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Environment & Science

Mackinac Bridge
Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

Michigan regulators want more information from Enbridge about its plan to build an oil pipeline tunnel beneath the Straits of Mackinac.

The Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy told the company in a letter this week its application is “incomplete.” Gongwer News Service reports EGLE “took issue with Enbridge currently not submitting finalized dimensions for the pipeline, such as an exact diameter.”

Macomb County video screen shot

The Macomb County Public Works Commissioner is suing manufacturers of disposable wipes that claim they are flushable. Commissioner Candice Miller says if you flush disposable wipes down the toilet, they can damage sewer pumps and clog sewer pipes.

Macomb County had a problem with a "fatberg" which was caused by fat congealing with so-called flushable wipes and the combination clogged a major sewer pipe.

Lester Graham

The Committee to Ban Fracking in Michigan has delivered its petition signatures to the Secretary of State’s office. The group hopes its initiative is on the ballot in November. 

“Our initiative will ban horizontal fracking and the waste that comes from horizontal fracked wells as well as change the state’s policy about climate change and maximizing oil and gas production,” said LuAnne Kozma, the campaign director of the committee.

bottle of water
Wilson Hui / Flickr / http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

The Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy will have the final say on an increase in water withdrawals by a Nestlé water bottling plant.

An administrative law judge decided the state’s decision to grant a permit to Nestlé to withdraw more water was proper.

Rebecca Thiele, WMUK

On April 9, Governor Gretchen Whitmer expanded her “Stay Home, Stay Safe” executive order in response to COVID-19. Some lawmakers are worried that the expansion of that order was too restrictive.

Sleeping Bear Dunes closed until further notice

Apr 14, 2020
Sleeping Bear Dunes
flickr user Danielle Lynch / http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

More and more people are visiting Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore as the weather warms up.

Now, the park located in Empire closed access to all visitors. The popular tourism area is closing after an influx of people visited the park last weekend without social distancing.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

Research into the Defense Department’s records finds hundreds of military installations are contaminated with PFAS. The toxic substances are confirmed to be in the tap water or ground water in 328 military sites. They’re suspected in the water at 350 more sites. (See map here.)

wind turbines and solar panels in a field
pkawasaki / Adobe Stock

Utility companies are required to file long-term plans with the state government. DTE Energy filed a plan in 2018 and the Michigan Public Service Commission had concerns. One of them was DTE’s plans to meet Michigan’s 15 percent renewable energy requirement. The Commission thought DTE’s numbers were vague.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is suspending enforcement of some environmental laws duing the COVID-19 outbreak.

The State of Michigan’s environmental agency will still provide regulatory oversight.

Back of a school bus
Pixabay

The State of Michigan is using some of the settlement money from Volkswagen’s Clean Air Act violations to subsidize new school buses. Volkswagen installed a device to fool emissions tests to show its cars polluted less than they did. 

The state received a total of nearly $65 million and more than 20% (almost $9 million) is going to replace old diesel school buses. 

Realtors and interest groups opposed to regulation are shaping septic system policies in Michigan's state and local politics.

Realtors don't like the idea of inspections tied to home sales. Anti-regulation lawmakers don't like the alternatives.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

A pair of storm sewers are being rerouted around Flint’s former Buick City site to try and keep PFAS out of the Flint River.

“We have on the site some storm water lines, old ones, that when they’re below the groundwater table, contaminated groundwater can leak into those storm sewers and migrate to the river,” says Grant Trigger. He's the cleanup manager for the former General Motors properties in Michigan. 

Trigger says they’ll spend the next three to four months replacing more than 3,600 feet of storm sewer lines.

Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

Enbridge Energy is advancing plans for a bedrock tunnel for its Line 5 pipeline under the Straits of Mackinac. 

CDC / wikimedia commons

Officials say five people who worked in a Michigan wildlife disease lab were diagnosed last year with a latent form of tuberculosis.

The Department of Natural Resources lab processes thousands of deer heads during hunting season to check for chronic wasting disease and bovine TB.

Courtesy of Washtenaw County

The city of Ann Arbor has detected very low levels (0.039 parts per billion) of 1,4 dioxane in its drinking water for the second time. 

Similar levels (0.030) were found about one year ago.

The city tests its drinking water monthly.

According to city officials, the curent detectable levels in the city's drinking water are not considered a health risk.

"They're very, very low," said Brian Steglitz, Ann Arbor's water treatment services manager. "And well below, over ten times lower than the EPA identified risk level." 

Lake Erie at Massie Cliffside Preserve.
Rebecca Williams / Michigan Radio

An Ohio judge has declared the Lake Erie Bill of Rights to be unconstitutional. Judge Jack Zouhary called his decision “not even close” and declared the bill invalid in its entirety.

