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Environment & Science

Caviar, climate change and a Great Lakes fish

Dec 6, 2016
Lake herring
Peter Payette

Scientists have been worried about the herring population in Lake Superior recently. In fact, last year they warned it might collapse.

Lake Superior is the only one of the Great Lakes with a large population of this native fish.

This fall, new rules protecting herring took effect in Wisconsin and Minnesota and things appear more stable.

But there may still be a big problem lying beneath the surface.

Zhu “Joyce” Ni, Min Tang, Pan Ji, Mariah Gnegy / Virginia Tech

Researchers from Virginia Tech announced the results of their fourth round of water testing in Flint today.

The tests show that lead levels continue to drop, that water disinfection by-products in the water are normal, and that the drinking water in the city continues to improve.

“We’re now approaching the end of the public health crisis,” said Marc Edwards of Virginia Tech University.

Edwards says even with the improvements, citizens in Flint should still be protecting themselves.

Asbestos sign
Michael Coghlan / Flickr, http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

The Environmental Protection Agency just put out a list of ten high priority chemicals.

These are the first chemicals the agency will review for risks to human health and the environment under a new law that Congress passed this summer.

Courtesy Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources / Flickr Creative Commons -- http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

The International Joint Commission (IJC) says the U.S. and Canada should create a strategy to reduce toxic chemicals called polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) in the Great Lakes. This comes from a new IJC report released Wednesday.

"The PBDEs polluting our Great Lakes are toxic substances of great concern," says the Canadian Section's IJC chair Gordon Walker in a press release

Courtesy of Doug Darling

On the campaign trail, President-elect Donald Trump said that he would rescind the Waters of the U.S. Rule, which outlines what kinds of water bodies are federally protected.

Environmentalists say the rule is necessary to safeguard our ecosystems and drinking water.

But many in the agriculture industry don’t like the rule—they say it’s an over-reach, and they’re worried it will give the federal government more say over what they can (and can’t) do on their fields.

wikimedia commons

It's going to take more time and work than originally expected to fix a methane problem at an old Kent County landfill. 

In August, county officials discovered during routine tests that the methane from a landfill next door to the Kentwood City Office Building was migrating outside its perimeter.

Methane is a flammable gas created by the decomposition of organic matter.

Director of Public Works Darwin Baas says the subsequent investigation revealed a surprising amount of methane being produced.

prettyemmy / FLICKR CREATIVE COMMONS HTTP://MICHRAD.IO/1LXRDJM

Spend time on Black Friday in the great outdoors - not just in stores. 

That's the message of the #OptOutside campaign started last year by the outdoor recreation retailer, REI, and supported by Michigan's Department of Natural Resources and hundreds of agencies across the U.S.

This year the Michigan DNR will waive park entry fees to all 103 state parks and recreation areas on the day after Thanksgiving. 

According to Maia Turek of the DNR, the agency does not get general tax dollars to support Michigan's parks.

A report shows areas surrounding the decommissioned Wurtsmith Air Force Base are contaminated and have caused severe health issues for some area residents.
Mike Fritcher / Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

Congressman Dan Kildee wants the Air Force to do more to help Oscoda residents whose groundwater is contaminated by perfluorinated chemicals, or PFCs. The Wurtsmith Air Force Base used firefighting foams containing PFCs on its property in Oscoda for decades. The base is now closed.

Kildee sent a letter to the Air Force this week, outlining a long list of concerns.

When it is complete, Afterhouse will support the cultivation of crops such as figs and pomegranates.
Steven Mankouche

The Next Idea

It wasn’t too long ago that the house located at 3347 Burnside St. in northeast Detroit was a true eyesore.

Long since abandoned, it had been damaged beyond repair by fire and vandalism. There were boards over the windows and spray-paint on the walls—all the telltale signs of the kind of blight that has afflicted neighborhoods throughout Detroit.

The DeYoung Power Plant in Holland.
Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

This year is likely to be the hottest on record. Scientists with the World Meteorological Organization announced that recently, as world leaders met in Morocco to talk about limiting the impacts of climate change.

