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
4:39 pm
Tue July 16, 2013

Scientists diagnose streams in trouble

How well a stream supports algal, macroinvertebrate, and fish communities tells scientists how healthy that stream is.
USGS

Federal scientists just wrapped up a look at the health of the nation’s streams and rivers. It was a big effort, looking at 20 years of data.

Daren Carlisle is an ecologist with the U.S. Geological Survey and the lead author of the study.

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The Environment Report
9:00 am
Tue July 16, 2013

EPA delays decision on 'Mount PCB,' cleanup continues at another site

The EPA's Paul Ruesch describing where current work is underway in Portage Creek. Sarah Reding (right) is VP of Conservation Stewardship at Kalamazoo Nature Center.

You can listen to today's Environment Report above.

For decades, paper mills dumped waste into the Kalamazoo River. The waste contains polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs.  

People can be exposed to PCBs by eating fish from the river. The chemicals can cause cancer, and other health effects.

The biggest concentration of the waste is a 1.5-million-cubic-yard pile in a residential area in Kalamazoo, nicknamed Mount PCB.

Now, the Environmental Protection Agency says it will release a feasibility study of the options for the pile by September. For a little perspective, this study was supposed to come out as far back as April 2011.

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The Environment Report
11:21 am
Thu July 11, 2013

Unlocking the secrets of sea lamprey love

MSU researcher Yu-Wen Chung-Davidson with a sea lamprey.
Rebecca Williams Michigan Radio

You can listen to today's Environment Report above.

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.

Scientists spend a lot of time trying to outsmart them, and they’ve just made a new discovery.

When you’re a male sea lamprey, with that slimy skin, and a suction cup full of teeth for a face: you’ve got to compensate for that somehow.

Hey baby, is it hot in here? Or is it just me?

It turns out male sea lampreys are hot. They grow a swollen ridge on their back when they’re sexually mature. Scientists at Michigan State University have discovered that ridge heats up when males get around a lady lamprey.

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The Environment Report
10:49 am
Tue July 9, 2013

Developer wants to build homes on reclaimed sand mining site

Plans for a housing development around the South Lake site in Norton Shores.
Castle Dunes LLC

You can listen to today's Environment Report here or read the first story in the segment below.

Castle Dunes LLC is proposing to develop more than 200 acres of reclaimed sand mining land in Norton Shores near Muskegon. The company has a purchase agreement to buy the land from the Nugent Sand Company.

A public hearing is being held today to begin the zoning process at the Norton Shores Planning Commission meeting (tonight at 5:30pm in the community room of the Norton Shores Branch Library at 705 Seminole).

The company wants to build single family properties and condominiums around a man-made lake.

That lake was created by mining the sand from the dunes. It turned out to be a major problem for a previous developer when the water levels in the lake rose.

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The Environment Report
8:55 am
Tue July 2, 2013

Northern Michigan winemakers hunt for a signature grape

Photo courtesy of Michigan Wines

You can listen to today's Environment Report here or read the story below.

Michigan’s wine grape acreage has doubled over the past decade, and many say the quality of Michigan wine has also grown dramatically.

But to uncork a young wine region’s fullest potential, you need something more… you need a signature grape.

And there’s debate among winemakers in northern Michigan as to whether that’s been discovered yet.

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The Environment Report
8:57 am
Tue June 25, 2013

There are 7 places in Michigan where you can text data to scientists

A CrowdHydrology site in Michigan. Each site includes a giant measuring staff and a sign explaining how passersby can contribute to the project by texting water levels to scientists.
CrowdHydrology

You can listen to this story on today's Environment Report (the interview with Chris Lowry starts about a minute in).

If you’ve ever wanted to get involved in science but thought it sounded like a lot of work, now all you have to do is send a text.

Chris Lowry is an assistant professor of geology at the University at Buffalo. He’s the co-creator of CrowdHydrology. You can think of it as crowdsourcing information about water.

“So basically how this works is we have some giant rulers that are set up in streams and there’s a little sign on the top of the ruler that says ‘please text us the water level’ and people who are walking by these signs with their mobile phones can look at the ruler and make a measurement off that ruler of what the water level would be at that particular time of the day and send us a text message," he says.

Then, the data you enter goes into an online database.

"And about five minutes after they send in that text message there’s a point on the plot that appears on our CrowdHydrology web page,” Lowry says.

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The Environment Report
9:07 am
Tue June 18, 2013

Ford Airport proposes new system to prevent bacterial slime in nearby creek

This vehicle squeegees deicing fluid off the pavement during the winter months. Then it vacuums the fluid it can to be recycled.
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

You can listen to today's Environment Report here or read an expanded version of the story below.

