Environment & Science | Michigan Radio
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Environment & Science

Tracy Samilton / Michigan Radio

Several hundred Ann Arbor high school and university students walked out of class Friday to urge swifter action on climate change.

University of Michigan student Logan Vear is an organizer. 

She points to a new report from the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that warns that humans must completely eliminate their carbon dioxide emissions by 2050. That would give the world a fighting chance of limiting global warming.

But many companies - including Michigan's two largest utilities - only promise to reduce their CO2 emissions by 80% by then.

"And I think there are a lot of existing deadlines like that, not only in Michigan but across the nation, that obviously are not good enough," says Vear.

beagle
Humane Society

The Humane Society of the United States is pushing for the release of three dozen beagles it says are being force-fed fungicides in a West Michigan laboratory.


Nathan Bishop

Federal lawmakers, two from Michigan and two from Illinois, have introduced bills that would require the federal government to address concerns about petroleum coke exposure.

Petroleum coke is a byproduct of refining crude oil. 

The legislation calls for federal agencies to complete a study of the health and environmental risks posed by petroleum coke. It also would require the implementation of federal safety regulations for the storage and transportation of petroleum coke. The standards would be based on the study's findings.

a computer that says foxconn
Christopher Bulle / Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

The Michigan-based water law non-profit “For Love of Water,” or "FLOW," filed an amicus brief this week in support of a lawsuit against the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.

 

Last April, the WDNR approved the City of Racine's request to withdraw an annual average of 7 million gallons of Lake Michigan water per day and send it to their customers in another community, Mount Pleasant.

steve carmody / Michigan Radio

A new report raises questions about the citizen science projects that emerged during the Flint Water Crisis. 

But critics charge the report’s authors have ulterior motives.

White Wolf
OMNRF, NPS and NPLSF

In late February, four Canadian wolves were captured and then released onto Isle Royale National Park in a continued effort to grow the current wolf population and restore predation, a "key ecosystem dynamic," according to a press release from the National Park Service. 

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

U.S. Senator Gary Peters is calling for a review of the Environmental Protection Agency's PFAS Action Plan.

Senator Peters and a group of colleagues sent letters to a number of agencies this week, including the EPA and the Department of Health and Human Services.

Cobb power plant in Muskegon, which shut down in April 2016
Tracy Samilton / Michigan Radio

A new report says the groundwater at some of Michigan's coal ash storage sites is contaminated with toxic chemicals, especially arsenic.

The report compiled data that's required by a new federal rule, which mandates testing, disclosure, and cleanups if necessary.

The report notes Consumers Energy disclosed arsenic levels 48 times the federal safety standard at the D.E. Karn Power Plant, and DTE Energy disclosed arsenic levels 38 times the federal safety standard at its Trenton Power Plant.

Charlotte Jameson of the Michigan Environmental Council calls those levels "alarming.

A man in coveralls bends over a hole in ice and pulls out a net.
Kaye LaFond / Michigan Radio

A decline in lake whitefish is pushing some tribal commercial fishermen out of Lakes Michigan and Huron. They’re spending more time in Lake Superior, the only place they say they can still make a living. This has fishermen and scientists worried about whether whitefish populations there can withstand the extra pressure.

Katie Bordner / Flickr

An Ohio farm in the Lake Erie watershed is suing to stop people from using the Lake Erie Bill of Rights, fewer than 12 hours after Toledo voters approved it.  

The Lake Erie Bill of Rights amends Toledo's charter to try to give residents a legal basis to intervene in the lake's interests. 

The big concern for many is phosphorus-containing fertilizers from farms. The phosphorus encourages toxic cyanobacterial blooms.  

US Fish and Wildlife Service / FLICKR - HTTP://BIT.LY/1XMSZCG

More than 200 hunting, fishing, conservation, and outdoor recreation industry groups have submitted public comments in favor of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' plan to keep Asian carp out of the Great Lakes by constructing new technologies at the Brandon Road Lock and Dam outside Chicago.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

The state has finished testing all the public water systems in Michigan for PFAS chemicals. Of more than a thousand municipal systems, 119 are contaminated by PFAS. 

A map showing PFAS sites in Michigan
Kaye LaFond / Michigan Radio

Updated, February 25, 2019

The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality has released results of a 2018 state-wide sampling of public, school and tribal water supplies for per-and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS.

Of 1,114 public water systems, 119 have been found to contain some level of PFAS. No tribal water supplies contained PFAS.

Three people stand outside in the snow, smiling.
Cody Bigjohn Jr.

Indigenous water walkers will travel from Mackinaw City to Lansing to call for a shutdown of Enbridge’s Line 5 oil pipelines.

 

Sarah Jo Shomin, Nancy Gallardo, and Cody Bigjohn Jr. plan to walk 311 miles over the next 17 days.

 

They're calling the journey "N'biish Nibimosaadaanaa", which is Anishinaabemowin for "We Walk for Water."

Satellite image of the Great Lakes
NOAA

Updated 3/14/19: As a "bomb cyclone" prepares to hit parts of the upper Midwest, we're re-sharing this explainer about what a bomb cyclone is exactly.

