Environment & Science | Michigan Radio
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Environment & Science

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

The Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy indicates there are 1.4 million homes in Michigan that are not hooked up to a sewer system. Many use septic tank systems. But Molly Rippke, an aquatic biologist with the agency, says there’s a big problem. 

Mark Savage / Entergy Corporation

The Palisades nuclear power plant will shut down by the spring of 2022. The company that owns Palisades plans to sell it.

Located on the shore of Lake Michigan near South Haven, Palisades is the oldest of three operating nuclear power plants in the state.

Who would want to buy a nuclear plant that’s closing?

There’s opportunity for a company that can decommission a nuclear generating station faster and cheaper – more efficiently – than a utility company could.

DTE

The Michigan Public Service Commission says DTE Energy can raise residential electricity rates by nearly 9%, starting in May. That's roughly a $6 per month increase for most customers.

The rate increase will pay for infrastructure, including a new billion dollar natural gas plant, plus an increase in the utility's tree-trimming activities. DTE says tree limbs falling onto lines during storms are responsible for a majority of power outages.

But the commission has rejected DTE Energy's proposal to raise fees and slash credits for customers with solar panels.

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

State officials are warning Michiganders to completely avoid touching PFAS foam. Previously, they emphasized not ingesting it.

PFAS (poly and perfluoroalkyl substances) are a class of chemicals used in firefighting foam, water-proofing substances, and more. The chemicals have been found in 119 municipal water systems.

Adee Braun / Changing Gears

Detroit’s Marathon refinery says it’s environmentally responsible, and a good neighbor to its surrounding community.

But some of those neighbors aren’t buying it.

Plastic trash on beach
Adobe Stock

Plastic pollution is choking landfills, the oceans - even the air we breathe.

Current recycling programs for plastics are inadequate to deal with the growing problem, according to researchers who testified Tuesday before a U.S. House subcommittee, convened by Michigan Congresswoman Haley Stevens.

wolves
Ecological Studies of Wolves on Isle Royale: Annual report 2018-2019 / Used with permission

Moose populations are still going wild on Isle Royale, but wildlife managers hope moving some additional wolves in will help restore some balance.

Michigan Technological University’s latest annual winter study of the animals’ Isle Royale populations found there are now more than 2,000 moose there, in comparison to just 15 wolves, most of them recent transplants via human intervention.

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

Plans for an enhanced barrier to try to keep Asian carp out of the Great Lakes might have just taken a crucial step forward.

The plan would fortify the existing Brandon Road Lock and Dam near Joliet, Ill. to attempt to block carp from getting to Lake Michigan.

The project just got a signoff from the Illinois governor to go into a pre-construction and design phase.

Molly Flanagan is with the Alliance for the Great Lakes. She says it’s a big project, but it’s an essential one to keep invasive Asian carp out of the lakes.

Part of the new line 6B pipeline in central Michigan.
Mark Brush ❤️ / Michigan Radio

A new report by an energy watchdog group says companies are betting over a trillion dollars in risky gas pipeline projects.

Global Energy Monitor says these projects are hugely expensive - so the payback is over decades. Climate scientists say we need to stop burning fossil fuels completely by 2050.

Filling a sample bottle.
Courtesy photo / Virginia Tech

After the Flint water crisis, the state’s environment department closed a bunch of loopholes in the sampling for lead in drinking water. That means cities are taking better samples, more frequently, and at the highest risk homes with lead service lines.

sandhill crane
Ray Hennessy / Adobe Stock

Two Michigan lawmakers are pushing for a hunting season for sandhill cranes.

On April 10, House Resolution 61 and Senate Resolution 30 were introduced by Rep. Jim Lower (R-Cedar Lake), and Sen. Dale Zorn (R-Ida). Lower introduced a similar resolution (HR 154) in 2017.

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

The Environmental Protection Agency has released draft recommendations for industrial chemicals known as PFAS.

The EPA says the guidance will inform final cleanup levels for groundwater used as drinking water.

City of Flint Water Plant
Adobe Stock

Five years ago, the city of Flint switched its water to the Flint River. Citizens soon complained of dirty, foul-smelling water. Doctors found evidence of high lead levels in children. Outside researchers proved the city’s water (because of a lack of corrosion control) was corroding pipes, bacteria levels skyrocketed, and thousands of people were without clean water.

That began five years ago. Now, many people still say that Flint, Michigan doesn’t have clean water.  

The problem is, those claims are misleading. 

Dennis Schroeder / National Renewable Energy Lab

Some cities in Michigan are putting together climate change action plans. Part of that is making everything more energy efficient in order to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to climate change. One of the big concerns is making sure low-income households are not left behind.

A Michigan lawmaker is urging swift action to combat climate change.

