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.

Image used with permission from Environmental Science and Technology Letters.

A new study found fluorinated chemicals in one third of the fast food packages researchers tested. The chemicals keep oil and grease from leaking through.

The researchers found that out of 407 food packages tested, 46% of food contact papers and 20% of paperboard contained fluorinated chemicals.

Scientists have found this class of chemicals doesn't break down in the environment, and some kinds of fluorinated chemicals are linked to health problems.

EPA

There’s been a lot going on at the Environmental Protection Agency lately.

First, the Trump administration barred anyone at the EPA from communicating with the public. Then, a White House official announced that EPA research could be subject to review by the administration.

The Trump administration has sent strong signals that it’s going to be friendly to industry.

Grass carp
USGS

There are grass carp in three of the Great Lakes, but it’s not too late to do something about it.

That’s one of the conclusions of a new risk assessment on this type of Asian carp by the United States and Canada.

Rebecca Williams / Michigan Radio

Ann Arbor is joining a "guerrilla archiving" movement.

Librarians, web developers and other volunteers are working fast to save scientific data from federal agency websites.

It’s called Ann Arbor Data Rescue, and it’s part of a larger project that’s springing up around the U.S. and Canada.

They’re doing this in case the Trump Administration changes or removes data.

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

 

There are a lot of former industrial sites in Michigan that need to be cleaned up. The pollution left behind in one town in the middle of Michigan is particularly bad. The Velsicol Chemical Company (known as Michigan Chemical up until 1976) produced a lot of toxic chemicals in St. Louis, Michigan.

 

A mild weather day
Emma Winowiecki / Michigan Radio

2016 was the hottest year on record.

When we talk about climate change, we usually talk about extreme weather events: extreme heat, drought, flooding. But scientists have also studied what’s likely to happen with the best weather days. Days that are not too hot, not too cold, or humid or rainy. Just right.

Honey bees face a number of threats.
cygnus921 / Creative Commons

Researchers have found a chemical that’s widely used on crops such as almonds, wine grapes and tree fruits can be bad for bees.

They’ve found it makes honey bee larvae more susceptible to deadly viruses.

Gov. Snyder delivers his 2017 State of the State address.
House TV

The environment came up a handful of times in Governor Snyder’s State of the State address.

The governor was often light on details, and he didn't talk about the Flint water crisis until halfway through the speech.

But Snyder did announce some new initiatives. He called for more investment in our aging infrastructure, announced a work group to study environmental justice issues, reminded the Legislature that he wants tighter standards for lead in drinking water.

Brian Peshek

Earlier this month, Republicans in the U.S. House made it easier for the federal government to give up control of public lands to states.

Many of the most avid users of these lands, especially hunters and anglers, are on edge about the idea.

(Support trusted journalism like this in Michigan. Give what you can here.)

Dan Mullen / U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

For the first time in the U.S., a bumble bee has been listed as an endangered species. 

It’s called the rusty patched bumble bee. The species is no longer found in Michigan, but small populations still exist elsewhere in the Great Lakes region.

Waves on Lake Michigan.
user ellenm1 / Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

Tsunamis in the oceans are often triggered by earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. But scientists say there’s a kind of tsunami that’s also a common occurrence on the Great Lakes.

These waves aren’t nearly as big as the ones on the oceans, but they can be deadly.

One reported to be 10 feet tall hit a Chicago pier in 1954 and seven people drowned.

Here's a meteorological model of that event:

Adam Bechle is a researcher at the University of Wisconsin. He says tsunamis on the Great Lakes are not so different from the ones in the ocean.

The Chevy Bolt
Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

The Chevy Bolt won the 2017 North American Car of the Year. It’s a long-range electric car.

The EPA estimates the Bolt can travel 238 miles per charge, and GM thinks of it as an electric car that will have mass appeal. After a federal tax credit, the price of the car comes in around $30,000.

Tesla is planning to release a more affordable electric car. They call it the Model 3. But GM beat Tesla to it.

Karl Brauer is executive publisher at Auto Trader.

Hemlock woolly adelgid
Michigan DNR

State officials want you to check your trees for a tiny insect. It’s called the hemlock woolly adelgid, and it survives by sucking sap from hemlock trees.

This insect was first detected in Michigan in 2006.

Tracy Samilton / Michigan Radio

The U.S. EPA estimates that companies in Michigan waste up to a third of the energy they buy because of inefficient buildings and equipment.

But most of the companies just keep paying those high energy bills, month after month, because they can't make a business case for a big energy efficiency project. The payback for the upgrades takes too long – often ten or more years.

Andy Levin is the CEO of Lean and Green Michigan.

Rolf Peterson outside Bangsund Cabin on Isle Royale.
Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

The winter study of the wolves and moose on Isle Royale is heading into its 59th year. The wolf-moose study is the longest running study of any predator and its prey in the world.

Scientists from Michigan Tech spend several weeks on the island in the middle of winter every year. They'll be heading back out soon.

Peter Payette / Interlochen Public Radio

Last month, we heard how an abundance of deer is reshaping the forests in northern Michigan. Deer are eliminating trees like maple, oak and cedar in many places.

The trees can’t reproduce because any seedling that sprouts up is eaten.

Today, we visit a forest in Leelanau County where a conservation group has taken an unusual step to address the problem.

