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Environment & Science

Solar panels
Ford Motor Company / Flickr

Toyota says it will offset 40% of its global warming emissions from its North American operations within three years.

It will do that by buying contracts for new wind and solar projects.

The Toyota commitment is part of an encouraging trend, according to Greg Wetstone, CEO of the American Council on Renewable  Energy.

A construction site being cleared, with a backhoe in the distance against a blue sky with clouds.
Rosa Maria Zamarrón

When Amoni Pitts hears trucks working one street over from where she lives, she worries about being able to breathe.

steve carmody / Michigan Radio

Activists are using this week’s 9th anniversary of the Kalamazoo River oil spill to dramatize their opposition to a proposed oil pipeline tunnel beneath the Straits of Mackinac.

The 2010 oil spill started when a pipeline near Marshall broke and started spewing crude oil.  The oil reached the Kalamazoo River, eventually spreading over about 30 miles of the river.   The cleanup took several years. 

Grass carp
USGS

Michigan and Ohio crews are on the lookout this summer for invasive grass carp.

The grass carp survey is being done by the Michigan Department of Natural Resource's Grass Carp Response Team.

Great Lakes groups endorse Invasive Mussel Collaborative

Jul 23, 2019
Zebra mussels on a beach in Michigan
Michgian Sea Grant / Flickr - http://bit.ly/1xMszCg

Three binational Great Lakes coalitions announced their endorsement of the Invasive Mussel Collaborative as the “go-to forum” on developing solutions to the problems caused by invasive mussels in the Great Lakes. The three organizations are the Great Lakes Commission, International Joint Commission, and Great Lakes Fishery Commission.

Bridge: Climate change drives shifts between high, low Great Lakes water levels

Jul 23, 2019

The North American Great Lakes contain about one-fifth of the world’s surface fresh water. In May, new high water level records were set on Lakes Erie and Superior, and there has been widespread flooding across Lake Ontario for the second time in three years. These events coincide with persistent precipitation and severe flooding across much of central North America.

a map shows the straits of mackinac with some satellite imagery
screenshot from Enbridge report to the state

Indigenous governments and activists in the Great Lakes have been leaders in the movement to shut down the twin oil pipelines that run under the Mackinac Straits.

Now, one of the most visible people in that movement has left his tribal government job and set up his own consulting firm. One of his clients? The pipelines’ owner, Enbridge Energy.

This sudden change has upset indigenous communities in the region, and some worry it’s a “divide-and-conquer” tactic.

kitchen sink
Creative Commons

Yet another Michigan city is dealing with the issue of lead in tap water, as Highland Park officials announced on Wednesday that the results of state-mandated testing put them in violation of a new, tougher Lead and Copper Rule.

Jerry Linenger poses with his Russian ORLAN-M space suit.
Courtesy of NASA

 

Fifty years ago this week, America crowded around television sets to watch Neil Armstrong take man's first step onto the moon. Among the viewers was a kid from East Detroit named Jerry Linenger.

That moon walk inspired the then 14-year-old to become a NASA astronaut. Linenger went on to man missions aboard two U.S. space shuttles and the Russian space station Mir, and travel some 54 million miles in space.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Chanting “Nine Years, No Plan, No Action,” Oscoda residents rallied on Tuesday outside a town hall meeting reviewing the cleanup of PFAS contamination seeping from the former Wurtsmith Air Force Base.

The chemicals are from firefighting foam used by the U.S. Air Force (USAF) for decades. PFAS have been detected not only on the former air field, but in the groundwater and in nearby waterways.

J.Stephen Conn / Flickr

Water levels continue to rise in lakes and rivers across the region – including the Detroit River.

The Windsor Port Authority told the Windsor Star that people should avoid swimming in the river.

Tracy Samilton / Michigan Radio

Researchers predict a large cyanobacterial bloom in Lake Erie this year.

But it will probably not be as bad as 2011 and 2015, when the blooms covered a large area of western Lake Erie.

Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

Democratic presidential hopeful Jay Inslee is wading into a Great Lakes regional controversy by coming out against a proposed oil pipeline tunnel.

The Washington state governor opposes a plan favored by Enbridge to route the company's Line 5 pipeline through a tunnel that would be built beneath the Straits of Mackinac, the channel linking Lakes Huron and Michigan.

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

The state of Michigan and the US Air Force have reached an agreement to speed up PFAS contamination cleanup around the former Wurtsmith Air Force Base.

But not everyone in the city of Oscoda is impressed.

The Michigan Union
Wikimedia Commons

New research from the University of Michigan shows a lack of transparency when it comes to demographic data within environmental organizations.

This comes from a study of more than 12,000 environmental organizations around the country, ranging in size. The researchers say historically, these kinds of organizations have lacked racial diversity, and little information has been made available to the public regarding the demographic composition of these organizations.

Close up image of blacklegged tick on piece of straw
stevenwellingson / Adobe Stock

Ever wanted to help researchers learn more about ticks and where people are being exposed to them? Now's your chance — and it's as easy as using the device that's likely already glued to the palm of your hand.

