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Environment & Science

Stateside 5.25.2018

21 hours ago

Today on Stateside, we hear how Michigan's utilities are investing in the state's energy future, and the reaction from environmentalists. Also, we look at the fraught history of privatized healthcare in Michigan prisons. 

To find individual interview, click here or see below. 

Natural gas plant
World Resources Institute

  

Utility companies are shutting down some of their older, less efficient coal-burning power plants. 

To generate the electricity to replace those old plants, utilities have to decide whether to build more coal-fired plant or go with natural gas, nuclear, renewable energy, or some combination.

DTE Energy recently decided to replace some of its older coal-burning plants with a natural gas burning plants, incorporating little additional renewable energy.

Asian Carp Regional Coordinating Committee

The Asian carp action plan for this year is out. It's the plan U.S. and Canadian agencies put together to try to stop carp from spreading.

Charlie Wooley is the deputy regional director for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's Midwest region. 

“The most important priorities for us in controlling Asian carp is to keep them out of the Great Lakes,” he says.

The Mackinac Bridge connects Michigan's upper and lower peninsulas
flickr user Always Shooting / http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

Governor Rick Snyder has signed a temporary order that bans ships from dropping anchor in the Straits of Mackinac. That’s following an incident in April when a ship dragged an anchor across the bottom of the straits, causing a mineral oil spill and damage to the Line 5 fuel pipeline.

“Maritime maps have been marked for some time with the Straits of Mackinac as an advisory to not drop your anchor, but there’s been no rule or regulation technically prohibiting it, and so this rule now prohibits that,” said Snyder Communications Director Ari Adler.

Tracy Samilton / Michigan Radio

The state's energy regulating agency has issued some decisions that should relieve some of the financial burden on large companies that want to become greener.

Dripping faucet
Aunt Jojo / Flickr - http://bit.ly/1xMszCg

 


 

The EPA held a national PFAS Summit in Washington on Tuesday to dive into issues surrounding the per-and-polyfluoroalkyl substances which have contaminated groundwater in sites across the country, including 31 known sites here in Michigan. 

Juliet Berger and other birders look through their binoculars at a warbler.
Emma Winowiecki / Michigan Radio

Mornings in Michigan is our series about morning routines and rituals around our state. This time of year, some people get up early to see migrating birds arriving in Michigan. Mike Kielb and his wife sometimes get up at 4 a.m.

UC San Diego Health

The first major results are in from the American Gut Project. It’s a citizen science project to get a better understanding of the microbial communities inside our bodies.

People pay $99 to send in a sample – a swab from their hands, their mouth, or a stool sample.

Daniel McDonald is the project’s scientific director at the University of California-San Diego.

“So it turns out that most of the people sending us samples tend to send us fecal samples. We think it must just be the sexy thing to do,” he says. “But I think a lot of individuals are sending us these samples because they’re curious to learn a little bit more about these organisms that are important for your health that we are just beginning to understand in the scientific community.”

Site for Sustainable Business Park
Kent County Department of Public Works

As population increases so does waste, filling up landfills at a faster rate. One solution to this problem is to rethink the old ways of managing solid waste.

The Kent County Department of Public Works is doing just that.

The County has decided to take land designated for a future landfill and use it instead for a "sustainable business park." The park will house companies and technology that reuse, repurpose, or convert solid waste, generating economic development while saving landfill space.

Mosquitoes after a blood meal.
R. Rico-Hesse lab.

It’s not just the mosquito bite that’s a problem. When a mosquito bites you, it also drools on you.

Silke Paust is an assistant professor of pediatrics at Baylor College of Medicine and Texas Children’s Hospital.

“During this poking around phase, basically, and during the feeding, it automatically secretes saliva proteins," she says.

She says there are more than 100 proteins in mosquito saliva. Paust and her team found those proteins trigger a complex immune response.

drinking fountain
jasongillman / pixabay

Northern Michigan University in the Upper Peninsula has reopened three buildings but turned off drinking fountains while campus officials investigate high lead levels in water.

The school says lead in water samples exceeded the federal action level of 15 parts per billion. The buildings are Thomas Fine Arts, the Learning Resources Center and the Physical Education Instructional Facility - known as PEIF.

morels, mushrooms
Mercedes Mejia/Michigan Radio

It’s that time of year again, when hunters hit the woodlands in search of that elusive Michigan delicacy: the morel mushroom.

Phil Tedeschi, vice-president of the Michigan Mushroom Hunters Club, gave me some foraging tips this month as we walked the woods of a secret location somewhere in Washtenaw County. 

A picture of wet wipes removed from sewer system.
Macomb County Public Works Office

Macomb County’s Public Works Commissioner wants the public to be aware of a growing problem menacing municipal sewer systems: flushable wipes.

Candice Miller says those wipes are “causing probably about 90 percent of the sewer problems that we’re having right now.”

“They sort of get together and they almost act like a rope,” Miller said. “They're choking pumps, sanitary sewer pumps. And they’re causing huge backups.”

Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore
Rhonda Noren / Flickr, http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

The National Park Service is seeking public input on how to manage a dramatic increase in visitors to Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore in Michigan's Upper Peninsula.

Lakeshore Superintendent Dave Horne tells the Mining Journal of Marquette that the number of visitors has doubled over the last five years.

