Environment & Science | Michigan Radio
WUOMFM

Environment & Science

One of the anchors used to hold Line 5 in place under the Straits of Mackinac.
Screen shot of a Ballard Marine inspection video / Enbridge Energy

The Michigan Court of Appeals has upheld a law that allows Enbridge Energy to build a tunnel so it can continue to move oil and natural gas liquids through a controversial Great Lakes pipeline.

Line 5 runs beneath the Straits of Mackinac, which connects Lake Michigan and Lake Huron.

Michelle Hurd Riddick (used with permission)

The two dams that broke near Midland caused a massive flood that swept away bridges, roads, and damaged a lot of property. Because Midland is home to Dow’s original chemical complex, a lot of people were concerned about hazardous waste or waste in ponds at Dow.

Enbridge Energy

Enbridge said Tuesday it has found four places where protective coating has worn away on its Line 5 pipeline in the Straits of Mackinac.

According to Enbridge spokesman Ryan Duffy, crews found the bare metal spots last week while preparing to install steel screw anchors. The spots are on the east segment of the dual pipeline.

Water running from tap
jordanmrcai / Creative Commons

If your building has been closed or only a few people have been using it, the water in the pipes should be flushed before you start up your business again.

“The chemicals that we put in the water to condition it and prevent bacteria growth or corrosion tend to dwindle and go to zero. And you pick up things like bacterial contamination and metals contamination from contact with the plumbing,” said Eric Oswald, Director of the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy’s Drinking Water and Environmental Health Division.

Gladwin County residents advised to avoid empty Wixom Lake

May 26, 2020
drone footage of wixom lake
Clinton Snider for Michigan Radio

Curious Gladwin County residents are being advised to stay out of the bed of the now-empty Wixom Lake.

County health and law enforcement officials held a press conference to update residents on clean up efforts underway after the collapse of the Edenville dam.

Clinton Snider / clintonsnider.com

This drone video was shot Friday May 22, 2020  at 7 p.m.

It was three days after the Edenville Dam collapsed due to high water.

Dustin Dwyer / Michigan Radio

It’s the unofficial start of summer, and life on Michigan’s lakeshore will be different this year.

High water levels on the Great Lakes mean there’s less beachfront this year. At the same time, the pandemic means there’s more need for space.

A red bridge flooded in Midland
Jodi Westrick / Michigan Radio

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy (EGLE) are in the Midland area to assess the damage from the flooding there.

Nick Assendelft is a spokesman for EGLE. He says one of the first priorities is helping people who are cleaning out their homes and businesses.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

DTE Energy, the EPA, and the Sierra Club have an agreement that ends a ten year old dispute about some changes the power company made to its Monroe power plant. As part of the deal, DTE will give some Wayne County communities $7.5 million dollars.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

The devastating flooding in Midland is causing concern about potential environmental contamination. The Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy indicates until the flood waters recede, it will be difficult to determine the extent of any contamination.

However, the long-standing problem along the Tittabawassee River has been dioxin contamination from the Dow chemical complex.

The World Health Organization indicates dioxins are highly toxic and can cause reproductive and developmental problems, damage the immune system, interfere with hormones and also cause cancer.

SCREENSHOT FROM ENBRIDGE REPORT TO THE STATE

The Canadian pipeline company Enbridge was in court Friday fighting an attempt to shut down its Line 5 oil and liquid natural gas pipelines under the Straits of Mackinac.

In an online hearing before 30th Circuit Court Judge James S. Jamo, the Attorney General’s office argued the 1953 easement along the bottom of the Straits should not have been granted for the pipeline. It said that easement should be invalidated because it violates the Public Trust Doctrine.

Unsplash

Today on Stateside, thousands have evacuated Midland County after dam failures led to an emergency. We check in with a hydrologist about what causes dam failure. Also, the superintendent of the West Bloomfield Public School District discusses why waiting for state guidance about this fall is not an option. Plus, a Michigan business’s quick pivot from hotel to front-line food provider during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

The flooding in Midland is raising concerns about re-suspending old pollution that’s caused problems along the Tittabawassee and Saginaw rivers for decades.

A more than 50 mile stretch of the rivers was contaminated by dioxin from past activity at the Dow chemical complex. A decades-long fight between Dow and regulators was finally settled with a plan to cap the river bottom and clean up properties along the river.

Michigan State University

A team of Michigan State University researchers hopes Detroit sewage will hold clues about the trajectory of COVID-19.

The group has been sampling raw sewage as it arrives at a Great Lakes Water Authority water treatment plant every week since mid-April.

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

The city of Toledo has withdrawn an appeal that challenged a ruling on the Lake Erie Bill of Rights’ constitutionality. Federal judge Jack Zouhary declared the bill of rights unconstitutional back in February, calling it “unconstitutionally vague” and said it “exceed[ed] the power of municipal government in Ohio.” 

The bill was approved by Toledo voters in a special election in 2019, where it passed with 61 percent of the vote. The bill states that Lake Erie, as well as the Lake Erie watershed, possesses the right to “exist, flourish, and naturally evolve.”

flickr.com/mtaphotos / CC by 2.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

Human problems got you down?

Check out these baby peregrine falcons:

It’s hatching season for the falcons. Fluffy, white newborn chicks are in nests across the state. And you can check on them any time.

Here are some at the Detroit Zoo.

green ooze
Michigan Dept. of Transportation

After a lengthy trial, Circuit Court Judge Hala Jarbou says the city of Madison Heights has the right to tear down most of the buildings on the site of Electro-Plating Services, owned by Gary Sayers.

Pollution on the site was responsible for a bright green spill of liquid onto I-696 in late December last year.

State environmental investigators found the "green ooze" contained high levels of hexavalent chromium, a known carcinogen.  

Close up image of the Asian giant hornet
Eduardo Gonzalez / Adobe Stock

One Michigan entomologist says the state won’t have to worry about “murder hornets” for many years, if ever.

So-called “murder hornets” - a giant Asian hornet so named because of its habit of massacring and even decapitating entire honey bee hives - have been spotted in Washington state.

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.

Pages