environment

Environment
12:48 pm
Tue April 17, 2012

One death blamed on yesterday's winds, crews work to restore power

A downed tree in Ann Arbor.
Mike Perini Michigan Radio

Winds whipping across the state yesterday with gusts of up to 55 mph brought down big trees and downed power lines.

The Associated Press reports the winds caused the death of a women in Van Buren County when a tree hit her van.

And the Lansing State Journal reports on an injury to a second grader:

Strong winds knocked a tree down onto a second-grader during recess at DeWitt’s Schavey Road Elementary Monday, school officials confirmed today.The student was taken to the hospital and is recovering, said Superintendent John Deiter.

Today, crews are working to bring power back to homes and businesses. An estimated 38,000 customers are without power.

More from the Associated Press:

DTE Energy Co. says that about 31,000 of its 106,000 electrical customers that lost power due to Monday's winds are without service early Tuesday. And CMS Energy Corp. says that about 7,000 of its
96,000 affected Consumers Energy customers are powerless as of Tuesday morning.

The winds caused the death of a woman when a tree hit her van in Van Buren County's Bloomingdale Township.

Environment
4:11 pm
Wed April 4, 2012

Michigan Hemlock trees infested by woolly adelgids

Woolly adelgids inhabit the underside of hemlock tree branch.
USGS

Flip over a branch of a hemlock tree, and you might spot them.

Nasty little critters in their cute woolly homes.

They're woolly adelgids (pronounced "ah-DELL'-jids").

They're native to Asia and have been spreading around the U.S. since 1924, and the bugs have infested forests along the east coast and the Smoky Mountain range.

They were spotted here in Michigan back in 2006, and again in 2010.

And today we have news that the sap-suckers have turned up in Michigan's southwestern corner.

More from the Associated Press:

The state Department of Agriculture and Rural Development announced Wednesday that hemlock woolly adelgid has been spotted in the New Buffalo area of Berrien County. One site had 41 infested trees and a second site had eight.

Authorities are surveying the area. All infested trees will be cut down, and nearby hemlocks will be treated with an insecticide.

The hemlock woolly adelgid has attacked trees in Emmet, Macomb and Ottawa counties since 2006. In each case, the infested trees were destroyed and there's been no evidence that the parasite has
spread.

The Michigan DNR says the invasive insect harms hemlocks by "sucking plant juices and by injecting a toxic saliva while feeding." Eventually, if left unchecked, the bugs will kill the tree.

In 2010, Michigan Radio's Jennifer Guerra spoke with Kelly Goward of the Ottawa Conservation District after the insect was found in that county.

She says the woolly adelgid can be spread through firewood or landscape nursery stock that gets moved around. She says HWA can also "be trasnferred naturally in the environment...they are kind of sticky, so they'll grab hold on a bird or as a deer brushes by a tree that's infected."

If you're concerned about your hemlock trees, you can inspect them by looking for a white cottony substance under the trees' branches.

The University of Kentucky's College of Agriculture says there are three common treatment options:

  1. insecticidal soap,
  2. imidacloprid soil injections,
  3. and biological control using tiny beetles native to the Pacific Northwest that feed on hemlock woolly adelgid. 

And the Michigan DNR has these suggestions for curbing the spread of woolly adelgids:

  • Carefully monitor your hemlock trees and report any infestation immediately, early detection is critical.

  • Since Hemlock Woolly Adelgid is primarily spread to native trees from planted stock, carefully inspect any purchased trees prior to planting.

  • Do not bring hemlock trees into Michigan from infested areas

Environment
3:25 pm
Mon March 26, 2012

Health officials release draft assessment of polluted site in mid-Michigan

The "former burn area" circled in part of the Gratiot County Golf Course.

The Michigan Department of Community Health (MDCH) released a draft assessment today of an area in Gratiot County once used to burn waste. The contaminated area is near St. Loius, Michigan.

From the MDCH:

Of the results from the Public Health Assessment, soil from the former burn area and from a nearby neighborhood did not have levels of chemicals over health-based screening levels. There are ash piles in the former burn area that do have levels of arsenic and lead over health-based screening levels. However, people are not expected to be harmed by those chemicals, as people will have little to no contact with the ash piles.