National Park Service officials have been hosting open houses and gathering feedback on a proposed lakeshore's visitor use management project.

The Detroit incinerator
tEdGuY49 / Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

A coalition of groups is demanding Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan shut down the city’s controversial incinerator.

The groups, led by Breathe Free Detroit, delivered a petition with nearly 15,000 signatures to Duggan’s office Friday morning.

Ahmina Maxey, regional director for the group Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives, says most of the waste burned at the incinerator comes from outside the city, but Detroiters suffer the most from negative health and quality of life effects.

The DEQ PFAS Investigation Map near Rockford, MI.
From Goole map provided by Wolverine Worldwide

Michigan will spend $1.7 million to test water supplies around the state for certain kinds of industrial chemical contaminants. The chemicals are known as PFAS, which stands for per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances.

Stateside 5.17.2018

May 17, 2018

Today on Stateside, we discuss a report that says Wayne County can seize your home no matter how much you owe in taxes. And, we hear how the EPA and St. Louis, Mich. residents are working together on an effort to clean up the Velsicol Chemical plant.

Courtesy of Jane Keon

In 1973, a plant owned by Velsicol Chemical made a mistake and shipped a toxic flame retardant chemical to a livestock feed plant.

A congregation of moose on Isle Royale.
Rolf Peterson

The last two wolves on Isle Royale are still hanging on. 

The wolf-moose research study on the wilderness island in Lake Superior is now in its 60th year, and the report from the past year of the study is out today.

lake sturgeon
Tennessee Aquarium

The Center for Biological Diversity is petitioning the federal government to protect lake sturgeon under the Endangered Species Act.

The Center's Mark Finc says there used to be 15 million lake sturgeon in the U.S.  There's now just a few thousand.

While Michigan and some other states have taken steps to protect lake sturgeon, Finc says it's not enough.

"What we have found is it's fairly haphazard," says Finc, "and that it really needs to be more consistent across the board,  instead of just a couple spots here and there."

Aaron Selbig/Interlochen Public Radio

Mining companies would be able to modify onsite facilities without an environmental permit amendment under legislation that has passed the Michigan House.

Lawmakers voted 63-45 on Tuesday to advance the bill to grant companies more flexibility in moving and adjusting their mining sites and buildings. The proposed change would allow mining companies to modify the facilities provided they give Michigan's Department of Environmental Quality a 30-day notice and if the changes don't add environmental risk.

Monarch Butterfly
flickr user Paul VanDerWerf / http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

Public comment is being sought on a draft of a conservation plan expected to help reverse eastern monarch butterfly population declines.

Michigan's Department of Natural Resources says the Mid-America Monarch Conservation Strategy builds on existing efforts by state, federal, and local agencies and private organizations and individuals.

Monarch butterflies found east of the Rocky Mountains have declined by more than 80 percent over the past 20 years primarily due to habitat loss, including reduced milkweed required for reproduction and fewer nectar plants.

Power plant
Courtesy of Duke Energy

A majority of Americans say the federal government isn’t doing enough to protect air and water quality.

That’s the latest from a national Pew Research Center survey.

The survey found 69 percent of Americans think the government isn’t doing enough to safeguard water quality, while 64 percent say the government isn't doing enough to protect air quality. 

This photo of Microcystis, a kind of cyanobacteria, was taken in Lake Erie.
Rebecca Williams / Michigan Radio

We’re coming up on the time of year when people will be testing lakes for toxic blooms of cyanobacteria.

Jason Deglint wants to speed up that testing process. Right now, he says it can take at least a few days.

Mackinac Bridge
Julie Falk / Flickr

A coolant spill in the Straits of Mackinac did not harm the Great Lakes. That’s according to the Coast Guard and Michigan Department of Environmental Quality.

A copper mine in the Upper Peninsula.
Richie Diesterheft / Flickr - http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

Some environmentalists are worried a bill moving through the state Legislature would give mining companies too much leeway.

Under the bill, mining operators would be able to make certain changes to their permits without going through an amendment process or public review. Instead, they’d be required to give written notice of modifications to the Department of Environmental Quality.

frankieleon / Flickr Creative Commons HTTP://MICHRAD.IO/1LXRDJM

Michigan health and environmental advocates are calling on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to maintain current federal clean car standards.

The standards were adopted in 2012 to set fuel efficiency and carbon emission requirements for companies that manufacture cars and light trucks.

Anglers want lethal control for a fish-eating bird

May 10, 2018
USFWS

Fishermen in northern Michigan say the federal government is doing nothing while double-crested cormorants eat up fish the anglers would like to catch. For more than a decade, the government used lethal force to keep cormorant numbers down.

A lawsuit ended that and now the birds are showing signs of rebounding in places they are not welcome.

The Marmorkreb, or marbled crayfish, can clone itself.
Golden library, courtesy of the MDEQ.

There are five new invasive species on the “least wanted list.”

That’s a list the Great Lakes St. Lawrence Governors and Premiers puts together. The leaders of the eight states and two provinces on the Lakes decide which species pose the highest risk.

Erol Ahmed on Unsplash

A lot of cities have pledged to cut greenhouse gas emissions in the wake of President Trump's decision to withdraw the U.S. from the Paris climate accord.

That could mean things like cleaner busses – or energy efficiency. But a sizable chunk of our carbon footprint can be traced to how we get and use our food.

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