Environment & Science

The Environment Report
12:14 pm
Thu October 23, 2014

Resilient Michigan project helps communities prepare for climate change

As part of the Resilient Michigan project, Grand Haven is revising its master plan to consider climate change.
Michigan Municipal League Flickr

Grand Haven is the latest city to consider climate change in its master plan. It’s part of a grant-funded project called Resilient Michigan.

Harry Burkholder is a community planner with the program. He says they’re working with city and township officials to help them prepare for more extreme weather events like heat waves and intense rainstorms.

“A lot of communities are looking at ways to increase pervious pavement on sidewalks and parking lots; ways that you can collect rainwater right from your home or even from your business in large underground cisterns so it doesn’t automatically go into the sewer system,” he says.

Heavy rain events can overload sewer systems and lead to sewage overflows into rivers and lakes.

Resilient Michigan is also working with Monroe, Ludington, St. Joseph and East Jordan.

They’ll be launching a program with the Port Huron community in November, and Burkholder says they have enough grant money to work with one more Michigan community.

The Environment Report
10:14 am
Thu October 23, 2014

Scientists are looking for "survivor trees" in Michigan, and they want your help

User: USDAgov flickr

Researchers with the U.S. Forest Service are looking for ash trees that survived the attack of the emerald ash borer.

The invasive insect has been spreading across the Midwest and beyond since 2002 - killing millions of ash trees in its wake.

Here's an animation showing the spread of the emerald ash borer from 2002 to 2014:

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Environment & Science
10:25 am
Tue October 21, 2014

Could scrap rubber help Michigan build better roads?

Researchers are going to find out how well rubberized asphalt will resist potholes.
Credit Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

A group of researchers at Michigan Technological University is conducting tests to find out if traditional asphalt mixed with rubber from scrap tires could make better roads in Michigan.

The research, led by civil and environmental engineering department chair David Hand, has been granted $1.2 million from the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality.

Professor Zhanping You has been studying the technology of rubberized asphalt for eight years. He says rubber-added asphalt can make roads more durable and make life easier for drivers.

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Environment & Science
4:58 pm
Mon October 20, 2014

Lake Erie's toxic blooms spark new EPA grants

National Wildlife Federation President Collin O'Mara showing reporters a glass full of contamined lake water on a boat trip on Lake Erie near Toledo.
Credit Tracy Samilton / Michigan Radio

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has awarded grants to three states - Ohio, Michigan, and Indiana - to reduce phosphorus levels in Lake Erie.

This summer, a toxic cyanobacteria bloom shut down the water supply to the city of Toledo.  Algae and cyanobacteria thrive in high-phosphorus environments.

Much of the phosphorus comes from farms surrounding the lake.

Jamie Clover Adams is Michigan Director of Agriculture and Rural Development.

She says Michigan has only about 15% of the land near Lake Erie, but the state has to do its part.

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Environment & Science
5:00 am
Mon October 20, 2014

Environmental groups: Proposal to deregulate some toxic air chemicals too risky

Environmental groups say a proposal from within state government to weaken Michigan’s toxic air pollutant guidelines would put public health at risk.

Michigan has some of the strictest guidelines in the nation when it comes to toxic air chemicals. It’s one of just nine states to regulate all potentially toxic emissions.

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Stateside
6:13 pm
Thu October 16, 2014

Large clay-filled plume found in East Grand Traverse Bay raises environmental concerns

East Grand Traverse Bay
Credit User: Bryan Casteel / Flickr

One of Michigan's greatest natural treasures and most popular tourist destinations is Grand Traverse Bay.

So the appearance of a large plume of what looked like chocolate milk in East Grand Traverse Bay last month set off alarm bells.

It didn't take long to realize the murky plume in the East Bay came from clay-filled silt, which was seeping into the East Bay from a major construction site in Acme Township.

Now the state Department of Environmental Quality says the runoff from the Grand Traverse Town Center site violates various state and federal permits.

And those who love Grand Traverse Bay are deeply concerned.

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Environment & Science
5:37 pm
Wed October 15, 2014

Large clay-laden plume found in East Grand Traverse Bay, tied to construction site

Steven Stinson, lifelong Acme Township resident, photographed the silty run-off entering East Grand Traverse Bay on September 22, 2014
Credit Steven Stinson

A large plume of clay-laden silt has clouded the waters in portions of East Grand Traverse Bay.

The plume has been linked to run-off from the construction site of Grand Traverse Town Center in Acme Township, a 160-acre multi-use development which will be anchored by a Meijer store.

Brian Jankowski of the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality said the run-off violates various state and federal permits.