The main airport in Grand Rapids is proposing to build a new system to prevent the buildup of a bacterial film in a nearby river. The system would be the first of its kind at airports in Michigan.

In the winter, airplanes across the state are sprayed down with a fluid to prevent the buildup of snow and ice.

At Gerald R. Ford International Airport, roughly a third of that de-icing fluid makes its way into a small creek nearby. Bacteria in the creek can easily break down the fluid but they create a smelly film in the process.

The state considers the bio-slime a nuisance, not a human health risk. But it does deplete the oxygen, choking out aquatic life.

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The Environment Report
8:55 am
Thu June 13, 2013

Safety info now part of Great Lakes beach app

The myBeachCast app shows weather and water conditions, and whether there are any safety or water quality alerts.
Great Lakes Commission

Before you head to the beach this summer, you might want to check on the conditions.

There’s a free beach app you can get for your Android phone.  It’s called myBeachCast.

You can bookmark your favorite Great Lakes beaches, find out the wind and water conditions, and check to see if there are any beach closings for a particular day.

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The Environment Report
9:03 am
Tue June 11, 2013

Most of us are slackers when it comes to hand washing

Gotta use soap and water kitty.
user jsome1 Flickr

You can listen to today's Environment Report above.

New research finds men are dirtier than women, but not by much.

Health officials say that washing your hands is the best thing you can do to avoid getting sick.

When it comes to putting that into practice, studies have found that a lot of us say we do a good job, but researchers found most of us don’t do anywhere near as good a job as we should.

Carl Borchgrevink is an associate professor in the School of Hospitality Business at Michigan State University.

“We found that people do not wash their hands as much as they should… or to be blunt… there’s a lot of dirty hands out there,” he says.

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Environment & Science
4:54 pm
Tue June 4, 2013

There's a tick boom in Michigan - Here are 5 things you should know

A blacklegged tick identification guide
CDC

On today's Environment Report, we talked about ticks.

Michigan State University entomologist Howard Russell told me that tick season is booming in Michigan this year.

And the boom is happening in areas where ticks were relatively rare a few years ago.

Specifically, Russell says the blacklegged tick population is expanding in Michigan. Those are the bad ones. The suckers that can carry Lyme disease.

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The Environment Report
9:00 am
Tue May 28, 2013

The curious history of a tasty little Great Lakes fish

The Chubby Mary ® has a smoked chub in it.
Photo courtesy of The Cove. Used with permission.

You can listen to today's Environment Report above.

Not too long ago, we reported that native fish are doing really well in Lake Huron.

The fish involved are not exactly well known species. But there is one that’s a household name in lakeshore communities. Its success is sparking some scientific debate.

A fish cocktail

The owners of The Cove in Leland have a problem. Food and travel writers who pass through seldom forget to mention the Chubby Mary®.  It’s a Bloody Mary with a smoked chub in it.

Mario Batali even put a photo of the cocktail on Bon Appetit’s website along with his endorsement.

The problem is there aren’t many chubs for sale these days because they are really hard to find in the Great Lakes.

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The Environment Report
5:16 pm
Thu May 23, 2013

Spring floods bring bumper crop of mosquitoes

A mosquito enjoying its meal.
user trebol-a Flickr

You can listen to today's Environment Report above.

The worst mosquito swarms I’ve ever experienced are at my dad’s house in the country.

I’ll let my stepmom, Patty, explain:

“We actually run from the house to the car and when you open the door you get many in there, probably 30-40 mosquitoes, so you start swatting and you have to roll down your window and drive, as you’re getting eaten, to try to get the mosquitoes out.”

She says this spring is the worst she’s ever seen. It’s so bad, they attack you the minute you walk out the door and bite you through your clothes.  

So I decided to turn to a mosquito expert to find out what’s going on.

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The Environment Report
9:00 am
Tue May 21, 2013

West Michigan birders compete to find the most species

Jeff McKelvey, Evan Kowalski and Jill Goodell look for birds in the Blandford Nature Center.
Rebecca Williams Michigan Radio

You can listen to today's Environment Report above or read an expanded version of the story below.

If you’ve always thought of birding as a quiet, relaxing hobby… you haven’t been to a Birdathon.

During the recent West Michigan Birdathon, I met up with Team Fallout (as in migratory fallout) at the Blandford Nature Center. Shortly after I arrived, we were scrambling to the top of an overlook.

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The Environment Report
8:11 am
Tue May 14, 2013

Kalamazoo residents struggle with EPA over "Mount PCB"

Kalamazoo River Cleanup Coalition Executive Director Gary Wager points to the 1.5 million cubic yards of paper mill waste neighbors have dubbed Mount PCB.
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

You can listen to today's Environment Report above.

