environment

Lead pipes
Mitch Barrie / Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

The Flint water crisis has attracted attention and outrage from all over the globe, but unfortunately, the city of Flint isn’t the first to have its population affected by lead.

Due to the age and condition of lead water lines, it’s entirely possible that other cities around the country are currently suffering from elevated lead levels.

The most recent large-scale example of lead poisoning was discovered in 2001 in Washington D.C.

Kate Wells/Michigan Radio

Flint will start replacing lead service lines connected to homes with pregnant women or kids under the age of six.

That’s according to Mayor Karen Weaver, who said those are the “highest risk” homes in the city.

But she isn’t saying how many homes that will be, or how much it’ll cost. That could be because the city doesn’t really know yet.

Physicians say button batteries are a potential hazard for small kids.
user Ubcule / wikimedia commons

An annual report from the Public Interest Research Group on potentially hazardous toys highlights some big safety improvements—and new dangers.

PIRG’s annual survey examined hundreds of toys for a number of potential hazards.

None of the toys this year tested positive for lead, but three did test positive for another restricted metal—chromium.

Dr. Jaime Hope, an emergency medicine specialist at Beaumont Hospital, says regulations are making some toy makers more creative.

A pair of Eastern Massasauga rattlesnakes, the only venomous snake native to Michigan.
Steven Parrish / Matthaei Botanical Gardens and Nichols Arboretum, the University of Michigan

The Eastern Massasauga — the sole rattlesnake to inhabit the state of Michigan — is facing rapid population loss that's prompting national concern for Michigan wildlife.

In September 2015, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposed to list the snake as a "threatened species" under the Endangered Species Act, which would qualify the snake for national funds to help preserve the species. 

Jerry Oldenettel / Flickr

"Who teaches kids to kill?"

That's the first sentence of one of the emails and leaflets being distributed by the Humane Society of Huron Valley after the Ann Arbor City Council voted 8 to 1 to approve a deer cull.  

The email continues,

Researchers from the University of Michigan looked at how far oil might travel with a 12-hour release in the Straits of Mackinac.
UM Water Center

The scenario: Someone has spotted oil on Lake Michigan in the Straits of Mackinac. They place a call to an emergency response center.

What happens next?

Today, Enbridge and other emergency response officials will test whether their emergency oil spill response plan is effective.

Painting of a boy grabbing a sea lamprey by Mark Heckman.
Painting by Mark Heckman, courtesy of Thunder Bay Press.

Officials are reporting significant progress in the battle against an invasive, fish-killing Great Lakes parasite.

The Great Lakes Fishery Commission says the population of sea lampreys has reached a 30-year low in Lake Huron and a 20-year low in Lake Michigan. 

All photos by Marvin Shaouni

Andrew Niemcyzk worked for years as a coal miner in his native Poland, during which time he would examine the mine's earthen walls and think about the way water was moving from the surface deep into the ground. He didn’t know it then, but that curiosity would lead to the establishment of Parjana, a Detroit company that is poised to change the way the whole world manages water.

Parjana's true origins, however, are in a wet Hamtramck basement.

Mike Norton on Boardman Lake portion of the TART Trail in Traverse City.
Beth Price / IMG Media - Second Wave

When you think of Traverse City tourism, what comes to mind? Beautiful beaches? Wineries? Great food? Sand dunes?

How about well-maintained forests? Though trees may not be the first thing that comes to mind—besides cherry trees, of course—healthy forests are becoming an important part of Traverse City's most important industry. And the same is true of other Michigan cities, where a dependence on forest-based tourism is growing. 

The DeYoung Power Plant in Holland burns coal. The city is switching over to natural gas soon.
Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

The U.S. Supreme Court agreed with the state of Michigan, and many other states and industry groups, in their challenge to emissions rules from the Environmental Protection Agency.

They argued that the EPA should consider the costs and benefits of regulating mercury pollution from power plants.

Michigan has thousands of old, energy-inefficient factories, apartment complexes and office buildings. Nationally, the U.S. government estimates that the average building wastes a third of the energy it uses. My guess is that figure may be even higher here. How important is that?

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - Experts say that with at least nine coal plants in Michigan slated to shut down in the next 10 months, natural gas is the likely replacement as the primary source for generating energy.  But they are not predicting a large increase in natural gas production in the state. Instead, they say there likely will be more pipelines and other infrastructure built to import more natural gas from nearby Ohio and Pennsylvania.

Gray wolves.
USFWS / Flickr

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. - Michigan is joining the federal government in appealing a decision that restores legal protections for gray wolves in the western Great Lakes region.

Federal Judge Beryl Howell ruled in December that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service erred by dropping the region's wolf population from the list of endangered and threatened species in 2012.

