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Environment & Science

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

The U.S. and Canada are working to restore populations of a prehistoric fish in the Great Lakes that was nearly wiped out. We went out with a crew of researchers to see what they’re doing to bring the sturgeon back.

An autonomous vessel on water.
Guy Meadows

There’s been a lot of talk in recent years about the future of self-driving cars. But what about autonomous ships?

When the Great Lakes governors and the premiers of Ontario and Quebec begin their 2019 summit on Friday, one of the events on the schedule will be a demonstration of “smart ship” technology.

The Mitchell's satyr butterfly
Mark Carlson

The race is on to save one of the world’s rarest butterflies.

satellite map of Michigan, the Great Lakes
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

Rising Great Lakes water levels are causing damage to some structures on Michigan shorelines. The Holland Sentinel reports a section of seawall at Kollen Park in Holland sustained damage during a storm.

Keith Kompoltowicz, chief of watershed hydrology at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in Detroit, said lake levels are expected to topple record highs this summer.

“For the month of May, a new record high for the month was set and additional record highs for the months of June, July, August and September are expected,” he said.

Environmental group: EPA not doing enough about PFAS

Jun 6, 2019
Do not eat the fish because of pfas sign
Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

Following the recent discovery of chemicals known as PFAS in some kinds of food, the Environmental Working Group says the Environmental Protection Agency is not doing enough to deal with PFAS contamination.

Earlier this year, the EPA announced it's moving forward with what it calls an action plan. It could potentially set drinking water standards for two kinds of the chemicals.

 

photo of a lookout at Pyramid Point
Katie Raymond / Michigan Radio

There has been an increase in visitation at National Parks across the country. People are flocking to big name parks such as Yosemite in California, and the Grand Canyon in Arizona. Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore in Michigan is also experiencing a significant jump in visitation. 

Be it social media, lower gas prices, or being voted the most beautiful place in America by Good Morning America in 2012, Sleeping Bear officials expect to see 1.7 million visitors this summer, which would surpass the 1,643,599 who visited in 2018. 

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

Each year hundreds of millions of birds die in the U.S. after colliding with windows. Skyscrapers are not the chief cause, but mostly mid-rise buildings. 

My guide in trying to understand why birds are more likely to collide in three and four-story buildings is Heidi Trudell. She’s an avian collision specialist who works with groups such as Washtenaw Safe Passage.

FDA: Sampling finds PFAS in some food

Jun 4, 2019
Do not eat the fish because of pfas sign
Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

The Food and Drug Administration found substantial levels of a worrisome class of nonstick, stain-resistant industrial compounds in some grocery store meats and seafood and in off-the-shelf chocolate cake, according to FDA researchers.

The FDA’s food-test results are likely to heighten complaints by states and public health groups that President Donald Trump’s administration is not acting fast enough or firmly enough to start regulating the manmade compounds.

DEQMIAIR.ORG

The Trump administration says it will allow sales of gasoline with 15% ethanol in it year-round, and it says that will give customers more choices at the pump.

Former administrations banned its sale during the summer, says David DeGennaro of the National Wildlife Federation.

"And that's because ethanol in gasoline actually increases the amount of smog relative to gasoline with no ethanol in it," says DeGennnaro.

solar panels
David Goehring / Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

Governor Gretchen Whitmer and the director of the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, Gary McDowell, announced on Monday that land enrolled in the Farmland and Open Space Preservation Program can be used for commercial solar arrays.

The policy change includes a provision to make sure the land is returned to a state that allows for agriculture production after the panels and other equipment are removed.

cbd oil
Tinnakorn / Adobe Stock

 

The Food and Drug Adminstration wants to collect more information about CBD, a non-toxicating extract of the cannabis plant. This comes as CBD-infused products such as candy, oils, drinks, and even dog food are already flooding the market. 

CBD is becoming popular for treating things such as chronic pain and other ailments -- despite confusion around its legal status.

cannabis leaves and three CBD oil
yavdat / Adobe Stock

 

Today on Stateside, the potential of the cannabis compound CBD as a treatment for people with chronic pain. Plus, a new study says the tax incentives states use to lure businesses might not be paying off. 

