Environment & Science | Michigan Radio


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      Environment & Science

      Tony Brown

      Michigan’s Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy plans to test the soil from an abandoned rail bed near the former Velsicol Chemical Co. plant in St. Louis for hazardous chemicals.

      The old rail bed lies just outside a federal superfund site on which the Environmental Protection Agency has spent more than $100 million cleaning up after Velsicol.

      Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

      Researchers say they expect cyanobacteria blooms on Lake Erie to be smaller than average. On a scale of one-to-ten, the severity of the blooms is forecast to be a ‘three.’

      The harmful algal blooms can produce a toxin that can harm the liver in people and animals.

      a car sits in several feet of water on a freeway
      Russ McNamara / WDET

      Heavy rain in Southeast Michigan over the weekend left many residents dealing with massive flooding. There was several feet of water in some basements, vehicles stranded on flooded streets, and some people also lost power. Wayne County remains in a state of emergency due to ongoing public health threats.

      Such heavy flooding is only expected to occur once every 100 years or so, but the area saw similarly devastating rains in 2014 and 2016. Nick Schroeck, an associate professor of law at Detroit Mercy School of Law, told Stateside that these once-rare storms are becoming the new normal.

      In Chicago, flooding overwhelmingly strikes communities of color

      Jun 29, 2021
      J. Carl Ganter / Circle of Blue

      In the early 1970s, Chicago embarked on one of the region’s most ambitious and expensive infrastructure projects to date: the Tunnel and Reservoir Project or “Deep Tunnel,” a massive storage system that will be able to hold more than 20 billion gallons of water when it’s finished in 2029.?

      Detroit flooding
      Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

      Today on Stateside, we talk with an environmental law expert about the massive flooding in Detroit and surrounding communities. Plus, we meet a Detroit artist who thinks about the fluidity of form, and of thought. And, we check in with two health officials in very different Michigan communities that are tackling the same problem -- low COVID-19 vaccination rates.

      More than half of the buildings in the contiguous U.S. are in disaster hotspots, a new study finds. Tens of millions of homes, businesses and other buildings are concentrated in areas with the most risk from hurricanes, floods, wildfires, tornadoes and earthquakes.

      The findings underscore how development patterns exacerbate damage from climate change.

      Tracy Samilton / Michigan Radio

      Consumers Energy says it will retire all of its coal-burning power plants by the year 2025, years ahead of an earlier schedule.

      Environmental groups say it's a surprising and highly positive step, but there's still more the utility can do.??

      Margrethe Kearney is an analyst with the Environmental Law and Policy Center.

      She said the announcement is great news. Coal burning power plants are more expensive to operate than renewable sources of energy, and they spew a lot of harmful chemicals into the air.

      Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

      Canada is expanding its rules for ballast water in ships. The Canadian Minister of Transport outlined the new regulations intended to prevent the further spread of invasive species in Canada.

      Ballast water helps keep ships level by pumping it in or out of the ship when loading and unloading. Doing that also can suck up invasive species such as quagga and zebra mussels and then spread them to the next port.

      map of Line 5
      Enbridge Energy

      The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said it will conduct an extensive review of Enbridge Energy's plan to build an oil pipeline tunnel beneath a Great Lakes waterway in Michigan. The Canadian company wants the tunnel to house an underwater section of its Line 5 pipeline that runs beneath the Straits of Mackinac linking Lake Huron and Lake Michigan. Permits from several agencies, including the Army Corps, are needed. The Corps said Wednesday the project will require an environmental impact statement, which involves a lengthy study of the plans and potential alternatives.

      tart cherries hanging on a tree, ready for harvest
      barmalini / Adobe Stock

      For the second year in a row, northern Michigan’s tart cherry farmers are expecting a small harvest — less than half as much as 2019’s crop.

      Allen Steimel is the general manager at Leelanau Fruit Company. He says low rainfall Up North is stunting the cherries’ growth.

      “The drought, it’s gonna affect the size of the individual fruit. What we’re seeing right now is the cherries look fairly small.”

      Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

      Researchers at the University of Michigan are trying to connect the dots between birds becoming smaller with longer wings and their earlier migration.

      Studies have shown birds are migrating here earlier in the spring. Other studies show they have been physically changing over the decades. Both are due to climate change, according to studies.

      “On one hand, these birds are dramatically changing in their size and shape, and on the other, they were also changing the timing of their migrations,” said Marketa Zimova, lead researcher in a study to determine if the two were connected.

      Courtesy Grand Haven BLP

      The Grand Haven Board of Light and Power has approved building a new natural gas powered plant to supplement buying power from the grid.

      The west Michigan municipal utility is asking City Council to approve bonds for up to $50 million. The money would also be used to clean up pollution from a now demolished coal-burning power plant and to build an office complex.

      The Sarah Elizabeth Ray House
      The Sarah E. Ray Project

      Today on Stateside, we talk to a researcher who found that the forever chemicals known as PFAS are showing up in rainfall around the Great Lakes. Then, what families should know about kids and COVID-19 as summer vacation begins. And, an effort to save the historical home of Sarah Elizabeth Ray, the Detroit civil rights activist whose U.S. Supreme Court case led to the integration of the Boblo Island ferry.?

      Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

      The Obama administration enacted regulations to protect some sensitive bodies of water, but the Trump administration removed those protections.

      Now the Biden administration plans to protect them again.

      Changing the Waters of the U.S. protections under the Clean Water Act meant about 25% of the waterways were no longer protected. Some headwater streams and wetlands don’t have water all the time, but when they do, they need to be protected from pollution and silt. Keeping them pristine is important to wildlife such as fish and frogs downstream.

