Environment & Science | Michigan Radio
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Environment & Science

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

China is not taking as much U.S. recycled material as it has in the past. The Chinese economy is slowing down and it doesn’t need to import as much paper and plastic. It’s also finding that so much U.S. recycled material is contaminated that it ends up in China’s landfills.

From the top of a mountain, a snowy landscape with trees reveals a view of Lake Superior in the distance.
Kaye LaFond / Michigan Radio

Most wind energy projects in Michigan are on farmland in the southern part of the state. They are often controversial even there, but one company wants to put a wind farm in an Upper Peninsula forest. Many community members don’t feel that’s the right place either.

Kaiti Chritz | Potter Park Zoo

A Lansing zoo confirms its critically endangered black rhino is pregnant. Potter Park Zoo officials say it took almost a year to get the female rhino pregnant.

The rhino's name is Doppsee. While it is too early to see a fetus, lab test show she is expecting.

According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) there are only 5,000 black rhinos remaining in the wild and only about 60 at zoos in the United States.

NOAA

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources is starting spring work on maintaining the state’s fish population.

The DNR says it expects to collect about 30 million eggs from walleye in the Muskegon River in the coming weeks. The state also collects eggs from steelhead on the Little Manistee River.

Jennifer Fassbender

State environmental regulators are nearing a long-awaited decision on a permit to expand a hazardous waste facility in Detroit.

U.S. Ecology first applied for a permit to expand storage capacity ten-fold at its Detroit North facility in 2015. But the application stalled in the face of major political and community opposition.

Adobe Stock

The company that owns and operates Detroit’s massive trash incinerator abruptly announced Wednesday that it’s closing down the facility.

The controversial incinerator is near the I-75/I-94 interchange on the city’s near east side, adjacent to the Midtown area. It’s been operating for three decades, though never without controversy.

Picture of Lake Superior
Isabella Isaacs-Thomas / Michigan Radio

A new report commissioned by the Environmental Law and Policy Center urges Great Lakes states to mitigate and prepare for the "profound" effects of climate change.

The report, authored by more than a dozen Midwest and Canadian researchers, says Great Lakes states will see more very hot days, increases in heavy rainfall and flooding, declines in crop yields, and threats to drinking water.  

picture of wallpaper
michigan history center

 

In the 19th century, wallpaper became an increasingly popular home decor trend among Americans. Influenced by the culture of Victorian England, these wallpapers were adorned with loud patterns, flowers, animals, and a lot of colors.

But those bright, vibrant hues held a dark secret.  

“In the mid-19th century, green became a very popular color. And the way to get the various hues of green was to mix it with arsenic,” explained the Michigan History Center's Rachel Clark. 

Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

A new set of rules takes effect this week for boaters and fisherman in Michigan.

Beginning Thursday, watercraft users will be required to take steps to prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species.

The smooth, rosy trunk of a cherry tree is marked with big, oozing dead areas, called cankers.
George Sundin / Michigan State University

Bacterial canker is a devastating tree disease that affects sweet cherry orchards around the country. There is currently no good way to treat it, but some Michigan scientists are trying to harness bacteria-killing viruses to control it.

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.

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