President-elect Donald Trump has called climate change a hoax, and he’s said he’ll withdraw from the Paris climate agreement.

Andy Hoffman is a professor with the Ross School of Business and education director for the Graham Sustainability Institute at the University of Michigan.

He says we don’t really know what the president-elect’s climate policy will look like.

Courtesy http://underclassrising.net/ / Creative Commons -- http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

A 14-year old London girl’s remains are being preserved in Michigan with the hope that she’ll be brought back to life, Mike Householder with The Associated Press reports.

She’s doing so through Cryonics: a technique where legally-dead people are cooled with liquid nitrogen to the extent that physical decay essentially stops, according to the cryonics institute.

More from Householder:

On Stateside today, we learn how the recent discovery of a potential dwarf planet could lead astronomers to the evasive Planet Nine. We also hear an expert's take on the possible effects to come if President-elect Trump pulls back on efforts to reduce climate change.

Gerdes likened finding DeeDee and objects like it to looking for a really small needle in a very, very large haystack.
flickr user Eurpoean Southern Observatory / http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

 


We're learning a lot about our tiny corner of the cosmos these days. That's thanks to improving technology and the increasing number of probes we're sending into the solar system.

But as much as we learned so far, there’s still a lot about space that we don't know.

Recently, researchers have been trying to track down a theoretical Planet Nine. (That's the title formerly held by Pluto. Sorry, Pluto.)

University of Michigan astronomers recently came across a planetary surprise that might get us closer to that discovery. And it turns out Pluto might have a friend out there after all.

Eric Bronson, Michigan Photography

Animals, get your best pose ready. 

The University of Michigan is snapping pictures of wild animals in an effort to document how populations of meat-eating animals vary across terrain, according to a press release.

Photographs are being taken in three areas: The U-M Biological Station, the upper peninsula and a wildlife refuge near Saginaw.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

New test results show lead levels in Kalamazoo’s water system have dropped.

The federal limit for lead in water is 15 parts per billion. Last time the city tested, in 2014, Kalamazoo’s lead level was 13 parts per billion. Now it's down to 4 ppb.

13 ppb was close enough to worry Shannan Deater, Kalamazoo’s Environmental Services Programs Manager. She says some of the higher lead results in 2014 weren’t really a good, representative sample. 

Animal bones found in the Saints Rest privy.
Courtesy of Autumn Byers

Archeology is not just about digging into prehistory, coming up with arrowheads, pottery shards and mastodon bones.

It can also give us a window into the not-too-distant past.

Say, the campus of Michigan State University in the mid-1800s.

That’s what Autumn Beyer is doing in her work with the MSU Campus Archeology Program. She’s studying what students and professors ate in the early days at Michigan State and how they got that food.

Courtesy of Duke Energy

President-elect Donald Trump has called global warming "a very expensive hoax," despite agreement among the vast majority of climate scientists that climate change is happening now and is mainly human-caused. Trump has also put climate change skeptic Myron Ebell in charge of his EPA transition team.

Ferland told us he's planning on setting up a few more tents for protestors at Standing Rock.
Courtesy of Michigan Host Tent at Standing Rock / http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

 

Several Native American tribes and Canadian First Nation tribes are joining members of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe opposing the Dakota Access Pipeline in North Dakota.

Members of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe say the pipeline will contaminate water and other resources and damage land that is sacred to the Sioux.

It’s a major pipeline for Energy Transfer Partners. According to an NPR report, it’s a $3.8 billion project that would pump 500,000 barrels of oil a day.

Regis Ferland lives in Mount Pleasant. He and his cousin Amos Cloud have set up a 16-foot by 32-foot army surplus tent near the protests at Standing Rock.

Their plan is to make it a place to stay for people from Michigan who join the protest.

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

Governor Rick Snyder and state environmental officials have declared western Lake Erie is an “impaired” waterway that needs to be cleaned up.       

The problem is algae blooms that threaten plants and wildlife. The blooms are caused largely by phosphorous runoff from agricultural fertilizers. Two years ago, the algae blooms forced Toledo to declare a drinking water emergency.

