Environment & Science

Russell Schindler is working to make Traverse City a new nexus for technology
wikimedia user Iulia Ascanius / Public Domain

The Next Idea

Most anyone would agree that Traverse City is one of Michigan’s crown jewels. It’s a beautiful location and a great place to live, visit and retire.

But one thing Traverse City has lacked is a strong central point for the area’s tech industry.

Russell Schindler is a Traverse City geologist and entrepreneur. He basically got sick and tired of driving nearly four hours to Ann Arbor for tech meet-ups, so he started a new group, called TC New Tech.

Pollution from the former site of Mount Clemens Metal Products has been spreading across Antrim County for decades, contaminating trillions of gallons of groundwater with trichloroethylene, a cancer-causing chemical.
DEQ

Michigan has more than 280 contaminated sites that are “orphans.” That means the company that made the mess no longer exists and the state has to deal with it.

But Michigan is running out of money to tackle these environmental problems. That was not good news for Antrim County, home to one of the largest contaminated sites in the country. State management of an underground plume of trichlorethylene (TCE) has been crucial here for years and will be needed in the future.

Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha helped bring attention to the elevated blood lead levels in the children in Flint.
Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

There's a new initiative being launched to help the victims of the decision to switch water sources in Flint.

Those victims are the children.

The number of Flint children with elevated levels of lead in their blood has doubled since the water switch was made nearly two years ago.

Now we learn that Hurley Children's Hospital in Flint is joining with Michigan State University to help these children.

A Flint water protest.
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder has activated the National Guard to help distribute bottled water and filters in a city that is confronting a drinking water crisis.

His executive order issued late this evening is intended to bolster outreach to Flint residents. The crisis comes after state health authorities confirmed elevated blood-lead levels in children.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Researchers from Virginia Tech announced yesterday they are ending their investigation into Flint’s lead tainted water.

Virginia Tech sounded the alarm last summer when their tests turned up high lead levels in Flint drinking water.

Mark Brush/Michigan Radio

Battery-powered cars and trucks seem to be winning the day as the way forward to increase fuel efficiency and to cut carbon pollution.

But there was a time when we heard a lot about fuel cells. The cells convert hydrogen into electricity that can then power a car or truck.

That hype died down as people realized there are significant barriers to powering our vehicles with hydrogen.

An internal e-mail obtained through a FOIA request by Marc Edwards. The author was later confirmed as Dennis Muchmore, Gov. Snyder's then chief of staff.
FlintWaterStudy

A new set of e-mails released today show that an official with Governor Snyder's office expressed concern about the Flint water situation as early as July 2015.

The internal e-mails were obtained through the Freedom of Information Act by Virginia Tech’s Marc Edwards.

You can view them here.

In one e-mail, Dennis Muchmore, Gov. Snyder’s then-chief of staff, writes the following:

Flickr user Jim, the Photographer/Flickr / http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

This week, two environmental groups, the Center for Biological Diversity and the Center for Food Safety, put the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on notice.

They’re planning to sue the agency because they say it’s dragging its feet on protecting the monarch butterfly.

Sarah Hulett / Michigan Radio

Residents living in the heavily industrial area near southwest Detroit’s Marathon oil refinery are furious about a plan to increase emissions there.

And they let state environmental regulators know it at a public hearing Wednesday night.

Marathon wants to start removing sulfur, to meet new federal standards for cleaner-burning gasoline.

But to do that, it wants to increase local emissions — in the already-most-polluted ZIP code in the state.

farming equiptment
Helen Hanley / creative commons

It’s called a "discussion meet," and the Farm Bureau’s been doing it for decades. It's a way to bring young farmers together to talk about the challenges they face. And it's also a competition.

While the farmers are talking, they’re competing for a place at the state-level discussion meet, and then a shot at representing Michigan in the national competition.

Andrea Miehls / USGS

There's a new tool available to control the sea lamprey population in the Great Lakes.

For the first time, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has approved a synthetic mating lure to help trap sea lampreys before they spawn.

The mating pheromone is a scent released by male sea lampreys to lure females to nesting sites. 

Reid Frazier/Allegheny Front

We know that burning coal produces greenhouse gases that cause global warming. But it's also a big source of other types of air pollution that can cause disease and even death.

