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Environment & Science

Stateside 6.21.2018

Jun 21, 2018

Today on Stateside, a CDC report on the health effects of PFAS, initially buried by the White House and EPA, recommends a much lower threshold for exposure to the chemicals. Plus, a quirky summer festival that combines Great Depression-era farming and ooey-gooey sticky buns. 

To hear individual interviews click here or see below: 

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

 


PFAS is a family of chemicals often used in the manufacturing of nonstick and waterproof products. In the past several years, the chemicals have been showing up in high levels in people's drinking water across the state.

News came out Wednesday that a report on the dangers of PFAS exposure had been blocked by officials at the Environmental Protection Agency and the White House. 

Alexis Temkin is a toxicologist at the Environmental Working Group in Washington D.C. She spoke with Stateside on the implications of this new development. 

Lisa Barrett

If you’ve ever tried to keep a raccoon out of your trash can, you know they’re smart. At my house, it takes a brick on top of the trash can and a bungee cord on top of the lid to keep the raccoons out.

New research looks at how animals with complex cognitive abilities might do better in cities, but could end up in more conflicts with people.

Power plant
Courtesy of Duke Energy

A lot of economists like the idea of putting a price on the use of fossil fuels, as a way to tackle climate change.

But it’s been a hard sell politically.

A new report on this topic is out from the National Surveys on Energy and Environment. It looks at Americans’ opinions on policies like carbon taxes and cap and trade over the last 10 years.

wikimedia commons

Environmental groups haven't given up trying to stop DTE Energy from building a $1 billion natural gas plant.  

The groups are asking the Michigan Public Service Commission to reconsider the permit it approved for the plant. 

Margrethe Kearney is with the Environmental Law and Policy Center. She says renewable energy becomes cheaper and more reliable every year.  

"And it just doesn't make sense for Michigan to say we're going to build a huge natural gas plant, which means of course we won't be building any of that other stuff," she says.

Sleeping Bear Dunes
Rebecca Williams / Michigan Radio

The Environmental Protection Agency is starting to plan what’s next for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative. We’re eight years into that huge cleanup and restoration effort.

Mackinac Bridge
Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

Enbridge Energy’s Line 5 could be moved into tunnel running 100 feet beneath the bottomlands of the Straits of Mackinac. Or it could be encased in a concrete and stone. Those are two options put forward today by the company as alternatives to allow it to continue to rest on the lakebed beneath the straits.

Enbridge’s report says either option virtually eliminates the risk of an oil spill in the Great Lakes.

flight of beers
Quinn Dombrowski / Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

We Michiganders love our craft beer. In recent years, small breweries have been popping up everywhere, from big cities to small towns.

But it turns out when you’re drinking that pint of local Great Lakes beer, a delicious malt beverage isn’t all you’re getting. A new study finds there’s a good chance you’re ingesting microplastic fibers.

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

There has been a lot of coverage of PFAS in the news. That's shorthand for per- and polyfluorinated substances, and it’s a class of chemicals commonly found in stain proof, water-resistant, and nonstick products.

A lot of the news coverage mentions that the chemicals can be harmful to humans. But what exactly does that mean? 

Courtney Carignanan assistant professor in the Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition at Michigan State University, joined Stateside to help us answer that question. 

A diver inspects Enbridge's Line 5 pipeline under the Straits of Mackinac for a possible dent.
Enbridge inspection video shared with the state of Michigan

A Canadian company will turn in a report tomorrow outlining whether it thinks a tunnel under the Straits of Mackinac is a feasible option for its pipeline. A tunnel was suggested by Michigan Governor Rick Snyder.

PFAS foam washing up on the shore of Van Ettan Lake.
Michigan Department of Environmental Quality / Flickr http://bit.ly/1xMszCg

UPDATE: This story was updated on 6/14/18 at 1:38 pm

Last fall Anthony Spaniola discovered a white foam had washed up on the shore of his family’s cottage on Van Etten Lake in Oscoda.

“It’s unusual and it’s kind of sticky, and it piles up and it’s a little bit sudsy looking,” says Spaniola. “It’s something that would probably attract a child… but it’s not something you’d want your child playing in.”

Spaniola knew exactly what that funny looking foam was.

“Maybe it wasn’t quite panic, but it was a feeling of dread,” he says.

Consumers Energy

Consumers Energy plans to dramatically increase its use of solar energy by the year 2040.

It's a big part of the utility's first long-term energy plan, required by Michigan's new energy law.

CEO Patti Poppe says solar is clean energy, and the cost of providing it is likely to come down by 35% by 2040.

And she says solar is one of the best options for providing electricity at times of peak demand.

Field of corn
Flickr/Vampire Bear

 


Globally, climate change is going to cause serious upheaval. But the kinds of changes will vary from place to place. That means there are likely to be both winners and losers in a changing climate.  

As science refines its predictions about the impact of climate change, it's getting easier to see who will end up in each column. 

Bruno Basso is a Michigan State University Foundation Professor in the Earth and Environmental Sciences Department. He spoke with Stateside about his new study on climate change and crop growth in the Midwest.

Flickr http://bit.ly/1xMszCg

Environmental groups say a bill headed for Governor Rick Snyder’s desk could increase the amount of invasive species in the Great Lakes.