U.S. Senator Gary Peters hosted an Earth Day field summit in Lansing Monday.

Peters says the impacts of climate change are not a problem for future generations to tackle.

“They are significant, they are costly and they are already being felt here in Michigan,” Peters said.

Peters says the Midwest is particularly vulnerable to the challenges posed by climate change.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Across the state Michiganders are taking part in projects to mark Earth Day, and not all of them are taking place far away from the state’s urban centers.

In Saginaw, dozens of volunteers are spending the day cleaning up vacant lots. It’s part of a larger program to put in plants that attract pollinating insects and wildlife across the city.  

Zachary Branigan is the executive director of the Saginaw Basin Land Conservancy.

He says there’s a wildlife corridor that goes right through the city of Saginaw and Bay City, up and down the Saginaw Valley. 

steve carmody / Michigan Radio

Oscoda residents will meet with high ranking U.S. Air Force officials this week to discuss the cleanup of PFAS contamination at the former Wurtsmith Air Force base.

Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Installations, Environment and Energy, John Henderson, will hold a public forum in Oscoda next Wednesday, April 24 at 4 p.m. at the Oscoda Township Community Center.

Antonio Espree
Mercedes Mejia / Michigan Radio


A man leans out of a car door and lifts his binoculars to the sky.
Kaye LaFond / Michigan Radio

More than four million people crossed the Straits of Mackinac last year. But they are also one of the busiest migration spots for raptors, or birds of prey, in the United States.

United States Geological Survey

Environmental advocacy group Center for Biological Diversity has sued the Trump administration and the U.S. Interior Secretary for not making protection decisions for wildlife.   

Three of the 24 species the lawsuit cites are native to Michigan. The yellow-banded bumblebee, purple lilliput, and round hickorynut are native to Michigan. The group says these species are not currently protected by the Endangered Species Act.

work being done during an external inspection of Line 5 in the Straits in 2016.
Enbridge

Governor Gretchen Whitmer is in talks with Enbridge about a proposed tunnel under the Straits of Mackinac for its Line 5 pipeline. That's according to the Detroit News.

An adult spotted lanternfly.
U.S. Department of Agriculture

Invasive species can cause major damage to an ecosystem. They compete with native flora and fauna for resources, and often lack any natural predators to control their populations. 

Large scale U.P. coal plant closes

Apr 15, 2019

 

The Presque Isle Power Plant in Marquette is now closed. The plant had been the biggest producer of coal-fired energy for the Upper Peninsula.

 

First image of a black hole
Event Horizon Telescope collaboration et al.

It was considered impossible. It was said to be like taking a picture of a grapefruit on the moon but with a radio telescope.

That’s how 29-year-old computer scientist Katie Bouman explained an international effort to capture an image of a black hole. She finally made history Wednesday morning after she and a team working on an Event Horizon Telescope project were able to accomplish that very goal.

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

Lake Erie could become home to an offshore wind farm in the next few years.

The proposed Icebreaker Wind project is a six-turbine wind farm that could be built off the coast of Cleveland.

Dave Karpinski is with the Lake Erie Energy Development Corporation.

“For the Cleveland area, it's a chance to be a leader in this new emerging industry in the US,” he said.

Karpinski says the wind farm would create clean energy and jobs with little impact to residents and the environment.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

China is not taking as much U.S. recycled material as it has in the past. The Chinese economy is slowing down and it doesn’t need to import as much paper and plastic. It’s also finding that so much U.S. recycled material is contaminated that it ends up in China’s landfills.

From the top of a mountain, a snowy landscape with trees reveals a view of Lake Superior in the distance.
Kaye LaFond / Michigan Radio

Most wind energy projects in Michigan are on farmland in the southern part of the state. They are often controversial even there, but one company wants to put a wind farm in an Upper Peninsula forest. Many community members don’t feel that’s the right place either.

Kaiti Chritz | Potter Park Zoo

A Lansing zoo confirms its critically endangered black rhino is pregnant. Potter Park Zoo officials say it took almost a year to get the female rhino pregnant.

The rhino's name is Doppsee. While it is too early to see a fetus, lab test show she is expecting.

According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) there are only 5,000 black rhinos remaining in the wild and only about 60 at zoos in the United States.

NOAA

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources is starting spring work on maintaining the state’s fish population.

The DNR says it expects to collect about 30 million eggs from walleye in the Muskegon River in the coming weeks. The state also collects eggs from steelhead on the Little Manistee River.

Jennifer Fassbender

State environmental regulators are nearing a long-awaited decision on a permit to expand a hazardous waste facility in Detroit.

U.S. Ecology first applied for a permit to expand storage capacity ten-fold at its Detroit North facility in 2015. But the application stalled in the face of major political and community opposition.

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