WUOMFM

The Environment Report

Tuesdays & Thursdays at 8:50 a.m. and 5:45 p.m.

The Environment Report hosted by Rebecca Williams explores the relationship between the natural world and the everyday lives of people in Michigan.

Photo by Scott McArt, used with permission.

We’ve heard a lot about honeybees and how important they are as pollinators. But bumblebees pollinate wildflowers and crops, too, and some kinds of bumblebees are in trouble.

notices
Emma Winowiecki / Michigan Radio

Because of the Flint water crisis, several Michigan cities are making long term plans to replace old lead water pipes that connect homes to the water main.

That is good for public health, but well-meaning municipal water operators can actually make lead exposure worse if they’re not careful.

There’s a mix of lead and copper pipes buried near the corner of Trinity and Florence in a neighborhood on Detroit’s northwest side. When I visited a month ago the block was lined with nice, two story brick homes and orange construction barrels. It smelled like diesel.

1992 LCR document from Battle Creek
Emma Winowiecki / Michigan Radio

One of the things Flint’s water operators got in trouble for was falsifying records; for saying the city was testing homes at the highest risk of having elevated lead levels when it was not. But records obtained by Michigan Radio show Flint is not the only city in the state that tested the wrong homes over the years and potentially underestimated lead in water.

The biggest culprit for high lead in tap water is the lead water pipes that connect a house to the water main. That’s why cities are supposed to test those homes.

Grass carp
USGS

There are several federal agencies in charge of trying to control Asian carp, and they just came out with their latest report to Congress on how those efforts are going.

Natural gas power plant in California
David Monniaux / Wikimedia Commons

The reliability of our power supply is vulnerable to climate change. But the grid can be made more adaptable.

Those are the conclusions of a new study in the journal Nature Climate Change.

Wild rice harvesting
Dan Kraker

For generations, Native Americans in the northern Great Lakes have harvested wild rice. It's an important food source. For some it's a way to make a little extra cash. And it's a cultural touchstone that tribal members are trying to pass on to younger generations.

Sea lamprey
Photo courtesy of USFWS

Lakes Superior and Erie have too many sea lampreys.

The invasive fish latch onto big fish like lake trout and salmon and drink their blood and body fluids. A single lamprey can kill up to 40 pounds of fish in its lifetime.

Aaron Selbig / Interlochen Public Radio

A group in northern Michigan has been working for more than a decade to connect a bike trail between Suttons Bay and Harbor Springs.

But now, one legislator says the proposed path could harm the agriculture industry.

Representative Triston Cole, R-Mancelona, says local farmers have concerns about security and safety along the route.

Catt Liu

If you hit the grocery stores in the Toledo area a couple weeks ago, hoping to pick up some bottled water, you were out of luck.

Several stores completely sold out, thanks to rumors that the city would soon be issuing another “do not drink” advisory for tap water. It didn’t.

But water pollution in the Maumee River and western Lake Erie is creating harmful blooms so large, you can literally see them from space.

M. Horath

Canada geese have been spending their winters farther north.

Scientists have figured out geese are drawn to cities for safety more so than for food.

Michael Ward is an associate professor in the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He’s an author of a study on Canada geese in the Chicago region.

Ward and his team fitted Canada geese with radio collars and tracked them for two years, trying to understand why there are so many geese in Chicago during the winter.

“And what we learned was that they weren’t going there for food, they were going there because there were no hunters,” he explains. “So all of the Canada geese that spent the winter in Chicago survived, whereas half of the birds that decided to leave the Chicagoland area and go to areas where hunting is allowed and more prevalent were harvested.”

Ward says geese are all about conserving energy.

satellite map of Michigan, the Great Lakes
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

People are gathering in Buffalo this week for the annual Great Lakes restoration conference.

At the top of their list is making sure Congress fully funds the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative in the 2018 budget.

President Trump’s proposed budget included massive cuts to the GLRI.

Todd Ambs is the campaign director for the Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition.

Pete Markham / Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

Lake Superior is cold, deep and clear. But it’s no longer the clearest of the Great Lakes.

Lakes Michigan and Huron have gotten clearer, bumping Lake Superior to number three.

Scientists have been able to figure how much clearer by using satellite imagery.

Kerry Wixted / Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

Forests in our region are under attack from a shrub.

The culprit is an ornamental plant called Japanese barberry. It was introduced from Asia in the late 1800s. It’s been in used in landscaping in Michigan for decades, but it’s considered invasive.

I just found out I have some in my front yard.

They’re pretty, with bright red berries that birds love to eat.

The Velsicol Superfund sites in St. Louis, Michigan.
Kaye LaFond / Michigan Radio

Researchers find there could be more health effects lingering decades after a toxic contamination of Michigan’s food supply.

Map showing the land owned by the Huron Mountain Club as of 2006.
Kaye LaFond / Michigan Radio

Well... it's not an absolute "no."

