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Environment & Science

International Joint Commission

Another of Michigan’s Areas of Concern has been cleaned up and taken off the list. Under the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement, the governments of Canada and the U.S. identified 43 pollution hot spots around the Great Lakes and identified them as Areas of Concern.

The Lower Menominee River at the Wisconsin and Upper Peninsula border was one of them. It has now been removed from the Areas of Concern list.

a large expanse of lake surrounded by trees at dusk with a purple blue sky
Amy Sacka

In the latest edition of National Geographic, you'll find a big spread dedicated to exploring how ice coverage has dramatically decreased on the Great Lakes over the past 40 years. The photos you'll see, of not-so-solid lakes, and people navigating warmer Michigan winters, were taken by Detroit photojournalist Amy Sacka.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

The state will try to order the company that owns the Edenville and Sanford Dams to fix failures that caused extensive flooding along the Tittawabassee River in May.

That action was announced Tuesday by the state Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE).

Map of 1,4-dioxane plume in Ann Arbor.
Scio Residents for Safe Water

Between 1966 and 1986 a manufacturing plant owned by Gelman Sciences used a chemical called 1,4 Dioxane. Today, ground water is contaminated by that chemical. While there have been previous court agreements on cleanup, a fourth amendment has been proposed to require stricter cleanup levels, and more monitoring wells to track the underground plume of Dioxane.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

A new report finds nuclear power plants in this region will face heat stress in the future because of climate change. The analysis from Moody's Investors Service is titled "Nuclear operators face growing climate risk, but resiliency investments mitigate impact."

In the report, analysts found the Cook, Fermi, and Palisades nuclear power plants in Michigan and the nearby Davis-Besse plant in Ohio fall into the High Risk category (although Palisades is scheduled to close in 2022).

Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

Environmental groups are supporting a permit that further restricts spreading animal manure on farm fields.

Livestock farmers and the Michigan Farm Bureau are suing the Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy to stop changes in the general operating permit for Confined Animal Feeding Operations. Now environmental groups are siding with the agency to enforce the stricter regulations, seeking to legally intervene.

white propane tank in backyard
Carolyn Franks / Adobe Stock

One of the major arguments against shutting down the Enbridge Line 5 pipeline is that it supplies propane to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and the northern portion of the Lower Peninsula. A new company plans to use an existing pipeline to ship propane from Sarnia to the Gaylord/Kalkaska area.

Jeff Reutter / Ohio State University

More than one billion dollars has been spent in the U.S. since 2010 dealing with algae blooms that potentially harbor toxic cyanobacteria. A report by the Environmental Working Group’s analysis found the majority of that money was spent in Ohio. That state has spent more than $815 million as it struggles to control algae blooms in Lake Erie and some other inland lakes. Lake Erie is a hot spot for cyanobacteria.

The group’s analysis found Michigan only spent thousands of dollars around Lake St. Clair and that came from communities and homeowners.

At the start of the 20th century, one in seven farmers in the United States was Black. In the decades that followed, however, Black Americans were dispossessed of an estimated 13 million acres of land. Many descendants of Black farmers moved north to seek jobs in other industries, removed from familial agricultural backgrounds.

Muskegon Lake
Muskegon County

Muskegon Lake was designated an Area of Concern by the federal Environmental Protection Agency in 1985. For decades now, state and local groups have been completing a wide variety of projects in order to clean up the area and get it off the Areas of Concern list. One of the groups that’s been working on projects to restore the lake, the West Michigan Shoreline Regional Development Corporation, says that its goal is to have all of the projects completed by the end of 2021, and off the EPA’s list shortly thereafter.

Birds
USFWS Midwest

Every year about 93% of all the Kirtland’s Warblers in the world fly from the Bahamas to Michigan. The rare bird is making a comeback from the brink of extinction.

The Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center and the Georgetown Environment Initiative teamed up to go the Bahamas and put tiny radio trackers on the birds.

It was thought when they got to Michigan the birds paired up and nested, end of story.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

Environmental groups and consumer advocates want electric utilities to think more long term. The Citizens Utility Board of Michigan, the Michigan Environmental Council, the Natural Resources Defense Council, and the Sierra Club formed a coalition and hired a consultant to do an analysis of Michigan’s future demands on the electric distribution system. The coalition submitted testimony to the Michigan Public Service Commission regarding a proposed rate increase from Consumers Energy.

A dive team works on Line 5 under the Straits of Mackinac.
Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

 This story was updated 8:00 p.m. August 19, 2020. 

Groups representing business, environmentalists, and Native Americans are calling on Governor Gretchen Whitmer to shut down Enbridge's Line 5.

The more than 600 mile long pipeline carrying crude oil and natural gas liquids is 67 years old. A section of Line 5 sits on the bottom of the Straits of Mackinac, which connects Lakes Michigan and Huron. The pipeline splits into twin pipelines under the Straits.

work being done under Mackinac bridge
Enbridge

Four tribes can now participate in the Line 5 permitting process, after a ruling from a state judge last week.