      Michigan’s climate-ready future: wetland parks, less cement, roomy shores

      Jun 9, 2021
      J. Carl Ganter / Circle of Blue

      What does Michigan’s future look like if we adequately prepare the state’s water resources for climate change? Goodbye to septics and shorehugging homes. Hello to more diversified crops on Michigan farms.

      The year is 2050, and you’re visiting family in Detroit.

      Arriving, you grab coffee on the ground floor of a nine-floor building filled with offices and apartments, designed to house a growing Great Lakes city without pushing out longtime residents.

      Around the corner, people gather for walks and picnics in a wetland park, one of dozens constructed around the city. With their wet meadows, flowers and gently winding trails, the parks absorb rainwater from frequent storms, reduce water treatment costs and alleviate the basement backups of water and sewage that once plagued Detroit.

      Mark Tegethoff / Unsplash

      LOOK UP!

      On Thursday, June 10, 2021, people across the northern hemisphere – including here in Michigan – will have the chance to experience an annular or partial eclipse of the Sun.

      NOAA, Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory

      Researchers at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory (GLERL) are forecasting the cyanobacterial bloom in western Lake Erie is likely to be smaller than average this year. But, it’s early in the season and things could change.

      If you buy some kinds of bagged fertilizer for your garden, you might be getting more than you want.

      The Ecology Center and Sierra Club sampled different kinds of fertilizers made from biosolids. That’s the sludge left at a wastewater treatment plant after water is cleaned up. Almost all of them had PFAS compounds in them.

      blacklegged tick
      Scott Bauer / USDA Agricultural Research Service, Bugwood.org

      Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

      There are a lot of ideas about how the State of Michigan should spend federal dollars from the American Rescue Plan. An environmental group thinks one of the top priorities is cleaning up water.

      Townships in Michigan where 'critical dunes' are located.

      The Michigan Supreme Court says a group of property owners in West Michigan will get the chance to challenge a real estate developer’s plan to build on sand dunes along Lake Michigan.

      This dispute has been winding its way through the courts since 2014.

      The developer is Dune Ridge. It bought 130 acres in Saugatuck. But the former church camp is located in what the state calls a critical dune area. So it’s subject to special protection and management rules to protect them.

      Wind turbine
      Tim Wang / flickr http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

      The University of Michigan has adopted a plan to achieve net zero carbon emissions by the year 2040.

      Net zero means the combination of reducing the burning of fossil fuels with actions to remove carbon dioxide from the environment, such as re-forestation, or sequestering carbon in geologic formations.

      Drew Horning is special advisor to U of M President Mark Schlissel for carbon neutrality strategy.?

      He says by 2025, the University plans to get all its outside purchased electricity from carbon dioxide-free sources like wind.

      Premature babies can benefit from donated or purchased breast milk
      Sarah Hopkins / Creative Commons http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

      Researchers at the University of Michigan have found an association between an ingredient found in a common weed killer and preterm births.

      The chemical in question is glyphosate which used in herbicides such as Roundup.

      Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

      Three environmental groups have notified the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency they plan to sue because the agency has not come up with a plan to reduce sulfur dioxide emissions in areas of Detroit and Baltimore.

      The Center for Biological Diversity, the Center for Environmental Health, and the Sierra club filed a notice this week.

      Green Infrastructure: Cities around the Great Lakes plan for a changing future

      May 19, 2021
      Courtesy: City of Detroit

      Water ran from a fire hydrant, down the street and into a recently redesigned street median in Detroit last week.

      It was both unassuming and a demonstration of the city’s single largest investment in green stormwater infrastructure: infrastructure that uses natural processes like the ability of soil and plants to filter and store water. The 10 reworked street medians on Oakman Boulevard will help manage?37.3 million gallons of stormwater a year, easing the burden on the city’s wastewater system and reduce basement flooding.

      Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

      Some coal fired power plants are being closed. Still, most of Michigan’s utilities heavily rely on coal.

      “In 2019, coal still fueled the largest share of Michigan’s electric generation, about 32 percent. DTE Energy in particular is still heavily reliant on coal generation, with close to 60 percent (56%) of its energy coming from coal fired power plants,” Charlotte Jameson with the Michigan Environmental Council (MEC) said.

      She is one of the authors of an updated report on pollutants that come from burning coal.

      Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

      Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

      Researchers at the University of Michigan are looking at how willing the public is to accept using carbon dioxide emissions in products. There are cases where capturing CO2 emissions could be used to make other products such as fuel or the carbon dioxide in your soft drink.

      While people are not as keen about using CO2 emissions from a smokestack to carbonate their Coca-Cola, they do see the practicality of how carbon dioxide could be used in ways better than seeing it increase the amount of greenhouse gases causing climate change.

      Isle Royale Queen IV
      Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

      Isle Royale is the least visited of our national parks, but it's also one of the most revisited. The pandemic threw a curveball at the Lake Superior island. Ferry service was suspended due to the pandemic, making it nearly impossible for visitors to travel to the island. Restrictions on ferry service have now lifted, but the island has changed in unique ways due to human inactivity.

      A bald eagle was rescued in Ann Arbor after being found tangled in fishing line
      Howell Nature Center Facebook page

      A bald eagle was rescued in Ann Arbor after being found tangled in fishing line.

      The wire was wrapped around his wing, tying him to a log where he was trapped.

      The Humane Society of Huron Valley made the rescue and did an initial exam. They found no major injuries.

      The eagle was transported to the Howell Nature Center for further care and rehabilitation.


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