lead testing in schools, where children are still exposed to the toxic metal.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

The Canadian company Enbridge Energy refuses to shut down Line 5 and has asked a federal judge to dismiss the demands of Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer to turn off the crude oil and natural gas liquids dual pipeline that spans the Straits of Mackinac, the stretch of water which connects Lake Michigan and Lake Huron.

Lester Graham

The Trump administration has finalized a rule that will cut protections for migratory birds.

The federal government will no longer prosecute companies and landowners who unintentionally kill migratory birds.

Asian carp leaping out of a river.
Great Lakes Fishery Commission

Another barrier to keep Asian Carp out of the Great Lakes is about to enter the planning and design stage.

There are already electric barriers to stop Asian Carp. This new one will be more complex and the first line of defense.

This barrier is a joint project between Illinois, Michigan, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

creative commons

The owner of an oil processing company in Flint is accused of violating the Clean Water Act. 

Robert Massey faces a felony charge for allegedly telling employees to illegally dump contaminants into the city's sewer system.  

The U.S. Justice Department made the charges in a document called an "information," which is similar to a complaint, but is typically filed when it is expected that the defendant will plead guilty to the charges.

Ryan Hagerty / U.S Fish and Wildlife Service

For decades, researchers have been trying to bring back this iconic fish to Michigan—the arctic grayling—without success. Now, more than 50 collaborators across Michigan think they’ve finally figured out what makes this fish tick. And they're hoping that means this next attempt at bringing back the arctic grayling has a shot at success. 

Courtesy: Ecology Center

A Michigan-based environmental group has found many nonstick pans are coated with a chemical from the PFAS family.

“We suspected that a lot of pans that say nonstick would be coated with PTFE without saying so on their packaging. And that was one of the findings of this investigation. That Teflon-type coatings, the same polymer, are very common on nonstick cookware. But, it’s very hard to tell from the packaging you see in the store,” said Gillian Miller, senior scientist with the Ecology Center in Ann Arbor.


Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

The Michigan Chapter of the Sierra Club’s ‘Environmentalist of the Year’ did not plant a forest or fight pollution. The environmental group is honoring Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

The COVID Relief Package passed by Congress includes an extension in a tax credit for solar power. That credit was supposed to be reduced at the first of the year.

“The investment tax credit was slated to go from 26% to 22% as of January 1st, 2021. So, this will keep it at 26%. So, that four percent additional amount of reduction of the cost will in fact help to put more people back to work which will help everybody in Michigan,” said John Freeman, Executive Director of the Great Lakes Renewable Energy Association.

Money for cleaning up and restoring polluted areas of the Great Lakes has been approved by the U.S. Senate. The House already approved the bill. Now, it goes to President Donald Trump. Because of the bipartisan support for the legislation, the President is expected to sign it.

The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative started ten years ago at a funding level of $475 million a year, but it was reduced to $300 million after the first year.

Michigan has an infrastructure problem with raw sewage getting into streams and rivers.  

In the State of Michigan’s next fiscal year, there's about $500 million available for fixing up sewer pipes and updating wastewater plants. So far, municipalities have applied for $200 million. That’s below what is typical for this time of year. There’s no doubt about the need for sewer infrastructure repairs or replacement.

NASA HQ PHOTO / Flickr

Sky watchers will get a rare holiday gift this year.

On Monday evening, Jupiter and Saturn will appear to be nearly on top of each other as the two largest planets in our solar system reach their closest point to each other in nearly 800 years.

The “Great Conjunction,” as astronomers call it, will coincide with the winter solstice.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

The University of Michigan has a draft plan to reach carbon neutrality. The President’s Commission on Carbon Neutrality’s recommendations call for the university’s campuses to reduce emissions and to use carbon offsets to become carbon neutral by 2025 and reduce total U-M emissions to net-zero by 2040.