Further, shallow groundwater under the former burn area had higher levels of chemicals than groundwater from deeper underground. This could potentially mean that chemicals in the soil or ash piles at the former burn area could be moving into the groundwater. People have little, if any, contact with the shallow groundwater under the former burn area, and nearby private drinking water wells did not have chemical levels above health-based screening levels.

The MDCH officials are inviting comments from the public on their health assessment. Comments are being accepted through May 7.

The Environmental Protection Agency has been developing a cleanup plan for the site and the Velsicol chemical plant site.

Education
5:02 pm
Tue March 13, 2012

Environmental group questions Dow's sustainability gift to UofM

Imerman Park sits on the flood plain of the Tittabawassee River. Signs along the trail warn walkers about dioxin contamination in some of the park's soil.
Shawn Allee The Environment Report

Update 5:02 p.m.

Rick Fitzgerald, a spokesman for the University of Michigan, responded to concerns raised by an environmental group about Dow Chemical’s $10 million gift to the university.

The Ecology Center wants the university to release more details about the agreement between Dow and the U of M. In a press release, The Ecology Center’s Tracy Easthope urged the University “to make public the details of this gift, including whether the gift comes with strings attached.”

Fitzgerald said the University of Michigan has lots of partnerships with corporate funded research and other corporate philanthropy and has a “long track record of working very effectively with corporate partners in research projects.”

“We never turn over control of any research opportunities to the donors,” said Fitzgerald. “The program itself is directed by Don Scavia, the special counsel to the U of M President for Sustainability… and the program will continue to be directed by him and by the University of Michigan, and certainly when it comes to any curriculum development, that remains solely the responsibility of the U of M faculty and staff.”

Fitzgerald said there would be “a loaned employee from Dow” who would serve as a link between the U of M program and Dow Chemical, and who would provide some other program support.

Fitzgerald said if people are interested in the details, they are available upon request from the U of M’s public affairs department, the U of M’s Freedom of Information Office, or through Don Scavia’s office. Michigan Radio has requested a copy of the agreement.

“I think this is an exciting program,” said Fitzgerald. “It’s a great example of corporate philanthropy at the University of Michigan and we think it will be managed well and effectively to the benefit of society.”

2:12 p.m.

Environmental health director at the Ecology Center Tracy Easthope is calling on the University of Michigan to release the details behind Dow Chemical's gift to the university

It was announced yesterday that Dow will give U of M $10 million to establish a sustainability fellowship program.

The program will support the work of around 300 masters, doctoral, and post-doctoral students for a period of six years. From the University of Michigan:

Fellows will develop knowledge and seek breakthroughs across myriad components of the sustainability challenge, including human behavior, energy, water, mobility, climate change, built environment, land use, and global health.

In a statement, Easthope said, “while a major gift to further sustainability education is laudable, it is important to assure the complete independence of the University... We urge the University to make public the details of this gift, including whether the gift comes with strings attached.”

The group cites a University of California at Berkeley case as cause for concern. They say, after a giving a gift to U.C. Berkeley, a Dow Chemical employee was hired into a position where he teaches students - raising questions of academic independence.

From the Ecology Center's press release:

Dow Chemical is a global leader in manufacturing chemicals, some of which have problematic health and environmental attributes. Dow’s advocacy to continue production of these problematic chemicals suggests the company’s definition of sustainability is not in agreement with the mainstream.

“Dow is responsible for one of the largest contamination sites in Michigan, stretching more than 50 miles to Saginaw Bay and into Lake Huron,” said Rita Chapman, clean-water program director at the Sierra Club. “Until recently, they have delayed cleanup action, which has put people’s health at risk.”

Michele Hurd of the Lone Tree Council has been closely involved in the fight to get Dow Chemical to clean up its dioxin contamination in Michigan. In the release, she says "Dow has not earned a major voice in sustainability education."

A phone call was made to the University of Michigan for comment.

Changing Gears
2:57 pm
Mon March 12, 2012

It's Monday, here is something beautiful

Here’s what you do: Click on the video, and pop it out to full screen.