People in Kalamazoo are rallying to get rid of a major dump site that contains cancer causing waste.

Imagine decades’ worth of wood pulp and grey clay waste from the paper mill industry. There are 1.5 million cubic yards of it and it’s laced with polychlorinated biphenyls or PCBs.

Now, plop it in the middle of a neighborhood.

Sarah Hill lives a little more than a mile away from what neighbors have dubbed "Mount PCB."

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The Environment Report
9:00 am
Tue May 7, 2013

U.P. residents weigh in on proposed wolf hunt (part 1)

A wolf pup, about three months old, in Mass City, MI.
Al Warren

You can listen to today's Environment Report above or read the story below.

This week, the Michigan Natural Resources Commission is expected to vote on whether to authorize a wolf hunt.

The hunt would take place in three separate zones in the Upper Peninsula

I traveled to the U.P. to talk with people who live near wolves to get their thoughts on the proposed hunt.

For many years, gray wolves were listed as an endangered species in Michigan. That ended last year.  But the battle between the wolves and locals in the Upper Peninsula has been going on for some time.   

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The Environment Report
12:26 pm
Thu May 2, 2013

By law, the state can only own so much land, but that might change

You can listen to today's Environment Report above.

The state of Michigan owns 4.6 million acres of land. But for now, the state can’t buy any more land. That’s because the Michigan Legislature capped the amount of land the state can own.

But there’s a release valve built into the law. Last fall, Governor Rick Snyder asked the Michigan Department of Natural Resources to make a strategic land management plan. If the Legislature likes it, then the land cap will be lifted.

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The Environment Report
12:43 pm
Tue April 30, 2013

Detroit high schoolers explore wilder side of Belle Isle

Students from Detroit's Western International High School check out the Belle Isle Conservatory after their nature hike was rained out.
Jonathan Hoard

If you’ve heard about Belle Isle in the news lately, it was probably a story about people fighting over who should control Detroit’s famous island park. Those political fights tend to overshadow the island’s unique ecosystem. It’s a tiny fragment of what southeast Michigan looked like before industrialization.

Recently, some Detroit schoolkids got to take a look at this natural heart of Belle Isle. I had the chance to tag along.

It wasn’t a great day to be out on Belle Isle. In fact, it was pretty miserable.  It was rainy and cold, and a lot of these ninth-graders from Detroit’s Western International High School didn’t exactly dress for the weather. But too bad.

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The Environment Report
12:48 pm
Thu April 25, 2013

US EPA to propose rules on wastewater from power plants

DTE's Monroe Power Plant would have to treat its coal slurry under a proposed EPA rule.
cford3 Wikipedia

Burning coal in a power plant creates byproducts called fly ash and bottom ash.  That ash contains a lot of bad stuff - mercury, lead, arsenic, to name a few.

While some plants ship the dry ash to landfills that accept hazardous materials, others mix the ash with water to make a slurry, which is moved into holding ponds.

Eventually, the water in those ponds is released into the nearest waterway.

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The Environment Report
10:36 am
Tue April 23, 2013

Grand Rapids officials looking ahead to next big storm

Anderson Eye Care Facebook.com

You can listen to today's Environment Report above.

The Grand River hit a record high level in Grand Rapids over the weekend.  Volunteers spent hours filling sandbags to protect homes and city buildings.

City managers are still dealing with the flood waters. But they’re also planning for future storms.

Haris Alibasic directs Grand Rapids’ Office of Energy and Sustainability.

“Given the more intense and more frequent, intense rain events we’re probably going to be experiencing, as climate change is anticipated to really have a serious impact in the Midwest," he says.

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The Environment Report
11:36 am
Thu April 18, 2013

Decision time for Isle Royale, only 8 wolves left

Rolf Peterson, John Vucetich Michigan Tech

You can listen to today's Environment Report here or read an expanded version of the story below.

Wolves and moose fight for survival on Michigan's Isle Royale National Park. For more than 50 years, researchers have been closely watching them in the world’s longest-running study of predators and prey.

The number of predators on the island has been sinking fast.

The Park is a dedicated wilderness area, so managers do their best to keep it as untouched by humans as possible. But people might need to step in.

Phyllis Green is the park's superintendent.  “At this point we’re concerned about the low levels of wolves on the island, but we’re also concerned about making sure the next steps we take are well-thought-out,” she says.

There are just eight wolves left on Isle Royale. This is the first year that Michigan Technological University researchers were unable to document any pups born to the wolves.

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