Environment & Science

Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

Another severe algal bloom will hit western Lake Erie later this summer, according to environmental scientists from the University of Michigan and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Last August, high levels of cyanobacteria shut down Toledo's drinking water supply.

Heavy rains in June have set up conditions for another severe bloom, ranking between an 8.1 and 9.5 on a 10-point scale. Any bloom greater than a 5.0 is of concern. Scientists say they can't predict whether there will be another "Toledo event," as that depends on how the bloom develops. 

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs

Especially in the early years of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, soldiers burned their waste in big, open-air pits. They burned everything from tires, batteries, and plastic to human and medical waste.

Curtis Gibson is an Air Force veteran. He served in Afghanistan in late 2011.

“I’d see things floating in the air — burned papers — you see them floating through the air so you know you’re taking something in,” Gibson says.

He says he had a medical exam when he came home to Detroit.

As long as the rain keeps coming, we're going to see more mosquitos
flickr user trebol-a / http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

All that rain we've had isn't just making our lawns and flowers grow.

Howard Russell is an entomologist with Michigan State University, and he says that the booming mosquito population is directly related to the rain.

Victor Li with a sample of his self-healing concrete
Victor Li

Michigan isn’t alone in the struggle to repair crumbling roads and bridges.

The American Society of Civil Engineers has given America's infrastructure a grade of "D" based on years of underfunding and delayed maintenance.

Victor Li may have the key to solving this nationwide struggle.

The University of Michigan civil and environmental engineering professor has invented self-healing concrete. It can bend, and if it cracks, it can repair itself.

Rebecca Williams/Michigan Radio

In Afghanistan and Iraq, especially in the early years, soldiers burned their waste in big, open-air pits. 

“A burn pit’s just a big hole in the ground. You push dirt up and just have trash there, and light it on fire and walk away,” says Army veteran Eric Mullins.

Mullins and I met up in Campus Martius Park in Detroit, near where he works.

He served in Iraq in 2003 and again in 2008. On his first tour, he was assigned to burn barrels of human waste.

Gray wolves.
USFWS / Flickr

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service says it won’t change the status of the gray wolf in Michigan and other Great Lakes states from “endangered” to “threatened.”

Michigan wildlife officials cheered the decision, even though it denies them a measure of flexibility to manage wolves in the western Upper Peninsula.

Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

Under current state law, utilities in Michigan must get 10% of their power from renewable sources, like wind and solar, by the end of the year.  

After a year of work, Republican lawmakers have outlined an energy policy to replace Michigan’s renewable energy standard.

State Sen. John Proos, R-St. Joseph, says the new policy wouldn’t require utilities to have a certain amount of renewable energy, like wind or solar.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Ottawa County has a new weapon in the fight against invasive plants. This week, I got a chance to check out the weapon in action at Burr Oak Landing, a 260-acre natural park about 20 miles west of Grand Rapids.

“These are what we call our ‘prescribed browsers,’ aka, goats,” said Melanie Manion, Natural Resources Management Supervisor for Ottawa County.

Flickr user St Stev / Flickr

Pity the lowly wood pallet. Nobody thinks about it. But it does so much work.

Most merchandise in supermarkets and big box stores is shipped on wood pallets. There are roughly two billion wood pallets circulating in the U.S.

The Eastern Spruce Budworm is one of the most destructive native insects in Eastern United States and Canada.
Jerald E. Dewey, USDA Forest Service / http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

The State Department of Natural Resources is keeping an eye out for one of the most destructive insects in our northern spruce and fir trees.

After nearly 30 years on hiatus, it looks like the spruce budworm is once again rearing its head.

US National Weather Service, Grand Rapids, MI

A 3.3-magnitude earthquake got things rumbling near Battle Creek at 11:42 this morning.

The epicenter of the quake was centered southeast of Battle Creek, about 20 miles from where a 4.2-magnitude earthquake was recorded in early May. 

People across Michigan reported feeling the quake on social media. 

The Calhoun County Sheriff's Department says there were no reports of damage or injuries.  

Harley Benz is a scientist with the United States Geological Survey.

Flickr / bitznbitez

The U.S. Supreme Court has sided with the state of Michigan, other states, and industry groups in a challenge to the Environmental Protection Agency’s emissions rules.

The justices ruled the EPA was unreasonable when it refused to consider costs in its initial decision to regulate mercury emissions from power plants.

Read the Supreme Court's ruling in Michigan vs. EPA here.

Hantz Farms

Wayne State University researchers are taking a close look at some of the potential hazards of urban agriculture.

They’ve launched a three-year study at several farm sites around Detroit, to examine soil and vegetable samples from those sites for “physical, chemical, and biological contaminants,” says Yifan Zhang, assistant professor of food and nutrition at Wayne State.

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.

Sarah Cwiek

When Metro Detroit got hit by an unprecedented rainstorm last August, it unleashed massive flooding — and an estimated ten billion gallons of raw sewage — into the region’s waterways. 