The move comes as the energy company Enbridge wants to put a replacement section of the pipeline in a tunnel under the Straits of Mackinac.

Enbridge

A newly constructed segment of the Enbridge Line 5  is now operating. This section is under the Saint Clair River just south of Port Huron, Michigan and crosses into Sarnia, Ontario.

Lester Graham

A Trump administration rule change to the 1918 Migratory Bird Treaty Act dropped fines for industries killing birds unless the deaths were intentionally caused.

Conservation groups such as the National Audubon Society sued to stop the rules.

a dead sturgeon on the beach of sleeping bear dunes national lakeshore on lake michigan
National Park Service

Dead lake sturgeon have been turning up along the shore of Lake Michigan. Seven sturgeon carcasses have been found since mid-July on beaches in the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.

Vincent Cavalieri is a wildlife biologist with the National Park Service. He says to have this many dead sturgeon in such a short period of time is incredibly unusual.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

Researchers have found in a 30-year period, 130 square miles of farmland or natural areas were developed in southeast Michigan.

335,000 new buildings were built in the seven county area of Livingston, Macomb, Monroe, Oakland, St. Clair, Washtenaw and Wayne between 1985 and 2015.

Melvin Parson sits among plants and squints his eyes in a white t shirt and jeans
Courtesy of Melvin Parson

From who grows it to who cooks it, systemic racism has a major impact on the food that we eat. Take, for instance, farming. Less than two percent of America's farm owners are Black.  Many long time Black farmers are working to shift that number. We talked to three of them about their experiences in the agriculture world and how they think about the relationship between race and food. 

Adobe Stock

Legislation soon will be introduced in Michigan to ban food packaging that contains toxic chemicals such as PFAS, bisphenols, or phthalates.

Some restaurants stopped using packaging containing PFAS, but some of the biggest chains still do.

State Senator Jeff Irwin (D-Ann Arbor) says it’s time to stop.

Lester Graham / Lester Graham personal collection with permission.

A wastewater treatment facility
Pixabay

Today on Stateside, what a primary election looks like in the midst of a pandemic. Also, a deep dive into how leftover human feces and other waste from water treatment plants ends up on our farm fields. Plus, what back to school might look like for the University of Michigan. 

Do not eat the fish because of pfas sign
Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

Michigan’s new PFAS drinking water standards went into effect this week. The restrictions include seven more common chemicals from the PFAS family. Michigan's regulations are among the strictest in the U.S.

Liesl Clark is the Director of the Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy. She says the state continues to search for the sources of the toxic chemicals in the state. Recently 38 new contaminated sites were identified.

US Ecology exterior
Jennifer Fassbender

Some Detroit residents and environmental justice groups have filed a civil rights complaint against the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy. The complaint alleges the environment agency discriminates against people of color by approving requests for hazardous wastes sites near their communities.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel’s office will not appeal a court decision which would allow a tunnel to be constructed beneath the Straits of Mackinac to house a replacement for the aging Enbridge Line 5 twin pipelines.

The tunnel was supported by former Governor Rick Snyder and the Republican led legislature to house a replacement for the aging twin pipelines called Line 5 operated by Enbridge.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

A report this week from the U.S. government found coal consumption in 2019 was the lowest it’s been since 1978. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, electricity demand is down even more this year, and some utilities are shutting down their more expensive-to-operate coal-burning power plants.

Michigan’s two largest power companies, Consumers Energy and DTE Energy already have shuttered some coal-fired plants.

Nathan Bishop

The state and the Marathon refinery in southwest Detroit have a proposed deal to resolve some alleged air violations from back in 2017.

Nick Assendelft is a spokesperson for the Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy.

“Those are things for such as exceeding particulate matter and other emissions, emitting nuisance odors on multiple occasions,” said Assendelft.

The proposed Consent Order means Marathon has to fix the air quality problems, plus pay a fine.

LITTLE TRAVERSE BAY BANDS OF ODAWA INDIANS

State wildlife officials say the wolf population in the Upper Peninsula remains “healthy and stable.”

The Department of Natural Resources completed its biennial wolf survey between December and March.

A mosquito
flickr user trebol-a / http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

Last summer, Michigan saw its biggest recorded outbreak of Eastern Equine Encephalitis, or EEE. There were ten confirmed cases of the mosquito-borne virus in humans and five deaths. Could another EEE outbreak be on the horizon this year? Public health officials say it’s tough to tell.

WILL CALLAN / MICHIGAN RADIO

Ann Arbor City Council members have voted unanimously to award the non-profit Recycle Ann Arbor a 10-year contract to run the city’s materials recovery facility.

The facility hasn’t sorted recyclables since 2016, when it was shut down for unsafe working conditions. 

 

Recycle Ann Arbor will raise and invest more than $5 million to upgrade the facility with high-tech machines like optic sorters and ballistic separators, says Bryan Ukena, the company’s CEO. 

 

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