Around the country, dozens of coal-burning power plants are racing to comply with new Environmental Protection Agency rules to keep mercury out of the air.

In Michigan, Consumers Energy and DTE Energy are both spending roughly $2 billion to comply with new air rules.

Wikipedia

Attacking the science behind climate change effectively sways public opinion, according to a recent study by Michigan State University researchers.

MSU associate professor and sociologist Aaron McCright led the study of 1600 US adults.

McCright says messages that frame climate change as a public health or national security threat, or even through a “positive” frame like economic opportunity or religious obligation, seem to fall flat.

Male deer
coloneljohnbritt / Creative Commons http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

The Department of Natural Resources says another deer killed in the Lansing-area appeared to have chronic wasting disease.

If confirmed through additional tests, it would be the fifth deer with the disease, which attacks the animal's brain and nervous system.

There were no obvious symptoms in the 1 1/2-year-old doe that was killed by an archer in Clinton County's Watertown Township, a new location for the disease. The hunter agreed to have the deer tested.

Then MDEQ Director Dan Wyant at a press conference last fall.
screen grab / MLive UStream

A task force appointed by Gov. Rick Snyder says Michigan's environmental regulatory agency is primarily responsible for the state's failure to ensure safe drinking water for Flint residents.

The Flint Water Advisory Task Force says in a letter to Snyder that the state Department of Environmental Quality "must be held accountable for that failure."

The letter was made public Tuesday. You can read it here.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

UPDATED AT 5:37 PM ON 12/29/15

The head of the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) has resigned over the drinking water crisis in Flint.

Gov. Rick Snyder has also now apologized to the community of Flint for his administration’s involvement in the situation.

“I want the Flint community to know how very sorry I am that this has happened,” said Snyder in a statement on Tuesday. “And I want all Michigan citizens to know that we will learn from this experience, because Flint is not the only city that has an aging infrastructure.”

frankleleon / flickr creative commons http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

Plastic microbeads  found in soaps, facial scrubs, cosmetics and toothpaste will be phased out starting in 2017 under bipartisan legislation signed by President Barack Obama yesterday. 

The legislation was co-sponsored by Rep. Fred Upton, R-Mich, and Rep. Frank Pallone, D-New Jersey. It is intended to protect the nation's waterways.

"Microbeads may be tiny plastic – but they are big-time pollution, especially for our Great Lakes," said Upton.

arcturusangel / morgueFile

A group of mostly Republican state lawmakers is pushing for more oil to be recovered from wells that have already been capped. And they want the state to explore technologies that could capture greenhouse gasses produced during that process.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Michigan wildlife officials are closing out a year of battling chronic wasting disease in the state’s free-ranging deer.

The first case of Chronic Wasting Disease turned up in Ingham County in April.  By the end of the year, a total of four confirmed cases of the fatal neurological illness were confirmed, among the nearly four thousand deer that were tested.

In order to decrease the chances of CWD spreading, Gov. Snyder this week signed a law extending a ban on feeding wild deer. 

Taylor Ogilvie is the general manager at Mt. Brighton.
Rebecca Williams / Michigan Radio

Taylor Ogilvie would really like to make some more snow. He’s the general manager at the Mt. Brighton ski area. So far, conditions haven't been quite right very often.

Standing at the bottom of one of the hills, Ogilvie gestures to the mostly green slopes. "We’re looking at a bunch of water," he says. "Kind of icy, snowy stuff that we put out of our snow guns last night.”

He says they’ve had a few good days, but for the most part, it’s been too warm and too humid for snow-making to work well. So they’ve just been waiting.

Wikipedia

DTE Energy is taking its biggest plunge into solar power yet, with a Lapeer County project announced Monday.

According to DTE, that project will be the “largest utility-owned solar array east of the Mississippi.”

It calls for nearly 150,000 solar panels spread over about 300 acres, generating a combined 45 megawatts of power on two sites. That’s more than three times the company’s solar output right now.

David Harwood, DTE’s director of renewable energy, says that until now its renewable energy portfolio has favored wind power.