Mike Alexander is with the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality. He says Michigan and other states and Canadian provinces that border western Lake Erie are already working on the problem.

Consumers Energy / Flickr/user

The state Senate has adopted an overhaul of Michigan’s energy policy. It’s designed to ensure reliability as the state’s big utilities replace aging coal-fired plants that have to shut down.

The plan is supported by utilities, but opposed by smaller suppliers that compete with utilities for customers like large factories and school districts. 

State Senator Mike Nofs (R-Battle Creek) is the plan’s primary architect. He says it requires the smaller suppliers to answer some questions if they want to compete:

What hungry deer mean for Michigan's northern forests

Nov 10, 2016
Flickr user Mike Bell / http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

With the start of firearm season next Tuesday, hunters will spread out across Michigan in search of white-tailed deer. Long, cold winters in the recent past have not helped deer thrive up north, particularly in the Upper Peninsula.

But foresters and conservation groups say there are still far too many deer in northern Michigan, and they are creating severe problems for forests.

Lauren Luci / Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

Americans love their bottled water.

Statistics from the Beverage Marketing Corporation tell us that while sales of soft drinks, fruit drinks, sports drinks – even milk – have dropped over the past 15 years, sales of bottled water are booming.

In 2015, Americans guzzled nearly 12 billion gallons of bottle water. That’s a big jump from the 4.5 billion gallons we drank in 2000.

All that demand means Swiss corporation Nestle wants to pump more water out of the ground in West Michigan. It wants to increase pumping from 250 to 400 gallons a minute at one of its wells near Evart in Osceola County.

And the public nearly missed its chance to comment on the proposal.

Wilson Hui / Flickr

Nestle owns a water bottling plant in Stanwood, Michigan, north of Grand Rapids. It bottles spring water for its Ice Mountain and Pure Life brands.

The company wants to increase the amount of water it pulls out of the ground at one of its wells. The well is about 35 miles north of Stanwood in Evart, Michigan. To do that, it needs a permit from the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, and the public is supposed to weigh in on whether the company should get that permit.

But a lot of people didn’t hear about it – until it was almost too late.

An emerald ash borer
User: USDAgov / flickr

The emerald ash borer is spreading westward again in Michigan. One of the insects was discovered in a trap set by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The USDA placed 122 traps in Upper Peninsula counties that had not yet been invaded by the ash borer. 

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Grand Rapids officials say the city's drinking water is still well within federal standards for the presence of lead. Such testing is getting increased attention amid Flint's crisis with lead-tainted water.

The city posted the results on its website Friday after they were certified by state regulators; information that typically waits until the Consumer Confidence Report is mailed out.

David Lobbig / Courtesy of Jenny Chipault

In the last few weeks, roughly 600 birds have died along the shore of Lake Michigan. They washed up on the beaches within the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, with more dead birds reported on beaches in the Upper Peninsula.

Joe Connolly / Cornell University

There’s a new creature in the Great Lakes and it has “cyclops” in its name.

It’s called Thermocyclops crassus. It’s a kind of zooplankton.

Elizabeth Hinchey Molloy is with the EPA’s Great Lakes Program Office. She says it's extremely small.

“It’s less than one millimeter, so smaller than the dot a pencil makes,” she says.

the plume, 1,4 dioxane
http://www.ewashtenaw.org/government/departments/environmental_health/card / Washtenaw County

The Ann Arbor City Council wants to intervene in a lawsuit over groundwater contamination in and around the city. The Council unanimously passed a resolution at a special meeting Tuesday night to direct city officials to seek permission from the court to intervene in the case.

Rebecca Williams / Michigan Radio

It’s the busy time of year for commercial fishing on the Great Lakes. But the price of whitefish is about half what it was three years ago, because of problems with international trade.

DWSD

Detroit found more lead in drinking water samples this summer than it has in recent years, and there’s a few reasons to account for the uptick.  

Unofficial results posted this month by the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department show Detroit’s water is safe to drink by federal standards.

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