Original Post: Parts of Michigan could experience winds up to 50 miles per hour this weekend, thanks to a weather phenomenon called explosive cyclogenesis. You might have heard it called a bomb cyclone or bombogenesis in other media and weather reports.

PFAS sites in Michigan
Kaye LaFond / Michigan Radio

PFAS discharges from Kalamazoo's wastewater treatment plant are now under the state limit of 12 parts per trillion for surface water.

That's down from a high of about 53 parts per trillion last summer.

a side by side of Dan Kildee and then a river with pfas foam on it
dankildee.house.gov / Lester Graham

Today on Stateside, the EPA on Thursday released a plan to deal with contamination from per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances – better known as PFAS. U.S. Rep. Dan Kildee says the plan shows the agency is “dragging their feet.” Plus, what it’s like to straddle two worlds as the first person in your family to go to college.

Map showing the spread of the 1,4-dioxane plume
SCIO RESIDENTS FOR SAFE WATER

State and local officials are conducting new tests to check the spread of the 1,4-dioxane plume in groundwater in Ann Arbor's West Park area.

Dan Hamel is with the Department of Environmental Quality. He says a current consent agreement between the DEQ and the company requires Gelman Sciences to prevent the spread of the suspected carcinogen.

Van Etten Lake in Oscoda, Michigan
Kaye LaFond / Michigan Radio

A number of environmental groups, Democratic politicians, and citizens who live in areas contaminated with PFAS are criticizing Thursday's PFAS Action Plan announcement by the U.S. EPA.

PFAS is a class of chemicals linked to health problems that's contaminating many drinking water systems.  

EPA outlines plan for dealing with PFAS in water

Feb 14, 2019
PFAS foam on lakeshore
Michigan Department of Environmental Quality / Flickr http://bit.ly/1xMszCg

Under strong pressure from Congress, the Environmental Protection Agency said Thursday that it will move ahead this year with a process that could lead to setting a safety threshold for a group of highly toxic chemicals in drinking water.

Acting EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler said the immediate focus would be on two of the most common chemicals in the group, both of which have been phased out by manufacturers but remain in the environment and have suspected links to health threats ranging from cancer to decreased fertility.

steve carmody / Michigan Radio

New data shows elevated levels of PFAS in sewers passing through the old Buick City site in Flint.

PFAS are a family of chemicals that have been linked to serious health concerns.   

The term PFAS refers specifically to per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, (the term “PFCs,” or perfluorinated chemicals is also sometimes used).

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

Experts are predicting higher-than-normal water levels on the Great Lakes this summer, some of which may set records.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers office in Detroit recently issued its latest six-month forecast for the lakes.

The Detroit News reports that Lake Superior is unusually high and by May could reach a record set in the mid-1980s. Lake Erie also could hit record highs in late spring.

steve carmody / Michigan Radio

A University of Michigan researcher says people have more negative views of wind turbines if communities fail to be open and transparent when considering wind energy projects.

Sarah Mills is a senior project manager at the Center for Local, State, and Urban Policy at UM's Ford School of Public Policy. She and her colleagues quizzed people in Michigan communities considering wind energy projects.

A cyanobacterial bloom on Lake Erie in 2013.
Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

Environmental groups have filed a federal lawsuit pushing for more action to prevent the toxic bacterial blooms that plague Lake Erie's western basin each summer.

water flowing into a sewage grate
Wikimedia Commons / http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

A group of Detroit residents suing the city's Water and Sewerage Department may soon have their case heard by the Michigan Supreme Court. The plaintiffs, who allege that the department's drainage rate is an unlawful tax, finished briefing the court this week.   

MSU

The University of Michigan has established a commission on achieving carbon neutrality, to help fight climate change. 

But student activists say the process is already deeply flawed.  

Carbon neutrality means reducing carbon emissions as much as possible, and balancing what's left with actions like planting forests, which absorb carbon, or buying credits with renewable energy companies.

A choppy surf crashes against the beach underneath the Mackinac Bridge.
Kaye LaFond / Michigan Radio

A new report says the State of Michigan did not thoroughly review Enbridge’s ability to cover costs in the case of a spill from its twin Line 5 oil pipelines before it signed an agreement with the company. The pipelines run underneath the Straits of Mackinac.

damaged road and car
Vicky Ingram

The U.S. Department of Transportation's Federal Highway Administration has given western Upper Peninsula counties a grant to rebuild flood-damaged roads.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

A lot of people assume a healthy diet is also good for the environment. A recently published study lends some credence to that conventional wisdom.

Michael Mazengarb / Creative Commons http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

Circuit West, an experimental green energy development in Grand Rapids, now has an energy storage component.  

Circuit West is described by developers as "a 13-block hub of innovative electricity generation, distribution and storage and energy efficient building construction."

The storage is in the form of large cabinet-sized batteries that can store more than an hour's worth of the energy being produced by existing solar panels.

Roger Lin is with NEC Energy Solutions, which is providing the batteries for the pilot project with Consumers Energy.

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