 

This week marks the fifth annual Leopold Festival, an event that takes place on the Les Cheneaux Islands in honor of Aldo Leopold, one of the founders of wildlife ecology and a dedicated conservationist.

 

A man with a long dark ponytail stands in a river holding a 3-pronged spear.
Kaye LaFond / Michigan Radio

For April in the Western Upper Peninsula, it’s a pretty warm day. The Little Carp River, surging with snowmelt, winds through a forest of hemlock trees.

Robert Rajacic is scrambling up and down riverbanks, expertly carrying a spear in his right hand. He’s hoping to use it on some rainbow trout.

Filling a sample bottle.
Virginia Tech

Michigan cities and towns with lead water pipes will have to start taking more and better drinking water samples this summer. About 650 municipal water systems are testing for lead in water beginning in June.

The changes are part of a larger effort to strengthen the lead in water standards after the Flint water crisis. Michigan now has the toughest standards in the country.

Read more: Ripple Effects of the Flint Water Crisis

windmill in field
cwwycoff1 / Flickr Creative Commons HTTP://MICHRAD.IO/1LXRDJM

Xcel Energy has reached a settlement with environmental groups that puts it a step further on its ambitious path to zero carbon emissions by 2050.  

Xcel Energy's Northern Michigan Power division provides electricity to 9,000 customers in Michigan. 

The utility also serves customers in Minnesota, Wisconsin, North Dakota, South Dakota, Colorado, Texas and New Mexico.

Mark Stoering, President of Xcel Energy - Michigan and Wisconsin, says the utility proposes to fast-track the retirement of Xcel's remaining coal-burning power plants by 2030. 

Asian Carp Regional Coordinating Committee

In yet another sign that invasive Asian carp could be inching closer to Lake Michigan, researchers with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service have found environmental DNA of two species of carp in a lake that's just a few miles from Lake Michigan.

Environmental DNA comes from things like fish scales. It's an indicator that the fish could be present.

pipes inside generating station
Tracy Samilton / Michigan Radio

In 2016, Michigan got an important new tool in the growing effort to limit global heating.

The state's new energy law requires regulated utilities, for the first time, to submit long-term strategic plans that include reducing carbon emissions.   

The plans are called Integrated Resource Plans, or IRPs.

Consumers Energy and DTE Energy have now submitted their first IRPs, and the plans show that Michigan's two biggest utilities differ on how aggressively to cut carbon emissions.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

user nico paix / Flickr

High water levels in Lake Erie have been flooding streets and houses in Ohio, and people who live near the lake are bracing for problems as water levels continue to rise.

Erie's water levels are expected to approach or break records this spring, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Rogue River
Trout Unlimited

The EPA has ordered a West Michigan shoe manufacturer to excavate part of the Rogue River.

Wolverine Worldwide used products containing chemicals, including PFAS, at its former tannery in Rockford, about 15 miles north of Grand Rapids.

Wikimedia Commons

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has named the former McLouth Steel site in Trenton to its Superfund National Priorities List.

That list is reserved for sites with the most serious or uncontrolled legacy contamination. The contamination on the southern end of the property is from steel-making processes and an acid pickling line operation, according to the EPA.

M SEAS

The city of Ann Arbor will ask its co-plaintiffs in a groundwater contamination lawsuit against Pall-Gelman if they should ask the U.S. EPA to add the site to the Superfund program.

The resolution was approved unanimously by Ann Arbor's city council.

Pall-Gelman is the company responsible for contaminating Ann Arbor's groundwater with a chemical called 1,4 dioxane. 

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

A company that runs electric lines beneath the Straits of Mackinac says a proposed tunnel could be dangerous.  

The proposed tunnel would house a replacement section of Enbridge's Line 5 pipeline.

But it could also be used to hold other utility lines, including electrical cables.

Tim Finco is with the American Transmission Company.

The Petoskey News-Review reported Finco wrote in a letter the company doesn't believe it's a good idea to install its high-voltage electric lines in close proximity to high pressure oil or gas lines.

steve carmody / Michigan Radio

Federal agencies are asking for the public’s input on a new action plan for the Great Lakes.

The third phase of the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative Action Plan sets new five year priorities and goals starting in 2020.

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.

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