Rachel Kramer / User: Flickr

Bald eagles came off the endangered species list in 2007 because they were doing so well. These days you can see more bald eagles than in any time in the past 50 years, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The agency has just finalized a new rule about bald and golden eagles, which revises the permitting system for unintentional impacts on eagles.

Drilling permits at 89-year low in Michigan

Dec 20, 2016
Sam Corden / Interlochen Public Radio

2016 will soon close as the second slowest year in history for Michigan oil and gas development. State officials say so far, only 12 oil wells have been drilled, and six of those have been dry.

Data from the state show that last year, only 100 permits were issued for well drilling. That’s the lowest number since 1927. This year, that number’s plummeted to a mere 40.

A lot of factors are at play, including a growing market for alternative energy. But experts say the decline can be mostly attributed to an over-saturated global market.

Dana and Charles Banks in front of their Flint home, shortly before they sold it..
Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

A year ago, Flint Mayor Karen Weaver declared a state of emergency in the city. Now, officials say the water is improving, but it’s still not safe to drink without a filter.

The water crisis has forced some people to make tough choices.

Dana Banks and her husband Charles were both born and raised in Flint, and they still have a lot of family here. Their church is here. Their house, right near downtown, is the first home they bought together.

Kate Langwig and her team have found evidence that some bats may be developing resistance to the deadly disease.
Jennifer Redel

There’s some hopeful news about a disease that’s killing bats.

White-nose syndrome is killing millions of bats in 29 states including Michigan, and five Canadian provinces. It’s a disease caused by a fungus.

But there might be a glimmer of hope. Researchers have found some bats in the U.S. appear to have developed resistance to the disease.

Caviar, climate change and a Great Lakes fish

Dec 6, 2016
Lake herring
Peter Payette

Scientists have been worried about the herring population in Lake Superior recently. In fact, last year they warned it might collapse.

Lake Superior is the only one of the Great Lakes with a large population of this native fish.

This fall, new rules protecting herring took effect in Wisconsin and Minnesota and things appear more stable.

But there may still be a big problem lying beneath the surface.

Asbestos sign
Michael Coghlan / Flickr, http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

The Environmental Protection Agency just put out a list of ten high priority chemicals.

These are the first chemicals the agency will review for risks to human health and the environment under a new law that Congress passed this summer.

Courtesy of Doug Darling

On the campaign trail, President-elect Donald Trump said that he would rescind the Waters of the U.S. Rule, which outlines what kinds of water bodies are federally protected.

Environmentalists say the rule is necessary to safeguard our ecosystems and drinking water.

But many in the agriculture industry don’t like the rule—they say it’s an over-reach, and they’re worried it will give the federal government more say over what they can (and can’t) do on their fields.

The DeYoung Power Plant in Holland.
Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

This year is likely to be the hottest on record. Scientists with the World Meteorological Organization announced that recently, as world leaders met in Morocco to talk about limiting the impacts of climate change.

President-elect Donald Trump has called climate change a hoax, and he’s said he’ll withdraw from the Paris climate agreement.

Andy Hoffman is a professor with the Ross School of Business and education director for the Graham Sustainability Institute at the University of Michigan.

He says we don’t really know what the president-elect’s climate policy will look like.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

New test results show lead levels in Kalamazoo’s water system have dropped.

The federal limit for lead in water is 15 parts per billion. Last time the city tested, in 2014, Kalamazoo’s lead level was 13 parts per billion. Now it's down to 4 ppb.

13 ppb was close enough to worry Shannan Deater, Kalamazoo’s Environmental Services Programs Manager. She says some of the higher lead results in 2014 weren’t really a good, representative sample. 

Power plant
Courtesy of Duke Energy

President-elect Donald Trump has called global warming "a very expensive hoax," despite agreement among the vast majority of climate scientists that climate change is happening now and is mainly human-caused. Trump has also put climate change skeptic Myron Ebell in charge of his EPA transition team.

What hungry deer mean for Michigan's northern forests

Nov 10, 2016
Flickr user Mike Bell / http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

With the start of firearm season next Tuesday, hunters will spread out across Michigan in search of white-tailed deer. Long, cold winters in the recent past have not helped deer thrive up north, particularly in the Upper Peninsula.

But foresters and conservation groups say there are still far too many deer in northern Michigan, and they are creating severe problems for forests.

Wilson Hui / Flickr

Nestle owns a water bottling plant in Stanwood, Michigan, north of Grand Rapids. It bottles spring water for its Ice Mountain and Pure Life brands.

The company wants to increase the amount of water it pulls out of the ground at one of its wells. The well is about 35 miles north of Stanwood in Evart, Michigan. To do that, it needs a permit from the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, and the public is supposed to weigh in on whether the company should get that permit.

But a lot of people didn’t hear about it – until it was almost too late.

David Lobbig / Courtesy of Jenny Chipault

In the last few weeks, roughly 600 birds have died along the shore of Lake Michigan. They washed up on the beaches within the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, with more dead birds reported on beaches in the Upper Peninsula.

Joe Connolly / Cornell University

There’s a new creature in the Great Lakes and it has “cyclops” in its name.

It’s called Thermocyclops crassus. It’s a kind of zooplankton.

Elizabeth Hinchey Molloy is with the EPA’s Great Lakes Program Office. She says it's extremely small.

“It’s less than one millimeter, so smaller than the dot a pencil makes,” she says.

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