That was an extreme event. But those types of downpours are happening more and more, and for decades Detroit’s aging water system has dealt with sewage overflows.

Peter Payette / Interlochen Public Radio

If Michigan were to allow commercial fish farms in the Great Lakes, how would they affect the environment? That’s the question a state panel will consider beginning this week.

There are some fish farms in the lakes already, but they’re based in Canada.

Although at least a couple of people are interested, Michigan hasn’t allowed them yet.

Toxic hotspots, or "Areas of Concern" around Michigan's shoreline.
Great Lakes Commission

"Lake Erie is dead" and "the Cuyahoga River is on fire."

Those were actual headlines in the late 1960s spotlighting the deteriorating conditions of the Great Lakes in an age when rampant pollution was the norm.

Stories like these led to the passing of the Clean Water Act of 1972, which helped restore the Great Lakes.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

People living in Kalamazoo can hear what federal regulators have to say about a plan to secure an old landfill full of toxic material.

The Allied Site once served as a dumping ground for the paper mill industry. There’s 1.5 million cubic yards of wood pulp laced with toxic chemicals at the site.

Many in Kalamazoo want the pile completely removed, but there’s not enough money. The paper company that caused the pollution went bankrupt.

Michigan Army National Guardsmen earlier this year.
Master Sgt. Sonia Pawloski / wikimedia commons

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. - The Michigan Army National Guard is holding training exercises across the state focused on response to a simulated nuclear explosion.

The Northern Exposure disaster response exercise starts Tuesday and runs through Saturday. Teams from federal, state and local law enforcement and disaster recovery agencies are involved along with about 2,000 members of the Michigan National Guard.

flickr user Andres Pérez / Flickr

Scientists study chemicals for their potential to cause cancer, but usually they examine them one at a time.

And yet, we’re exposed to mixtures of different chemicals every day.

Beachgoers on a Lake Michigan beach in the Upper Peninsula.
Joseph Novak / Creative Commons

Health officials close beaches when levels of E. coli bacteria are too high. But it takes 24 hours to get test results.

A new test identifies E. coli DNA. You don’t have to wait a full day to grow a bacteria culture in a dish, so the new test produces results in a few hours.

Jamie Berlin

"Making the world safer for pollinators, one city at a time."

That's the mission of Bee City USA. It's a national effort to focus attention on the importance of honeybees to our ecosystem and to agriculture.

And Jamie Berlin, beekeeper and founder of the beekeeping group Ypsi Melissa, wants Ypsilanti to win the designation as "Bee City USA."

Great Lakes Fishery Commission

If you ever get a chance to meet a sea lamprey, you won’t forget it.

They look like an eel but they’re actually a fish. They have a suction cup for a face, with hundreds of razor sharp teeth.

Roger Sutherland

With it being National Pollinator Week, we continue our series, "The Business of Bees."

It started centuries ago, scooping honey out of a tree.

Today, there's big money in pollination.

Roger Sutherland is a retired biology professor, and has been keeping bees for over 50 years. 

A new threat to Michigan rattlesnakes

Jun 16, 2015
U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service

When you think about rattlesnakes, you might picture Arizona. Or Texas. Somewhere out in the desert. But one snake’s rattle doesn’t come from the deserts of the Southwest. It’s from the pine forests of Michigan.

In fact, Michigan is a stronghold for the eastern massasauga rattlesnake.

AcrylicArtist / morgueFile

Michigan’s state apiarist – call him the “bee czar” – says a surge of interest by backyard beekeepers is helping the struggling honeybee population.

Michael Hansen says a decade ago, you might have seen 100 or 200 people at the Michigan Beekeepers' Association annual meeting. This year? There were about 1,000.

As long as the rain keeps coming, we're going to see more mosquitos
flickr user trebol-a / http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

Combine heavy rain, humid and warm weather, mosquitos, three dead crows ... and what you get is the first West Nile virus activity in Michigan in 2015.

Dr. Eden Wells is the chief medical executive for the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, and she says it's not uncommon to see birds infected in June each year. 

Aerial photo of the Bruce Nuclear Generating Station near Kincardine Ontario.
Chuck Szmurlo / Wikimedia Commons

The decision on a nuclear waste storage site near Lake Huron has been kicked down the road a bit.

NOAA

Governor Rick Snyder’s administration has released a first draft of a 30-year strategy for protecting and improving the state’s water resources.

The plan says there are environmental and economic benefits to protecting and improving lakes, rivers, and streams. The plan includes connecting waterways to promote tourism. Also, fixing outdated sewer and drinking water systems.

Flickr / Sarah Craig, Faces of Fracking

The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that between 25,000-30,000 new oil and gas wells were drilled and hydraulically fractured annually in the U.S. between 2011 and 2014.

A feature article in the journal Health Affairs says the body of research on the potential health effects of all this fracking is "slim and inconclusive."

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