The Environment Report

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The Environment Report hosted by Rebecca Williams explores the relationship between the natural world and the everyday lives of people in Michigan. Send us your story ideas by following the link above!

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The Environment Report
8:50 am
Tue March 11, 2014

Neighbors express concerns about proposed sand and gravel mine near Chelsea

Mary Mandeville (L) and Tim and Mary Jane Eder on Island Lake. The proposed mine site is west of the lake.
Rebecca Williams Michigan Radio

You can listen to today's Environment Report above.

A Ready-Mix concrete company, McCoig Materials, wants to open up a mine on a site north of Chelsea. The two parcels of land they want to mine are in between the Waterloo and Pinckney Recreation areas. This part of southeast Michigan has a lot of little lakes and unique natural areas.

McCoig Materials wants to operate the mine for 22 to 30 years and remove 11 million tons of sand and gravel.

People who live on the lakes nearby have been raising concerns about that.

Mary Mandeville spends summers in her cottage at Island Lake.

“Just to the west of us is where the proposed gravel mine would be putting in their operations. We’re very concerned about the impact on the environment, on the water table level. We’re concerned about air quality with all the dust from the dumping of the gravel into the trucks.”

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The Environment Report
8:55 am
Thu March 6, 2014

President's budget cuts Great Lakes programs

The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative provides money for habitat restoration, keeping invasive species out of the Lakes, and cleaning up polluted areas.
Rebecca Williams Michigan Radio

You can listen to today's Environment Report above.

President Obama’s 2015 budget includes some cuts to Great Lakes programs.

Obama is asking for $275 million for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative. That would be $25 million less than the current funding level.

Todd Ambs is the campaign director of the Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition. He says if the cuts go through, you'd see projects slow down.

“Whether it’s a contaminated cleanup project that’s underway but not completed, or a habitat restoration effort or dealing with the problems of keeping aquatic invasive species out of the Great Lakes.”

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The Environment Report
8:55 am
Tue March 4, 2014

Invasive lampreys getting too comfortable in Michigan's Inland Waterway?

A face only its mother could love.
Photo by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

You can listen to today's Environment Report here.

We spend about $21 million a year keeping invasive sea lampreys in check in the Great Lakes.

But they’re resilient creatures. Even after we spend all that money, we still can’t get rid of them.

Scientists now suspect lampreys are getting a little too comfortable up north.

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The Environment Report
2:52 pm
Thu February 27, 2014

What all the snow and ice will mean for Great Lakes water levels

Icy Lake Michigan channel at Grand Haven in 2011.
R. Greaves NOAA GLERL

Listen to Drew Gronewold talking about what our snowy winter means for our summer beach and boating trips.

It might seem a little counterintuitive, but right now, a bunch of scientists are thinking about how high the water at Great Lakes beaches will be this summer.

Early last year, the Lake Michigan-Lake Huron system hit record low water levels.

It made life tougher for the shipping industry, and it’s hard on people who run Great Lakes ports.

Russell Dzuba is the harbor master in Leland.

“For us, it’s shallow. When we went to dredge this year we had to go a foot deeper and the world was a foot shorter, if you will,” he says.

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The Environment Report
9:50 am
Tue February 25, 2014

Archeologists Diverge On Discovery In Lake Michigan

Originally published on Tue February 25, 2014 9:18 am

Archeologists studying a wooden beam pulled from northern Lake Michigan this summer can't say whether it is a piece of the first European ship to sail the upper Great Lakes or a post from an old fishing net. The group managing the project is close to issuing a report to the state archeologist, but it won’t reach any firm conclusion.

Read on to discover the evidence that points to each conclusion.

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The Environment Report
12:43 pm
Thu February 20, 2014

Enbridge has a new plan for dredging parts of the Kalamazoo River

The Benteler site (green) is where Enbridge will set up for their dredging project.
Enbridge

Enbridge Energy is still cleaning up oil left over from its pipeline spill in the Kalamazoo River.  

The company has already recovered most of the oil, but it's still working to comply with an order from the federal regulators, who say they need to clean up another 180,000 gallons. 

According to Enbridge's new plan, they can start that cleanup March 15. But that's all dependent on this crazy weather. Right now, everything is frozen. But, if spring warms things up and there's flooding, that can also be problematic for the dredging process. 

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The Environment Report
11:10 am
Tue February 18, 2014

New farm bill shakes up the way we pay for land conservation

user acrylicartist MorgueFile.com

You can listen to today's Environment Report above.