As you watch, remind yourself that this is the place they call the Rust Belt.

Remind yourself that this is the place that cannot keep its talented young people, because they say it’s too cold.

Too uninspiring.

Too boring.

Remind yourself that they say those things.

Remind yourself that none of it is true.

Then, get back to work.

Culture
12:22 pm
Mon March 12, 2012

Memories of Michigan: State's nature and cities create connection

Exploring the shoreline of Lake Michigan's Northport Bay.
Mark Brush Michigan Radio

Over the weekend, we posted this question to the Michigan Radio Facebook community.

"What’s a personal memory you have that has some kind of connection to Michigan?"

The answers show how the state's unique character gets into our blood, and why so many people feel at peace and at home in Michigan:

Jennifer - Being 6 years old and digging a tunnel in the snow to get out of the front door of our little house in Carson City during the blizzard of 1978.

John - First time I stood on Deadman's Hill & looked out over the East Jordan River Valley.

Dani - Several years back, I took a nap in a massive willow tree on the bank of the Au Sable River in Lovells. That tree is absolutely amazing, probably my favorite spot to be in the entire world. Once you climb into it, there's a sort of landing in the tree. I was able to stretch out fully and sleep comfortably while listening to the soft sounds of nature around me.

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Cancer & Environment
11:05 am
Mon March 12, 2012

Infographic: Cancer in our lives

Last week, we brought you a series on cancer and the environment.

I put together this visual representation of some of the statistics we learned about cancer and our lives.

Environment
11:50 am
Fri March 9, 2012

Live Web Chat: Talking about cancer in our lives

Clockwise from top left: Carol and Loren Schultz, Karrie Martin, Amy Lobsiger with her partner Dan Sicko, Jason Ratliff with his father

Welcome to our live Web chat with the producers of our week-long series "Cancer & Environment: Searching for Answers."

Dr. Arnold Schecter will also join us today at 12:30 p.m.

He's a professor of epidemiology, human genetics and environmental sciences at the University of Texas Dallas, and he's been studying the health effects of toxic substances for over 30 years.

If you have any questions or comments for the producers, simply type them into the chat box below. We will try to address them in the order they are submitted. Or you can just sit back and watch the discussion.

Thanks for participating!

Cancer and Environment
11:22 am
Fri March 9, 2012

Your Story: One woman's experience with cancer while pregnant

A healthy mother with her son

As part of the Environment Report's week-long series, Cancer and Environment: Searching for Answers, we'll be highlighting some powerful stories of hope and loss in the words of those touched by cancer in Michigan. You can read more Michigan cancer stories here. How has cancer affected your life?

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Cancer & Environment
9:00 am
Fri March 9, 2012

Preventing cancer by unlocking the secrets in our cells (Part 5)

Dr. Madhuri Kakarala and Dr. Dean Brenner of the University of Michigan's Comprehensive Cancer Center. They're standing next to an ultra low flow liquid chromatography machine. It analyzes blood samples from people taking part in their studies.
Mark Brush Michigan Radio

There have been breakthroughs in treating cancer, but what about preventing it in the first place?

In 1970, the nation launched a “War on Cancer.” The goal was to cure it in 25 years, but back then, researchers didn’t know what we know now. That cancer is a disease of our genes… “a distorted version of our normal selves” as Nobel Prize winner Dr. Harold Varmus said.

In the final part of our week-long series, I visited some researchers at the University of Michigan's Comprehensive Cancer Center who are looking deep into our cells for answers.

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Cancer and Environment
12:00 pm
Thu March 8, 2012

Your Story: A son fondly remembers times spent in the Michigan woods with his father

Jason with his father in 1981

As part of the Environment Report's week-long series, Cancer and Environment: Searching for Answers, we'll be highlighting some powerful stories of hope and loss in the words of those touched by cancer in Michigan. You can read more Michigan cancer stories here.  How has cancer affected your life?

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Cancer and Environment
12:36 pm
Wed March 7, 2012

Michigan Cancer Stories: People share how cancer has impacted their life

All week long The Environment Report has been airing stories exploring the link between cancer and the environment we live in.