Asian carp jumping out of water
michiganoutofdoors.com

A bipartisan delegation of Michigan lawmakers from Congress are in Chicago today at the Brandon Road Lock and Dam. The delegation is there to see the facility and discuss possible solutions to keep Asian carp out of the Great Lakes.

Brandon Road Lock and Dam is considered by many to be the last line of defense from preventing carp from entering the Great Lakes. The Army Corps of Engineers released a plan in May that proposed a number of deterrents to meet the carp as they swim through the waterway, including noisemakers, electric currents, and an air bubble curtain. Huge populations of Asian carp, particularly bighead and silver carp, are reported to be only four miles from the dam.

Sleeping Bear Dunes
Rebecca Williams / Michigan Radio

Water levels in the Great Lakes have been rising, and that means shrinking shorelines.

Drew Gronewald is a hydrologist with the University of Michigan’s School for Environment and Sustainability. He says Lake Ontario broke an all-time high water level record in June, and all of the lakes broke records in May. He says Michiganders should take appropriate safety precautions in response to changes in water level and near-shore water circulation.

A flooded beach near Lake Michigan.
Kaye LaFond / Michigan Radio

The last major outbreak of avian botulism on Lake Michigan was in 2016, when hundreds of dead birds washed up on shore. The bacterial disease has affected waterfowl like loons and mergansers in the Great Lakes for decades. But high water levels on the lakes are good news for the birds, at least temporarily.

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

A Michigan science advisory workgroup released recommendations on Thursday for the state to implement some of the strictest standards in the nation for PFAS.

PFAS, or perfluoroalkyl substances, are a family of chemicals that have been found across the state and are linked to health problems including cancer. The Michigan PFAS Action Response Team received health-based recommendations from the workgroup for seven PFAS compounds. It recommends setting drinking water limits as low as six parts per trillion.

The Leslie Science & Nature Center holds many summer camps and adventure programs.
Flickr // Leslie Science & Nature Center

New results of soil testing done at the Leslie Science and Nature Center in Ann Arbor show elevated levels of arsenic, lead, and copper, among other heavy metals and semi and volatile organic compounds.

The center conducted testing back in May, and the results were released on June 20. 

 

Crews work to clean up a fuel spill after fatal crash on Eastbound M-14 in Ann Arbor M-14
Paulette Parker / Michigan Radio

HAZMAT crews worked Monday to clean up diesel fuel from the Huron River in Ann Arbor. The spill was caused by a fatal accident on eastbound M-14 involving two semi trucks.

Paulette Parker / Michigan Radio

People living in a Livonia neighborhood met Thursday to call on Ford Motor Company to clean up chemicals from the site of its nearby transmission plant.

Alden Village is on top of a plume of groundwater contaminated with vinyl chloride and trichlorethylene - both known carcinogens. The plume originated from the Ford property.

Courtesy of Lara O'Brien

 

 

Balloons are a part of many American traditions: birthdays, graduations, retirements, weddings. It’s easy to forget these balloons once they float away, but what goes up, must come down. And pieces of balloon waste are coming down all around the Great Lakes.

Volunteers count frogs for annual DNR survey

Jun 20, 2019

Frogs and toads are highly sensitive to habitat degradation, and that makes them a good barometer for environmental health.

Every year volunteers from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources do a listening survey to determine which species of frogs and toads are present and how abundant they are.


Half a century ago, hundreds of pairs of piping plovers lived in the Great Lakes. But by the 1980s, they were on the verge of extinction and only a dozen pairs remained.

Over time, wildlife biologists have helped increase the population. But it’s still well below a stable number and each year there’s a new threat.

 

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

Enbridge says it will continue its rock and soil sampling this week in the Straits of Mackinac. The company wants to build a tunnel to house a replacement section of its twin Line 5 pipelines in the Straits.

Governor Gretchen Whitmer halted state work on the project in March.

Ryan Duffy is a spokesman for Enbridge. He says the state permit needed to conduct the sampling was approved in January.

He says the state has confirmed that the sampling process can still move forward.

Piping plovers.
Roger Eriksson

Piping plovers are an endangered species of bird that builds its nests on Great Lakes beaches. Its main habitat is the Sleeping Bear Dunes.

But some of the birds' nests are being washed away by high water levels.

Vincent Cavalieri, piping plover coordinator for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, says the birds could be especially at risk this year. He says although the recorded number of bird pairs has increased since last year, the rising water is likely to cause problems during this year’s nesting season.

Leland's Fishtown in the rain
Fishtown Preservation Society

Today on Stateside, rising water levels in the Great Lakes could threaten historic buildings in Leland’s Fishtown. Plus, there’s been another setback in a years-long effort to improve mental health care in Michigan. 

Male and female adult gypsy moths
John H. Ghent, USDA Forest Service, Bugwood.org

It’s going to be a big summer for the invasive gypsy moth. Three consecutive droughts have created ideal conditions for gypsy moth caterpillars to multiply.

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