The farm bill has about $57 billion for conservation.

Director of the Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition Todd Ambs says a lot of people don't realize the farm bill is where we find the largest source of conservation money from the federal government.

"That’s because there are so many activities that happen on the land that bring us our food, that if done improperly can have a very adverse impact on the soil and also to surrounding waterways," he says.

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The Environment Report
10:52 am
Thu February 13, 2014

Backyard farmers to lose Right to Farm protection?

Wendy Banka and one of her salmon faverolle chickens.
Rebecca Williams Michigan Radio

Take a listen to Wendy Banka and her chickens, and MPRN's Jake Neher describing why some state officials say backyard farms should not be covered by the Right to Farm Act.

Life could soon get a little harder for backyard farmers.

A law passed in 1981 protects Michigan farmers from nuisance lawsuits. It’s called the Right to Farm Act.  It was created to protect farmers from angry neighbors who were moving out into rural areas from cities.

At the moment, the law also protects people who raise chickens and other animals in their backyards.

Wendy Banka lives in Ann Arbor.  She has seven chickens with orange feathers living in a coop in her backyard.

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The Environment Report
3:33 pm
Tue February 11, 2014

Study finds liver tumors in mice exposed to low levels of BPA

Bisphenol A lines the inside of most metal food and drink cans.
(Photo courtesy of Sun Ladder at Wikimedia Commons)

We’re all regularly exposed to the chemical Bisphenol A or BPA. Companies have taken it out of baby bottles, and many kinds of those hard plastic water bottles no longer have BPA in them.

But it’s still used on paper receipts and to line most food and drink cans.

Dana Dolinoy is a Searle Assistant Professor of Environmental Health Sciences at the University of Michigan School of Public Health.

“There is mounting evidence that BPA has negative health effects in both animal models and humans,” says Dolinoy.

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The Environment Report
10:54 am
Thu February 6, 2014

How emergency responders in Michigan are preparing for the next pipeline break

Workers measure pipe before cutting and removing the section from the Enbridge pipeline oil spill site near Marshall, Michigan. This photo was taken on August 6th, 2010.
EPA

There are close to 70,000 miles of underground pipelines in Michigan carrying all kinds of materials around the state – things like natural gas, refined petroleum, and crude oil.

And for the most part, we really don’t notice these pipelines. That was true in Michigan until one summer day three and half years ago when this happened:

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The Environment Report
1:42 pm
Tue February 4, 2014

Researcher hunts for new medicines in the Great Lakes

Brian T. Murphy, left, and Mark Sadek, just before boarding the RV Lake Guardian for a week-long sampling mission.
Brian Murphy

Brian Murphy talks about his hunt for bacteria at the bottom of the Great Lakes that could lead to new medicines.

Let's call today Throwback Tuesday, and go way, way back to the 1920s.

That's when Sir Alexander Fleming stumbled on a mold that stopped bacteria from growing in a petri dish. He called it penicillin.

Ever since that huge discovery, people have been looking all over the Earth for more organisms that can fight disease.

Brian Murphy has been searching at the bottom of the Great Lakes.

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The Environment Report
9:00 am
Tue February 4, 2014

Farm bill likely to help preserve N. Michigan farms

user acrylicartist MorgueFile.com

The new farm bill should help farmland preservation efforts in northern Michigan.

The way farmland preservation works is farmers sell the right to develop their land, so it can never be divided up for houses or strip malls. The federal government spends hundreds of millions of dollars every year to protect farmland, and that will continue under the new farm bill.

But the federal dollars need to be matched locally, which can be a challenge in a region where land is so valuable.

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The Environment Report
7:00 am
Tue January 28, 2014

Two stories of Michigan solar power ambitions

Jim Wolter, right, and Ed Brandel of Energy Partners LLC in Muskegon.
Courtesy Photo

First up, a Michigan man who’s trying to win millions of dollars with solar power.

He’s trying to put solar panels on as many Michigan homes and businesses as he possibly can.

Prasad Gullapalli’s Novi-based Srinergy wants you to invest in solar panels – for your home, for your business – doesn’t matter. He’s looking for anybody in Michigan to go solar.

He’s making the offer with no upfront costs.

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The Environment Report
9:38 am
Thu January 16, 2014

Can sewage treatment plants protect fish from the chemicals in the water?

The USGS found that a third of all the male smallmouth bass they sampled had intersex traits.
micropterus_dolomieu Wikimedia commons

So you know the saying, right? Stuff flows downhill? Myron Erickson knows a lot about that "stuff."