Lakes are getting warmer worldwide

Dec 18, 2015
user Rhonda Noren / Flickr

A study of 235 lakes around the world shows water temperatures are on the rise. The overall average increase was 0.61 degrees per decade over the past 25 years. Four of the five Great Lakes were included in the study, with deeper, colder Lake Superior showing the biggest temperature gain – about three times the worldwide average.

The ongoing temperature change could be damaging to Michigan's lake ecosystem and economy, says Donald Uzarski, director of the Institute for Great Lakes Research at Central Michigan University. 

Side sonar scan of the sunken barge believed to be the "Argo."
Tom Kowalczk, CLUE

TOLEDO, Ohio - The U.S. Coast Guard says crews have completed an effort to eliminate environmental threats from a sunken barge that apparently sat undiscovered in Lake Erie for nearly 80 years.

Salvage crews recently pumped hazardous, oil-based substances from the barge, though six of the eight tanks onboard were empty. The Coast Guard said Thursday that the mixture of cargo and water removed from the site near the U.S.-Canadian border totaled over 33,000 gallons.

NASA Goddard Media Studios

It’s possible to track air pollution from space.

NASA scientists did that with high-resolution satellite maps. To gather the data, they used an ozone monitoring instrument on board NASA’s Aura satellite. That tool tracks atmospheric gasses.

The team of NASA scientists tracked emissions of nitrogen dioxide from 2005 to 2014. Nitrogen dioxide comes from cars, power plants, and industries, and it plays a major role in forming smog.

The Michigan Sugar Company shared this aerial photo of sugarbeet piles in Bay City in October of 2015.
Michigan Sugar Company / Facebook

BAY CITY, Mich. - Michigan's sugar beet growers say they have harvested a record crop this year.

The Michigan Sugar Co., a Bay City-based grower-owned cooperative, said Tuesday the total 2015 production was roughly 5 million tons, representing a record-setting yield of 31.6 tons an acre.

Michigan Sugar CEO Mark Flegenheimer credits production increases to technological advances. In a news release, he praised the farmers' ability to overcome severe weather that hit the rural Thumb and Saginaw Valley regions during the growing season.

Flickr user Jenn Durfey/Flickr

Waukesha wants to build a pipeline to the Great Lakes.

The city is in southeast Wisconsin, 17 miles from Lake Michigan. It has a radium problem in its groundwater supply.

Radium occurs naturally, but it’s a carcinogen.

Dan Duchniak, general manager of the Waukesha Water Utility, says as the city’s groundwater supply has been drawn down, it’s made the high radium concentration worse.

“And ultimately the radium exceeded the federal drinking water standard and we are now under a court order to come into compliance with that, and the means by which we are going to do that is to develop a new water supply,” he says.

The city has to come up with a permanent solution for its radium problem by 2018.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

An environmental group says oil pipelines running beneath the Mackinac Straits could be shut down without disrupting oil and propane supplies in Michigan.

Environmentalists say there is enough capacity on other pipelines skirting the Great Lakes to reroute the crude oil currently flowing through Line 5. 

The report says at least 90% of Line 5's oil goes to Canadian refineries, so it's not essential for the Marathon refinery in Detroit.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

As 190 nations try to finalize a climate change agreement in Paris, activists around the world are planning marches and rallies in support of that agreement.

But it won't be enough, says Nicholas Jansen of the group 350.org, so named for a reduction to 350 parts CO2 per million that the group is pushing the world to achieve.

That's why his group, and others around the world, will immediately begin pressuring their governments to go far beyond what is agreed to in Paris.

Jansen says the U.S. needs to play a large role.

Oil in a Shiawassee County drain.
EPA

More than 500 gallons of of used motor oil spilled into a county drain in Shiawasee County, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's on-scene coordinator Tricia Edwards.

The EPA is heading the cleanup process.

A hunter discovered the spill on November 26.

Edwards said the cost of clean up will be paid from the federal Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund. Reimbursement is sought from a responsible party, if one is identified.

University of Michigan medical historian Dr. Howard Markel stops by and gives us a quick history of the person behind the Nobel Prize: Alfred Nobel. Nobel’s big first big breakthrough was in 1863, when he mastered detonating nitroglycerine, which many know as TNT.

Later in life, Nobel wanted to recognize those who had made great advancements in a variety of arts and sciences including medicine, physics, chemistry, physiology, and literature. Later, other disciplines were added to the list.

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