The bill was approved by Toledo voters in a special election in 2019, passing with 61 percent of the vote. It was immediately challenged by the Drewes Farm Collective, who said that LEBOR was a liability to its business. Drewes Farms says it fertilizes its fields “pursuant to Ohio law, best practices, [and] scientific recommendations,” but it can never guarantee that all of its runoff can be prevented from entering the Lake Erie watershed. 

Breanne Humphreys / U.S. Air Force

The U.S. Air Force says it will prioritize the PFAS cleanup at the former Wurtsmith Air Force Base in Oscoda, Michigan, allocating an additional $13.5 million for the effort.

water faucet
Flickr user Bart / http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

Governor Gretchen Whitmer will not use her executive powers to end water shutoffs in Detroit.

Civil rights groups, including the ACLU, petitioned Whitmer in November, asking for her to declare the shutoffs a public health emergency and to put a moratorium on such shutoffs. 

USFWS

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is seeking public comment on its recovery plan for the eastern massasauga rattlesnake. The snake has been listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act since 2016. State officials say Michigan has the largest population of massasaugas, but disappearing wetlands are jeopardizing its habitat.

Amy Bleisch is the DNR’s endangered species coordinator. She’s hopeful the state can help ensure the long-term viability of the snake.

An overhead shot of the Oscoda-Wurtsmith airport
United States Geological Survey

Cape Canaveral might have a bit of competition up here in the north. The Oscoda-Wurtsmith Airport near Lake Huron is being considered as a spot for a horizontal rocket launch site. Stateside spoke to Justin Kasper, a professor with the Department of Climate and Space Sciences and Engineering at the University of Michigan, about how the site might be used and Michigan’s past and future place in the space industry. 

piqsels.com

One of the nation's largest electric utilities says it will reach net zero carbon emissions by the year 2040. 

It's the most ambitious goal yet for a U.S. electricity company. Five electric utilities, including DTE Energy, have committed to reaching net zero by 2050.

Net zero carbon emissions means a combination of eliminating and offsetting carbon dioxide emissions to achieve zero carbon emissions attributable to the company.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

Michigan residents are sending more trash to the state’s landfills than they have since before the Great Recession.

Last year Michigan homes and businesses sent more than 43 million cubic yards of trash to the landfills.

A rusty barrel in the woods
Bryce Huffman

Minnesota-based 3M will pay $55 million to Wolverine Worldwide to address PFAS contamination in Kent County.

Wolverine Worldwide is based in Rockford. It has said it could spend $113 million to meet its obligations in a settlement with the State of Michigan and two townships over PFAS. That money includes $69.5 million to extend a municipal water system to more than 1,000 residences where PFAS has been found in well water.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency indicates it will take years to regulate PFAS in drinking water, if it does at all. 

The USEPA has proposed to regulate two forms of the thousands of chemicals in the per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances family. PFOA and PFOS were the most commonly used.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

A proposed large solar farm is moving ahead for approval. The 24 megawatt solar installation could power the equivalent of five thousand households. 

“When you add in the hydro energy that we generate, as well as the methane that we capture from the landfill, this gets the city of an obvious municipal operations government footprint — our electrical use — to about zero. Hundred percent powered with clean, renewable energy,” said Missy Stults, Sustainability and Innovations Manager for the City of Ann Arbor.

U-M student speaks at regents meeting
Caroline Llanes / Michigan Radio

The Board of Regents of the University of Michigan announced at a meeting on Thursday that it will put a freeze on new fossil fuel investments. This means that it will not make new investments in the fossil fuel industry while it studies its own investment policy.

The announcement came from Regent Mark Bernstein, right after U-M Central Student Government President Ben Gerstein discussed a Big Ten resolution, where student governments from Big Ten universities called on their institutions to freeze fossil fuel investments.

Photo by Heather Adams / University of Michigan

There may be hope for bat populations devastated by a disease caused by a fungus. 

lake michigan coastline
Dustin Dwyer / Michigan Radio

While waves and record high water levels pound away at shoreline properties, state lawmakers are trying to pound away on new laws to protect property.

One bill debated Tuesday in the House would allow property owners to build temporary shoreline barriers to protect against erosion, even without a permit.

Jed Jaworski

Large waves and Lake Michigan’s record high water level are breaking down the barrier that protects the historic Point Betsie Lighthouse in Frankfort.

Key parts of the structure are fractured and falling apart. Supporters of the lighthouse are trying to get repairs done. 

But Interlochen Public Radio's Taylor Wizner reports that a lengthy process may stand in the way.

Tracy Samilton / Michigan Radio

Tom and Michelle Joliat's lovely home in Metamora, Michigan is situated high on a hill with a stunning view of the woods below.  

Normally, it's peaceful and idyllic here. Metamora Township is a rural area about 25 miles southeast of Flint.  

But in the distance, you can sometimes hear the faint drone of the U.S. EPA drilling yet another monitoring well. The wells are monitoring the movement of a plume of groundwater contaminated with 1,4 dioxane and other toxic chemicals.

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