He heads up the sewage treatment plant that sits along the Grand River in Wyoming, Michigan (right next to Grand Rapids).

The screening room is where they take out the "grit." Erickson calls them "knick knacks."

"It's a small particle like sand, and also all things that come to us in sewage, like peas, and corn, and peanuts," says Erickson.

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The Environment Report
9:05 am
Tue January 14, 2014

What should we do about the trace chemicals found in drinking water?

Lack of funds threaten to shut down a monitoring system for southeast Michigan's drinking water.
user william_warby Flickr

The radio version of this story.

Before I talk about the small bits of chemicals often found in drinking water, I want to direct some attention to the national water contamination story going on now because I think it reveals something.

The water is bad in West Virginia

The nation has its eyes on a nine-county area in West Virginia that’s under a state of emergency. A coal-processing chemical leaked into a river and poisoned the drinking water there. Cleanup is ongoing. As they attempt to flush the chemical out of their drinking water systems, officials are trying to determine what level of the chemical is safe.

Ken Ward Jr. of the West Virgina Gazette reports that local and federal officials are saying that "1 part per million" of  crude 4-methylcyclohexanemethanol (the coal processing chemical) is safe for people to drink.

But Ward is having a tough time finding out what they based that number on:

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Environment & Science
11:27 am
Thu January 9, 2014

Will plans to stop Asian carp invasion take too long?

A silver carp. Great Lakes advocates are disappointed the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers did not recommend a plan of action when it released a study outlining eight scenarios to stop Asian carp from invading the Great Lakes.
Dan O'Keefe Michigan Sea Grant

This week, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers issued a study about what might be done to keep those invasive Asian carp out of the Great Lakes.

It took seven years and that was a rush job after some members of Congress accused the Corps of dragging its feet.

The study outlines eight scenarios.

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The Environment Report
9:32 am
Thu January 9, 2014

Food industry asks to label genetically engineered ingredients as 'natural'

March Against Monsanto, Vancouver, Canada
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The food industry wants the government to give the okay for calling products using genetically engineered ingredients “natural” foods.

I went to my local grocery store looking for the term “natural” or “naturally” and I didn’t have to go very far.

In the cereal aisle I found products labeled “naturally flavored,” “100% natural,” and an “all natural pancake mix.” A couple aisles over, looking at the chips there were “all natural” pretzels, “naturally sweet” popcorn, and then there was a drink with a label that read “naturally flavored beverage with other natural flavors blended with vitamins.”

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Environment & Science
9:00 am
Tue January 7, 2014

You could choose your own power company under new legislation

The Frankenmuth Bavarian Inn, right, and its competitor, Zehnder's of Frankenmuth, compete for the same customers. One of the businesses is allowed to buy power from the market while the other must buy from a Michigan power company. There's a 10% cap on buying power from out-of-state providers.
Credit Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

Michigan could deregulate the electricity market, allowing people to choose where they buy electricity.

In downtown Frankenmuth there are two very popular restaurants: the Frankenmuth Bavarian Inn and right across the street, Zehnder’s of Frankenmuth. Both are famous for their chicken dinners. And the owners are cousins -- both of them are Zehnders.

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Environment & Science
9:00 am
Thu January 2, 2014

Why airports look like home to snowy owls

Credit Hundreds of snowy owls have descended on the Great Lakes and Northeast as part of this year's "irruption." / toddraden

Every year, some snowy owls make their way south from their Arctic homeland in search of food, and some of us here in the Great Lakes region have been lucky enough to spot these magnificent birds on tree branches, or poles, or … near airports.

Airports have wide open treeless spaces, and can look a lot like home to snowy owls. And for wildlife specialists who work at airports from the Great Lakes to the Northeast, this has been a busy winter.

Eight owls trapped in one week at DTW

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The Environment Report
8:06 am
Thu December 19, 2013

Ypsilanti family finds happiness in living off the land

Julia, Amelie, Eliah & Jason Gold.
Credit Kyle Norris/Michigan Radio

Meet the Gold family. They're modern day homesteaders. 

Their goal is to live as self-sufficiently as possible on their three-acre farm in Ypsilanti. (They often say they use yesterday's knowledge combined with today's technology.)

Two years ago they started the Michigan Folk School. The school promotes traditional folk arts and the preservation of forest and farmland.

To find out why the family started the school, and why they became homesteaders in the first place, listen to this week's Environment Report, right here.

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