Environment & Science | Michigan Radio

Environment & Science

Michigan’s climate-ready future: wetland parks, less cement, roomy shores

Jun 9, 2021
J. Carl Ganter / Circle of Blue

What does Michigan’s future look like if we adequately prepare the state’s water resources for climate change? Goodbye to septics and shorehugging homes. Hello to more diversified crops on Michigan farms.

The year is 2050, and you’re visiting family in Detroit.

Arriving, you grab coffee on the ground floor of a nine-floor building filled with offices and apartments, designed to house a growing Great Lakes city without pushing out longtime residents.

Around the corner, people gather for walks and picnics in a wetland park, one of dozens constructed around the city. With their wet meadows, flowers and gently winding trails, the parks absorb rainwater from frequent storms, reduce water treatment costs and alleviate the basement backups of water and sewage that once plagued Detroit.

Mark Tegethoff / Unsplash


On Thursday, June 10, 2021, people across the northern hemisphere – including here in Michigan – will have the chance to experience an annular or partial eclipse of the Sun.

NOAA, Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory

Researchers at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory (GLERL) are forecasting the cyanobacterial bloom in western Lake Erie is likely to be smaller than average this year. But, it’s early in the season and things could change.

If you buy some kinds of bagged fertilizer for your garden, you might be getting more than you want.

The Ecology Center and Sierra Club sampled different kinds of fertilizers made from biosolids. That’s the sludge left at a wastewater treatment plant after water is cleaned up. Almost all of them had PFAS compounds in them.

blacklegged tick
Scott Bauer / USDA Agricultural Research Service, Bugwood.org

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

There are a lot of ideas about how the State of Michigan should spend federal dollars from the American Rescue Plan. An environmental group thinks one of the top priorities is cleaning up water.

Townships in Michigan where 'critical dunes' are located.

The Michigan Supreme Court says a group of property owners in West Michigan will get the chance to challenge a real estate developer’s plan to build on sand dunes along Lake Michigan.

This dispute has been winding its way through the courts since 2014.

The developer is Dune Ridge. It bought 130 acres in Saugatuck. But the former church camp is located in what the state calls a critical dune area. So it’s subject to special protection and management rules to protect them.

Wind turbine
Tim Wang / flickr http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

The University of Michigan has adopted a plan to achieve net zero carbon emissions by the year 2040.

Net zero means the combination of reducing the burning of fossil fuels with actions to remove carbon dioxide from the environment, such as re-forestation, or sequestering carbon in geologic formations.

Drew Horning is special advisor to U of M President Mark Schlissel for carbon neutrality strategy. 

He says by 2025, the University plans to get all its outside purchased electricity from carbon dioxide-free sources like wind.

Premature babies can benefit from donated or purchased breast milk
Sarah Hopkins / Creative Commons http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

Researchers at the University of Michigan have found an association between an ingredient found in a common weed killer and preterm births.

The chemical in question is glyphosate which used in herbicides such as Roundup.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

Three environmental groups have notified the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency they plan to sue because the agency has not come up with a plan to reduce sulfur dioxide emissions in areas of Detroit and Baltimore.

The Center for Biological Diversity, the Center for Environmental Health, and the Sierra club filed a notice this week.

Green Infrastructure: Cities around the Great Lakes plan for a changing future

May 19, 2021
Courtesy: City of Detroit

Water ran from a fire hydrant, down the street and into a recently redesigned street median in Detroit last week.

It was both unassuming and a demonstration of the city’s single largest investment in green stormwater infrastructure: infrastructure that uses natural processes like the ability of soil and plants to filter and store water. The 10 reworked street medians on Oakman Boulevard will help manage 37.3 million gallons of stormwater a year, easing the burden on the city’s wastewater system and reduce basement flooding.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

Some coal fired power plants are being closed. Still, most of Michigan’s utilities heavily rely on coal.

“In 2019, coal still fueled the largest share of Michigan’s electric generation, about 32 percent. DTE Energy in particular is still heavily reliant on coal generation, with close to 60 percent (56%) of its energy coming from coal fired power plants,” Charlotte Jameson with the Michigan Environmental Council (MEC) said.

She is one of the authors of an updated report on pollutants that come from burning coal.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

Researchers at the University of Michigan are looking at how willing the public is to accept using carbon dioxide emissions in products. There are cases where capturing CO2 emissions could be used to make other products such as fuel or the carbon dioxide in your soft drink.

While people are not as keen about using CO2 emissions from a smokestack to carbonate their Coca-Cola, they do see the practicality of how carbon dioxide could be used in ways better than seeing it increase the amount of greenhouse gases causing climate change.

Isle Royale Queen IV
Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

Isle Royale is the least visited of our national parks, but it's also one of the most revisited. The pandemic threw a curveball at the Lake Superior island. Ferry service was suspended due to the pandemic, making it nearly impossible for visitors to travel to the island. Restrictions on ferry service have now lifted, but the island has changed in unique ways due to human inactivity.