The series, Cancer and Environment: Searching for Answers, will run through this Friday.

We felt the series would not be complete without hearing from the people who are affected by it.

So through the Public Insight Network, we asked you to share your experiences.

So far, we've received dozens of entries from all over Michigan. Some tragic, some hopeful - each one represents a different, and personal perspective on the experience of having or knowing someone with cancer.

Here are some exerts from the blog:

"I have lost my partner. I am heartbroken that our young daughter has lost her dad and will miss out on all that his amazing heart and mind offered to her." - Amy Lobsiger

"My husband Joe died of cancer on his favorite holiday, July 4, in 2010. He was 39, I was 33. We had the gift of cancer. Cancer isn’t something that most people would consider a gift, but really, we did." -Amy Scott

"It has made me a different person because I don’t wait to enjoy things until I retire. I live now. I save for retirement just in case, but I don’t want to have any regrets no matter how long I live!" -Jill Schultz

You can see photos and read those stories on our Michigan Cancer Stories Tumblr page.

And we'll continue to collect these stories.

How has cancer impacted your life? Tell us here.

Cancer and Environment
12:00 pm
Wed March 7, 2012

Your Story: A wife shares how she and her husband lived life to the fullest despite his cancer

Amy Scott and her husband Joe

As part of the Environment Report's week-long series, Cancer and Environment: Searching for Answers, we'll be highlighting some powerful stories of hope and loss in the words of those touched by cancer in Michigan. You can read more Michigan cancer stories here. How has cancer affected your life?

Read more
Cancer and Environment
12:00 pm
Tue March 6, 2012

Your Story: A young girl's battle with cancer comes full circle

The Holland-Anderson family (Chloe is second from the left).

As part of the Environment Report's week-long series, Cancer and Environment: Searching for Answers, we'll be highlighting some powerful stories of hope and loss in the words of those touched by cancer in Michigan. You can read more Michigan cancer stories here. How has cancer affected your life? Tell us your story.

In July, the idea of Chloe’s hair loss was difficult—difficult for Chloe, difficult for Kip and me.

The other day, the kids were at my parents’. My daughter Martha was brushing her long hair and working on some pretty tough tangles. “I HATE my hair,” she exclaimed, in a dramatic fashion.

Chloe looked up at her, smiled confidently and said, “I LOVE my hair.”

It felt like she had come full circle.

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Cancer and Environment
12:00 pm
Mon March 5, 2012

Your Story: A devoted husband and his wife's 30-year battle with cancer

Steve Humphrey with his wife Ruthann

As part of the Environment Report's week-long series, Cancer and Environment: Searching for Answers, we'll be highlighting some powerful stories of hope and loss in the words of those touched by cancer in Michigan. You can read more Michigan cancer stories here. How has cancer affected your life? Tell us your story.

My wife battled serious recurrent spinal meningiomas for over 30 years (she died in 2008). She lived with intense unrelenting pain that worsened as she became progressively more handicapped.

Her disease took an enormous toll on me emotionally. I felt helpless against this devastating incurable disease and hated seeing her suffer so badly. I knew the disease would kill her, but I couldn’t stop this slow-motion disaster.

This is the last, best photo I have of us together. We’re at our youngest son’s July 2007 wedding in eastern Germany.  Remarkably we both were able to smile. 

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Cancer & Environment
9:00 am
Mon March 5, 2012

Our murky understanding of cancer and chemicals (Part 1)

Corinna Borden was diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma six years ago. She wrote a book about her experience - "I Dreamt of Sausage."
courtesy of Corinna Borden

According to the latest numbers from the National Cancer Institute, roughly 41 percent of us will be diagnosed with some type of cancer in our lifetimes.

But “cancer” is not just one type of disease.

There are more than 100 different kinds with different personalities and causes. And the causes are not all that well understood.

This week, we’re taking a closer look at cancer and environmental pollutants.

It’s a subject researchers are trying to learn more about, but the picture of how the chemicals in our everyday lives interact with our bodies’ cells is far from clear.