The bill involves ballast water. That’s water large ships collect to help stabilize their vessel. The ships gather the water in one region, taking plant and animal species with them, and then when the ship doesn’t need the water, it dumps it someplace else. The bill loosens the treatment regulations on that water before it’s dumped into the Great Lakes.

Michigan Department of Natural Resources

A dredging project in Grand Traverse Bay Harbor in Michigan's Upper Peninsula has been delayed due to permit and contracting issues.

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources says dredging expected to start this spring will be postponed until at least fall. It's part of efforts to save Buffalo Reef off Gay, northwest of Marquette.

Michigan Radio

Until recently, if a home solar array produced more electricity than the house used, it would go through the meter onto the grid. Residents with solar power arrays got paid for that power at the same rate as the power company charged other residents.  Power that comes in/power that goes out: same price. This even exchange is called net metering.

northern cardinal
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service / Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

 


Malaria is incredibly common across the world in mammals, birds, and reptiles. So it's not surprising that birds in Michigan, just like birds elsewhere, suffer from a variety of malaria-causing parasites. 

What is surprising is just how many blood parasites you find in birds with malaria. 

A new study published in the journal Parasitology Research discovered a far greater range of blood parasites than expected in birds tested in southwest Michigan. 

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

Eleven years ago on a cold January day, volunteers for the Huron River Watershed Council, Rochelle Breitenbach and Mary Bajcz trudged through the snow and thicket to get to a pristine little stream that flows into the Huron River.

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

The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality is advising people to avoid swallowing the foam that appears on top of the water in the Rogue River near Rockford, Michigan.

The foam is highly contaminated with PFAS, an emerging group of chemicals linked to reproductive, developmental, liver, and kidney problems. 

The agency says PFAS is not easily absorbed through the skin, so contact with the water is OK. But children who might accidentally ingest the foam should be kept from face contact with the water, or swimming.

Raquel Baranow / Flickr Creative Commons http://bit.ly/1xMszCg

 

Update: On June 18th, 2018, The Home Depot announced it would phase out paint stripping products containing methylene chloride and NMP by the end of the year.  

The Environmental Protection Agency and at least one retailer have done an about face on a chemical linked to dozens of deaths, but health advocates want more.

Methylene chloride is an ingredient in paint strippers. It’s sold at hardware stores and it’s also used commercially.

Serious acute risks

Invasive hitchhikers found in laker ballast water

Jun 3, 2018
USFWSmidwest / FLICKR - http://bit.ly/1xMszCg

A new study may settle a debate over whether ships that travel between the Great Lakes, but don't go into the ocean, can transport invasive species.

These ships, known as lakers, are exempt from regulations that require ocean-going vessels to maintain ballast water treatment systems.

Samples from ten U.S. and Canadian flagged lakers taken during the summer of 2017 in western Lake Superior turned up six species of non-native zooplankton that had not been found in the area previously. 

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Despite overwhelming disapproval by the public, the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality approved a permit allowing Nestlé to increase the amount of water it pumps out of a well in Osceola Township.

Nestlé bottles that water for its Ice Mountain brand.

Now, the Michigan Citizens for Water Conservation is contesting that permit.

A green roof can help reduce the heat island effect.
EPA

The amount of tree cover in our cities is dropping, and we have more paved surfaces. Those are the main findings from a national study by the U.S. Forest Service.

Gary Stolz / USFWS

This time of year, it’s good to keep an eye out for turtles that might be slowly crossing the road.

Lori Sargent is a wildlife biologist with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources.

“They’re on the move because they’re looking for good nesting spots and some species move more than others,” she says.

She says Blanding’s turtles and snapping turtles are the ones you’ll see on the road most often. Sargent says Blanding’s turtles are on the decline in Michigan, mainly because so many get hit by cars.

Today on Stateside, we hear about a new report making an economic case for shutting down Enbridge's Line 5 pipelines. Plus, the Kent County team of clinicians who make house calls for kids experiencing a mental health crisis.

To hear individual interviews, click here or see below. 

Friends of the Porkies

Officials are looking for partners and sponsors to help celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Michigan state park system.

A year-long celebration of the state park centennial is planned to begin in May 2019. The Department of Natural Resources says there are opportunities for businesses, associations and others to take part.

Among options are sharing information about the centennial, underwriting portions of the educational campaign, hosting a cleanup or display and leading events such as geocaching challenges and vintage RV parades.

Lara Moehlman / Michigan Radio

After reporting on the Flint water crisis, there’s one question people have asked me over and over: Should I be worried about lead in my tap water?

We can look at the numbers cities provide in annual reports. But those numbers don’t always tell the whole story.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Three communities in Michigan are taking a much closer look for lead in their drinking water this year.

Lake Michigan
Jennifer Guerra / Michigan Radio

Lake Michigan’s E. coli and swimming advisories are down from previous years. A recent study says that’s both good and bad.

The study looks at Lake Michigan’s beaches from 2000 to 2014. You can read the full study here.

Chelsea Weiskerger, a PhD student at Michigan State University who co-authored the report, says the lower E. coli numbers mean that beaches are cleaner and safer for recreational use.

steve carmody / Michigan Radio

Demolition crews have nearly completed tearing down Flint’s Hamilton Dam.

The crumbling 95-year-old landmark became a backdrop for many national television stories about Flint’s water crisis during the past few years.

However, the dam will soon be no more.

Crews have been demolishing the dam for the past few months. They expect to finish next month.

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