A bald eagle was rescued in Ann Arbor after being found tangled in fishing line
Howell Nature Center Facebook page

A bald eagle was rescued in Ann Arbor after being found tangled in fishing line.

The wire was wrapped around his wing, tying him to a log where he was trapped.

The Humane Society of Huron Valley made the rescue and did an initial exam. They found no major injuries.

The eagle was transported to the Howell Nature Center for further care and rehabilitation.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

On Thursday, environmental groups and Native Americans plan to present Enbridge Energy with symbolic eviction notices. They want Enbridge to abide by Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s order to shut down Line 5 in the Straits of Mackinac.

A diver inspects Enbridge's Line 5 pipeline under the Straits of Mackinac for a possible dent.
Enbridge inspection video shared with the state of Michigan

Today on Stateside, why one maker of PFAS chemicals is challenging Michigan’s protections for drinking water. Plus, an international standoff is brewing over Enbridge Energy's Line 5 oil pipeline. And, two Beaver Island residents send out a radio program from the middle of Lake Michigan.

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

Minnesota-based company 3M is suing the state of Michigan over its regulations of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or the PFAS family of chemicals. Michigan's regulations on PFAS in drinking water were finalized in August 2020, and are among the most stringent in the country.

Michigan vows to seek Line 5 profits if Enbridge defies shutdown order

May 11, 2021
Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

If Line 5 is still pumping petroleum through the Straits of Mackinac on Thursday, Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer has notified Enbridge Energy, she will consider all resulting profits to be property of the state of Michigan.

Great Lakes water diversions could be more numerous

May 11, 2021
J. Carl Ganter / Circle of Blue

When Monica Evans gets together with her friends they talk economics, politics, the weather. They also discuss a subject that arises periodically in the news - the prospect that Great Lakes water could be diverted to other parts of the country. 

Evans, who is known in the Traverse City region as an effective environmental activist, has long worried that water could become in the 21st century what oil was in the 20th. As the global climate warms and water scarcity mounts, Great Lakes water is more valuable than ever before. 

On eve of Line 5 shutdown deadline, Enbridge vows to defy Michigan order

May 11, 2021
Courtesy: Whitney Gravelle

Enbridge Energy technically has one more day to shut down the Line 5 pipeline in the Straits of Mackinac, but even the pipeline’s most vocal opponents acknowledge slim odds that the oil actually stops flowing right away.

Courtesy of Derrick L. Turner/Michigan State University

Forty-two years after the state of Michigan became the state of Michigan, a botanist named William Beal buried 20 open bottles of seeds to see how long they could remain viable.

A few weeks ago Frank Telewski, a professor of plant biology at Michigan State University, along with a few colleagues, continued the decades-long experiment by digging up one of those bottles on the MSU campus.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

There’s been a lot of news about the amount of plastic debris in the oceans. But plastic pollution is also affecting the Great Lakes. A study out of the Rochester Institute of Technology estimates 22 million pounds of plastic debris enters the Great Lakes from the U.S. and Canada each year.

Adobe Stock

Humans have used psychedelics like magic mushrooms, acid, or ecstasy in a variety of ways for a long time. Though the drugs remain illegal on the federal level in the U.S., interest in psychedelics is continuing to grow, as is the movement to normalize their use — particularly for therapeutic purposes.

Today on Stateside, what’s ahead for Michigan now that it’s getting harder to find arms for vaccine doses. The head of a Dearborn based Arab community organization talks about mobilizing for that very purpose. We also dig into Michigan foraging. Plus, an advocate for psilocybin makes the case for legal microdosing in Michigan.

Kelly House / Bridge Michigan

Microplastic pollution has been building up in the Great Lakes for at least four decades, but our understanding of its impact on fish and other aquatic creatures is only just catching up.

Now new research from the University of Toronto shows the harm to wildlife is due to a wide range of factors that is not generally considered in toxicology testing – the plastics’ size, shape and chemical makeup.

Flooding tells 'two different stories' in Michigan

Apr 28, 2021
Courtesy: Mike Bach

Access to ample water supplies could make Michigan a climate refuge. That scenario is attracting considerable attention in the Great Lakes State.

But climate change also is disrupting the earth’s meteorological cycles. Which means more fierce Great Lakes region storms and more floods.

The consequences are not evenly distributed. Or, in the words of Jeremy Porter, the head of research and development at First Street Foundation, a Brooklyn-based research group, flooding tells “two different stories.” 

Peninsula Solar

Despite the pandemic, it’s been a good year for small-scale solar developers in the state.

“We've been super busy. This is the busiest year we've ever had,” says Ben Schimpf, a sales representative with Peninsula Solar, based in Marquette and Cedar.

Sturgeon for Tomorrow

If you've ever seen a lake sturgeon, you know that there's something really mystifying and beautiful about this ancient fish. They’ve been around for more than 100 million years, but their numbers have dwindled in the past century and they’re now considered a threatened species. But state officials and sturgeon enthusiasts are committed to helping the species bolster its numbers.