How the Great Lakes look from space as of yesterday (Feb. 23, 2015).
NASA

With below freezing and single digit temperatures expected to continue through the week, ice cover on the Great Lakes is expected to continue to increase.

We hit a peak for the season yesterday with almost 86% ice cover for the Great Lakes -- that's well above where we were at this time last year (62%).

Michigan offers free energy and pollution audits to businesses

Feb 5, 2015
Corey Seeman / Flickr

A  state program is offering free help to businesses looking for ways to conserve energy and reduce waste.

Teams of retired engineers perform about 100 efficiency audits each year for businesses with 500 or fewer Michigan employees – and for any public institution.

Forestland in Michigan's northern Lower Peninsula.
user {inercia} / Flickr

Today, Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder vetoed a bill that attempted to keep state officials from managing the state's forests and parks for biodiversity.

Senate Bill 78 was sponsored by State Senator Tom Casperson, R-Escanaba, and it passed the Michigan Legislature during last year's "lame duck" session.

From Gov. Snyder's veto letter:

State capitol
Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

Our environment laws in Michigan have become sharply more partisan in the past 14 years.

That statement comes from an analysis by MIRS News in Lansing. Reporter Craig Mauger examined about 200 new laws that the Michigan Legislature enacted from 2000 to 2014. 

He noted several changes.

Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

Gov. Rick Snyder is expected to sign legislation that changes pollution clean-up procedures in Michigan. Senate Bill 891 is backed by the Department of Environmental Quality and the Michigan Chamber of Commerce.

The DEQ argues too much money is being wasted by the costs of cleaning up inconsequential amounts of pollution. The agency says it should assess risks to human health and use more cost-effective methods when determining pollution clean-up requirements. Leaving some contaminants behind in an area not used by people would allow the agency to deal with more of the clean-ups that do threaten public health, the agency believes.

the nyerges family
Courtesy of Jane-Ann Nyerges

It's been over 40 years since the Michigan Chemical Corporation/Velsicol made a catastrophic mistake that affected millions of Michigan residents.

The company from St. Louis, Michigan, shipped a toxic flame retardant chemical to the Farm Bureau Service instead of a nutritional supplement. That chemical was PBB or polybrominated biphenyl.

PBB was mixed into livestock feed, but it took a year to discover the accident. Millions of consumers ate contaminated milk, meat, and eggs during this time.

Jane-Ann Nyerges was one of the farming families whose lives were changed after the PBB contamination.

An ailing robin fledging in Teri Kniffen's yard in St. Louis, Michigan in June of 2013.  Some of the highest levels of DDT ever recorded in bird livers and brains were found in this neighborhood.
Teri Kniffen

All this week we're bringing you stories about the chemical company responsible for the PBB tragedy in Michigan. Michigan Chemical accidentally contaminated the state’s food supply in the 1970s, but the legacy of that company is still very much with us today.

Michigan Chemical – which later became Velsicol Chemical – made more than just PBB, and it left these toxic chemicals behind in St. Louis, Michigan.

One woman insists something is wrong with the birds

Tawni Grosman Lambroff

Not much happens in the tiny Detroit suburb of Pleasant Ridge, Michigan -- I would know, because I grew up there. 

But last spring, an unlikely visitor came to town: a mother deer who was pregnant with a fawn.

People were surprised that the mother deer would choose Pleasant Ridge, because the town is wedged between Woodward Avenue and 10 Mile Road, both busy streets.

After giving birth, fears for the safety of the deer were realized. The mother deer was killed by a car on Woodward, leaving behind her fawn, now known as "Baby."

People in Pleasant Ridge wanted to be sure that the same cruel fate wouldn't befall Baby, so they began taking care of her.

Tailpipe Exhaust
Flickr user JT

Americans care more about fuel economy than ever before, but did you know that the EPA does their MPG testing at their laboratory in Ann Arbor?

The EPA's Office of Transportation and Air Quality is located on Plymouth Road and employs 450 workers. It was created in 1970  for its close distance to the "Big Three." 

But cars aren't the only vehicle subject to MPG testing. From weed whackers to ocean vessels, anything with a motor must meet the EPA's standards.

With so many vehicles being released the lab doesn't have time to check all of them individually. Instead, the dealers themselves test their own vehicles and are subject to audits to make sure their own results can be matched when tested in the Ann Arbor lab.

Chris Grundler, director of the EPA's Office of Transportation and Air Quality, understands their work's importance.

The office is in charge of setting the standards along with enforcing them. Their testing is done not only to protect the environment, but to make sure consumers receive the quality advertised to them when investing in a new vehicle.