Michigan Department of Natural Resources


Clinton Snider / clintonsnider.com

State officials say emergency efforts are underway to prepare the Edenville spillway for high spring water levels after a dam collapsed earlier this year.

The project is intended to clear and lower the waterway and allow any spring surges to flow downstream uninterrupted.

A rusty barrel in the woods
Bryce Huffman

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services is signing up eligible residents of four West Michigan communities for a study of the potential long term health impacts of exposure to per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in drinking water. The study is called the Michigan PFAS Exposure and Health Study (MiPEHS).

One of the anchors used to hold Line 5 in place under the Straits of Mackinac.
Screen shot of a Ballard Marine inspection video / Enbridge Energy

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers held a public comment period Monday as part of a review of Enbridge Energy’s permit for a tunnel to house a replacement section of the Line 5 pipeline beneath the Straits of Mackinac.

As part of the process, the Army Corps will determine whether an additional environmental impact review of the project is necessary.

Keith Ladzinski / National Geographic

The cover story in this month’s issue of National Geographic takes a deep dive into the many major threats to the health of the Great Lakes. In the magazine you’ll find dramatic photos of massive algal blooms and surging floodwaters, as well as up-close portraits of invasive species that are disrupting the local ecosystems.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

Today on Stateside, Attorney General Dana Nessel joins us to talk about the recent threats made against a number of elected officials—including herself. Plus, a conversation with a University of Michigan senior who has received a Rhodes Scholarship. And, we'll talk to two journalists from National Geographic who have captured the damage and delight of Michigan’s Great Lakes.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

If they choose to do so, the governors of the Great Lakes have less than three weeks to object to an Environmental Protection Agency proposal.

That proposal would exempt cargo ships that only travel in the Great Lakes from having to treat ballast water to stop the spread of aquatic invasive species. For years, the Great Lakes shippers say they were not responsible for invasive species; it was the ocean-going cargo ships that were the problem.

DUSTIN DWYER / MICHIGAN RADIO

Applications for shoreline protection permits tripled this year compared to last, according to Michigan’s Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy.

The department granted 2,284 permits in the year ending September 30, compared to 730 permits the previous year. Most of those permits went to residential property owners wanting to protect their homes from rising water levels.

Often those permits allow the construction of rock walls as a barricade against encroaching waves.

Michigan State University

The Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) is providing $800,000 to expand an ongoing COVID-19 detection program in wastewater.

The expanded program, which has been running as a pilot since spring, will test untreated sewage in some Detroit zip codes, as well as certain targeted zip codes in suburban communities like Sterling Heights, Oak Park, and West Bloomfield.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

The Michigan Dam Safety Task Force held a meeting on Monday to discuss recommendations for how the state should oversee dam safety, particularly at privately-owned dams.

In the spring, the failure of the privately-owned Edenville and Sanford dams led to millions of dollars in damages and the evacuation of thousands from the region.

Courtesy of Kate Madigan

Consumers Energy has reached a one percent cap on rooftop solar customers established by the state's energy law. 

The utility says it plans to ask the Michigan Public Service Commission to allow it to voluntarily increase the cap to two percent, so that additional customers will be able to get permits to install solar panels on their homes.

Environmental groups are pleased by the utility's plan, but they say reaching the one percent cap is a wakeup call. DTE Energy has not yet reached its one percent cap.

A sign of the University of Michigan Central Campus
Anna Schlutt / Michigan Radio

A group wants the University of Michigan to think beyond its campuses as it works on a climate action plan.

Voices for Carbon Neutrality says climate change affects people of color and low-income people first.

Ember McCoy is a U of M student and one of the panelists on a webinar. She said those are the people who should also be part of the plan.

PFAS foam on the Huron River.
Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

The Biden campaign platform promises to designate some chemicals in the PFAS family as hazardous substances. That’s something the Trump administration also promised. The EPA completed recommendations more than a year ago and nothing has happened. One report suggests the White House might be holding up those recommendations.

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