It's more of a "probably not," given what we've learned about the Huron Mountain Club in reporting this story.

We'll get to the downright practical ways you might get into the club below. In the meantime, we'll just say it doesn't hurt your chances if you’re Channing Tatum, or related to Henry Ford (and even Ford had trouble getting in).

Courtesy of Kraig Biocraft Laboratories

The silky strands made by spiders are prized for their strength and suppleness. Now, scientists in the Great Lakes region are using technology to reproduce spider silk. And there's a wide range of users – from the Army to a famous British fashion designer.

Two beekeepers looking at a frame.
Rebecca Kruth / Michigan Radio

Most veterinarians probably don't picture themselves working with bees. But thanks to new federal regulations, more and more might soon find themselves with six-legged patients.

Courtesy photo / 110th Attack Wing, Battle Creek Air National Guard Base

There’s a new guy running the drinking water division at the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality.

Eric Oswald served 12 years of active duty in the Air Force. He spent the last five years as a commander at the Air National Guard Base in Battle Creek.

Oswald is not a drinking water expert.

U.S. Supreme Court
U.S. Supreme Court

The number of state and federal lawsuits related to climate change has been on the rise since 2006.

Sabrina McCormick is an associate professor of environmental and occupational health at The George Washington University Miliken Institute School of Public Health. She's the lead author of a study in the journal Science that finds the role of climate science in court is changing.

Smallmouth bass
micropterus_dolomieu / Wikimedia commons

Antidepressants that people take are building up in the brains of fish like walleye, bass, and perch. Researchers studied fish from the Niagara River, which connects lakes Erie and Ontario.

Sara Bird / Michigan Tech

Earthworms seem pretty harmless. But they’re causing problems for Michigan’s multi-million dollar sugar maple industry.

That’s the finding of a study by Tara Bal, a research assistant professor of forest resources and environmental science at Michigan Technological University.

The historic Whitney Mansion
Levin Energy Partners

The 123-year old Whitney Mansion wastes a lot of electricity. But now the Detroit icon is going green. Let's just hope the ghost living there is okay with it.

Bloody red shrimp under a dissecting scope
NOAA Great Lakes Environmental Research Lab

Around the Great Lakes, millions of dollars are spent to fight invasive species like Asian carp. But when scientists find a new animal or plant in the area, it’s not always clear if it’s harmful or helpful.

Flyfisherman Dave McCool casts to catch a common carp on Grand Traverse Bay.
Courtesy of Dave McCool

Common carp have been in Michigan since the late 1800s. They’re not considered an invasive species because they’ve been around so long. Many people consider them to be a “trash fish,” but flyfishing for carp is very popular in northern Michigan.

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

There’s a green bloom of cyanobacteria on Lake Erie again. People who run water utilities and scientists are watching the bloom because the cyanobacteria can produce toxins called microcystins that are dangerous for people and pets. It's what made Toledo’s drinking water unsafe to drink in 2014.

Chris Winslow directs Ohio Sea Grant and Ohio State University’s Stone Laboratory. He says the bloom’s covering about 10% of the western basin.

The blacklegged tick can transmit the bacteria that causes Lyme disease.
CDC

Experts tell us it’s important to treat Lyme disease early, and state officials say Lyme disease is the most common tick-borne disease in Michigan. 

But officials with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say it can sometimes be confused with a similar condition that’s also transmitted by ticks, called Southern Tick-Associated Rash Illness, or STARI.

Varroa mites attached to honey bees.
Zachary Huang / MSU

Varroa mites are considered the worst pest of honey bees worldwide. The mites suck blood from the bees and transmit viruses to them.

Researchers have identified six genes in the mites that could be used to attack them.

Zachary Huang is an associate professor of entomology at Michigan State University.

“We found four genes that would reduce their reproduction and two genes that would kill them pretty fast, so those would be used for their control later, perhaps,” he says.

Photo by freestocks.org on Unsplash

One of the toughest things about being a parent in Flint right now is the uncertainty. If your kid gets diagnosed with ADHD, or struggles in school, there’s a part of you that wonders: is it because of the lead exposure?  

Asian carp
USGS

An Asian carp was caught this summer in a place where it shouldn’t be – beyond an electric barrier meant to keep the species out of Lake Michigan and the rest of the Great Lakes. Now, a researcher at Southern Illinois University is trying to figure out just how it got there.

Sea lamprey
Michigan State University

The sea lamprey is an invasive fish with a round mouth like a suction cup. It latches onto big fish like lake trout and salmon, drills its razor sharp tongue into them, and gets fat drinking their blood and body fluids. A single lamprey can kill up to 40 pounds of fish in its lifetime.

We spend about $20 million dollars a year to control lampreys. One of the main ways people do that is with a pesticide, but researchers are working on other ways to control the invasive species.

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