You can listen to our conversation with Grundler below.


Jack will be the mayor of citizens such as this Green Tree Frog.
User e_monk / flickr.com

An 8-year-old boy from Milford has been sworn in as the new boss of the Detroit Zoo's amphibian population.

Jack Salvati this week began his two-year term as the mayor of Amphibiville, a 2-acre wetland village that's home to the National Amphibian Conservation Center.

Jack sought the office because of his love for amphibians. The mayor called his swearing-in "the happiest day" of his life.

A plaque bearing Jack's name and photo will be displayed in the National Amphibian Conservation Center throughout his term. He also receives a plush frog and a one-year family membership to the zoo.

The zoo invited candidates ages 7-12 who live in Michigan to enter the mayor's race by submitting a 100-word essay.

The outgoing mayor is 13-year-old Gabriel P.J. Graydon of Southfield.

This trail camera photo of a cougar was taken on public land in western Mackinac County in early November.
MDNR

Cougars were wiped out in Michigan more than 100 years ago, but a few of the big cats have been returning.

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources recently confirmed two new cougar sightings in Michigan's Upper Peninsula.

MDNR officials say the two photographs were taken this fall – one was taken on a camera phone 30 miles south-southeast of Sault Ste. Marie in late October – another was taken with a trail camera on public land near Mackinac County’s Garfield Township.

For as many as 250 years, a bur oak has been growing on what is now the University of Michigan campus in Ann Arbor. The big tree stands in the way of an expansion of the Ross Business School.

But instead of cutting it down, the university is moving the tree. It's not easy, it's not cheap, and it's definitely not fast.

This 250-year-old bur oak tree on the University of Michigan's campus will be moved on Oct. 25, weather permitting.
Corey Seeman / Flickr

I hope they have more success than I did.

I tried moving a four-year-old oak tree in my backyard… and failed. Of course, they’ll be using more than just a spade and a burlap sack.

We’ll likely find out over the next few years whether the $300,000 to $400,000 project to move the 250-year-old bur oak tree on the campus of the University of Michigan worked.

The tree is being moved as part of a $135 million, donor-funded expansion of U of M’s business school. The school announced today that the oak will be moved on October 25, weather permitting.

Moving my tree's root ball was hard enough. How in the world will they move a 700,000 to 850,000 pound root ball?

Glad you asked. Here’s a video showing exactly that:

A diamondback terrapin hatchling.
C.A. Chicoine / TurtleZone News

The Detroit Zoo is caring for more than 1,000 turtles authorities say are tied to an international smuggling ring.

According to a news release Friday from the zoo, a number of the turtles were found stuffed into rubber snow boots and cereal boxes inside a Canadian man's luggage at Detroit Metropolitan Airport last week. The man was attempting to board a plane for Shanghai, China. 

Where's the tracker? This Kirtland's warbler has a tracker attached to its back that is incredibly tiny, weighing just 0.65 g.
Dan Elbert / USFWS

October is a time of falling leaves, eager trick-or-treaters, and the southward migration of the exceptionally rare Kirtland's warbler.

The Kirtland's warbler is found almost exclusively in the jack pine forest of northern Michigan. To counteract the devastating impact of habitat loss on the bird's population, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources initiated the Kirtland's Warbler Management Plan in 1981.

NOAA

Several Great Lakes mayors want stronger and faster action to keep Great Lakes drinking water safe.

A drinking water summit was held this week in Chicago, hosted by Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative.

Nicola Crawhall, deputy director of the initiative, said the meeting was triggered by the August shutdown of Toledo Ohio's drinking water system. The water was contaminated by microcystin toxins.

"We felt that was a watershed moment, if you like," said Crawhall.

The Michigan Mushroom Hunters Club "Mushroom of the Month" - the Boletus variipes.
MMHC

There may be folks grumbling about the cool, wet end of summer we've had, but not the “shroomers.”

Mushroom hunters are having a blast with a bumper crop of wild mushrooms.

Philip Tedeschi is president of the Michigan Mushroom Hunters Club.

"Fall has been starting out very good. This summer, the chanterelles and black trumpets and some of my favorite mushrooms come up then," said Tedeschi.

"Right now, the hen of the woods are starting. Hen of the woods is a mushroom that averages about three pounds. The ones I pick are typically one to five pounds. In our club, someone brought in a 42-pounder."

Tedeschi says the record for this mushroom weighs in at more than 100 pounds, from Pennsylvania.

Mushrooms love wet, cool weather.

“Mushrooms are even higher percentage water than animals. They need the water to grow. (In) a dry year we won’t see very many mushrooms at all,” he said.

*Listen to our interview with Tedeschi above.

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