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Environment & Science

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Five years after half a million Toledo-area residents were told not to drink or touch their tap water for two days, the same thick green sludge responsible for the 2014 water crisis has now spread across 600 square miles of western Lake Erie.

people holding climate change protest signs
Bob Blob / Unsplash

All this week, Michigan Radio's Environment Report will be focusing on climate change and how it's already affecting us in the state of Michigan, and what's expected to change in the future. It's a huge crisis we face now — and that generations to come will face — and it will affect every aspect of our lives, from what we eat, to how we travel, to how we live inside our homes.

Photo shows the inside of a culvert. It's square with concrete walls and a very shallow stream of water is running through it.
Kaye LaFond / Michigan Radio

Climate change is likely to bring more extreme rainfall and flooding to Michigan. So, flood risk in the next 100 years will probably look very different than in the last. But, much of our infrastructure, like culverts, bridges, and storm drains, is still being designed and built based on the floods of the past.


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

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers says it's preparing to decide whether to let Canadian oil transport company Enbridge install supports for its underwater oil pipeline in Michigan's Straits of Mackinac.

Microbeads on a penny.
Courtesy of The 5 Gyres Institute

A new bill (HB 4819) in the state Legislature would ban the manufacturing and sale of personal care products with microbeads. The small plastic beads are already banned in some products at the federal level.

Courtesy of DNR

Michigan’s largest state park, Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park in the Upper Peninsula, was damaged by Lake Superior's rising water levels along with a recent storm. Part of a major county road near the main entrance to the park is threatened by the nearby collapse of the shoreline. The emergency repairs are expected to start on Monday, August 5th, and cost $550,000.

John Pepin, deputy public information officer for the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, says visitors will likely be concerned with the single-lane closures.

Detroit Skyline
Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

Today on Stateside, dairy farms face an uncertain future in Michigan. We speak to a sixth-generation farmer, a pair of cheesemakers in Northern Michigan, and more about the obstacles farmers face and how they are adapting.

cow standing in a field of grass
Angelina Litvin / Unsplash

 


You might have noticed that milk in the refrigerated aisle is cheaper than before. That’s great for your wallet, but not so great for dairy farmers in Michigan.

City Hall in Benton Harbor.
Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

The city of Benton Harbor says lead continues to be problem in the city water supply.

The city says 12 of 47 homes tested since January of this year were above the federal action level for lead in the water.

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

Michigan could be among the first states to regulate a chemical known as GenX. It’s one of seven members of the PFAS family of compounds named by the Michigan PFAS Action Response Team, or MPART, as potentially requiring a maximum contaminant level for drinking water.

blue recycling bin on sidewalk
Anna Schlutt / Michigan Radio

A state agency is supporting infrastructure upgrades and a public awareness campaign to boost recycling in Michigan.

The Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy announced more than $1.3 million in grants Monday to help Emmet County improve recycling technology and Kalkaska-based American Waste buy fiber equipment to produce higher-quality mixed paper recycling products.

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 University of 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.

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