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Environment
5:20 pm
Fri March 2, 2012

Michigan Court upholds exotic swine ban

opencage.info

Update 5:20 p.m.

A Michigan Court of Appeal ruling today upholds a ban on exotic swine breeds. It was adopted in an effort to halt the spread of feral swine that are tearing up farms and woodlands.

Opponents of the state’s new ban on about 130 swine breeds said they are not giving up their fight as April 1 approaches.

That’s when the state Department of Natural Resources and Environment will start to enforce the ban.

Scott Everett represents breeders and hunting ranches that are regulated by the order. He predicted there will be unintended consequences once it takes effect.

“The DNR is using the invasive species act to define certain animals that are invasive species and you can’t just say it’s only those animals that are on the hunting preserve operations – it’s all the swine that the DNR  thinks are invasive species," said Everett.

He said it will also affect hundreds of boutique farms in Michigan that raise animals for specialty meats for high-end restaurants.

There are still other legal actions pending challenging how the order will be enforced, and whether the state is illegally seizing property.

10:10 a.m.

The Michigan Court of Appeals has upheld the order that outlaws raising and possessing some breeds of exotic swine.

Hunting ranch operators and breeders challenged the order by the state Department of Natural Resources and Environment.

The state will start enforcing the ban in less than a month.

Environment
10:05 am
Thu March 1, 2012

Japanese knotweed: a plant with strange super powers

The photo above shows a knotweed stand getting out of control in the Upper Peninsula/Photo by Vern Stephens.

Vern Stephens and Sue Tangora work for the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. They happen to be married to each other. And they have a common enemy.

“This is on my radar of being a 10 on a scale of one out of 10.”

That thing they hate? It’s a plant. An invasive plant called Japanese knotweed. It’s sometimes also called Mexican bamboo. I met up with Vern and Sue at a busy intersection in East Lansing... on a corner lot where Japanese knotweed is going hog wild.

“It looks like bamboo. It gets up to 10-12 feet tall. It’s like being in a jungle, the canopy is above your head, generally in a lot of the sites, you can’t touch the canopy it’s that high above you.”

Maybe you’re thinking... so what? It’s a plant. In fact, it’s been a popular landscape plant in Michigan for years. People like it because it grows fast, so you can use it as a privacy screen to keep out nosy neighbors.

But this plant is crafty. It’s native to Japan, where it’s one of the first plants that comes up after a volcanic eruption. So it can actually push through volcanic rock. The problem with that is... it can also break through the foundation of your home.

“We know in England, Japanese knotweed has been known to be a problem there and it’s to the point where people have trouble getting insurance for homes, some of their insurance rates are really inflated. You see pictures of it growing up a wall inside someone’s home.”

(One couple in the UK had to demolish their home after a knotweed invasion - you can read that article here)

And actually – the knotweed on this corner lot is already breaking through the sidewalk.

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Agriculture
10:24 am
Wed February 29, 2012

45 Michigan counties get disaster designation

A farm in Michigan
Maureen Reilly Flickr

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - The U.S. Department of Agriculture has designated 45 counties in Michigan as natural disaster areas for three separate sets of disaster conditions last year.

Gov. Rick Snyder on Tuesday announced the designation after periods of weather that occurred starting in February 2011 and May 2011. The designation made earlier this year means qualified farm operators are eligible for low-interest emergency loans.

Twenty-nine counties were designated primary natural disaster areas for weather including rain, wind, snow, flooding and tornadoes that started in February 2011. Ten got the designation for similar weather, drought and excessive heat starting at that point.

Six counties were designated primary natural disaster for drought and excessive heat starting in May 2011.

Lists of the counties are on the USDA's website.

Environment
4:20 pm
Mon February 27, 2012

Court won't close shipping canal immediately to stop invasive carp

The distribution of the bighead carp in the U.S. Evidence of the fish have been found in Lake Erie, but no reproducing populations have been found there yet.
USGS

This post has been updated with more details and comments from AG's office. 

Shipping locks in Chicago-area waterways will not be closed while a lawsuit over how to keep Asian Carp out of the Great Lakes is pending. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled against the injunction Monday.

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