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Environment & Science

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.

dog inspecting old balloon laying on a beach
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.

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.

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

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