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Environment & Science
4:42 pm
Wed October 15, 2014

Uh oh: Lake Erie even more susceptible to bacterial blooms than we thought

This is what those toxic blooms look like.
Credit Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

It's only one study. 

But if it's right, then researchers at the University of Michigan and the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration have just proven that Lake Erie is even more vulnerable to toxic bacterial blooms than we thought.

And we don't really know why. 

Don Scavia is one of the study's coauthors. He's a professor at the Graham Sustainability Institute at the University of Michigan. 

"So we know that phosphorous loads going into the western basin of Lake Erie, primarily from agricultural sources, is what’s driving these blooms," he says. 

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The Environment Report
9:40 am
Tue October 14, 2014

Sure, there were pirates in the Caribbean, but the Great Lakes had them too

A Great Lakes schooner. Pirate ships looked like every other boat sailing on the lakes: a schooner or a sloop.
Clarence S. Metcalf Great Lakes Maritime Research Library

Michigan Radio's M I Curious project is a news experiment where we investigate questions submitted by the public about our state and its people.

As part of our M I Curious project, Shelly Scott asked Michigan Radio this question:

Have there ever been pirates on the Great Lakes?

“I thought: we’ve got such nice water bodies around here, why don’t we hear anything about fantastic things that happened on the Great Lakes?” she says.

Scott is an engineer at Ford and she’s also a leader of her daughter’s Girl Scout troop.  These 5th grade girls had some questions about freshwater pirates too:

“What do pirate ships look like? Was there any pirate treasure in the Great Lakes? How did they get away with stealing other people’s treasure?” asked Maria Kokko, Lilli Semel and Shannon Scott.

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Environment & Science
12:16 pm
Mon October 13, 2014

Will this 250-year-old, 65 foot-tall oak tree survive its move?

This 250-year-old bur oak tree on the University of Michigan's campus will be moved on Oct. 25, weather permitting.
Corey Seeman Flickr

I hope they have more success than I did.

I tried moving a four-year-old oak tree in my backyard… and failed. Of course, they’ll be using more than just a spade and a burlap sack.

We’ll likely find out over the next few years whether the $300,000 to $400,000 project to move the 250-year-old bur oak tree on the campus of the University of Michigan worked.

The tree is being moved as part of a $135 million, donor-funded expansion of U of M’s business school. The school announced today that the oak will be moved on October 25, weather permitting.

Moving my tree's root ball was hard enough. How in the world will they move a 700,000 to 850,000 pound root ball?

Glad you asked. Here’s a video showing exactly that:

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Environment & Science
5:34 pm
Sat October 11, 2014

University of Michigan opens $46M research center

University of Michigan Ann Arbor campus
Credit Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

ANN ARBOR, Mich. (AP) - The University of Michigan is opening a $46 million complex for researchers to study nanotechnologies in energy, biotechnology and other fields.

The Center of Excellence in Nano Mechanical Science and Engineering is a 62,000-square-foot addition to laboratories on the Ann Arbor school's north campus. Researchers will be able to watch the degradation of materials that go into things like cars and medical devices.

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Stateside
5:33 pm
Thu October 9, 2014

We've got (some) answers to your question on the oil pipeline under Lake Michigan

Credit NWF / screenshot from YouTube video

Michigan Radio's MI Curious project puts our journalists to work for you: We investigate questions you submit about our state and its people.

One of the MI Curious questions was submitted by listener Justin Cross from Delton, Michigan. He asked: "What's the status of the Enbridge pipeline in the bottom of Lake Michigan running through the Straits of Mackinac?"

Michigan Radio's Mark Brush has been working to find an answer to the question. Brush says what he found is that Enbridge holds all the cards. The company is willing to talk, and they are aware of people's concerns. 

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Environment & Science
5:09 pm
Thu October 9, 2014

Environmentalists blast bill to repeal Michigan’s renewable energy standard

Credit Morgue File

New legislation that would repeal Michigan’s renewable energy standard has been met with heavy opposition from environmentalists, and even some utilities.

In 2008, state lawmakers said electric utilities must generate at least ten percent of their energy using renewable sources by 2015. Recent studies show they are on track to meet that requirement.  

Rep. Tom McMillin, R-Rochester Hills, introduced a bill last week that would repeal that part of Michigan’s energy law.

“Obviously, if it was not more costly, we wouldn’t have to mandate it,” said McMillin.

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The Environment Report
10:57 am
Thu October 9, 2014

What's the status of the old oil pipeline under Lake Michigan? We need more information to know.

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

We've been working to find an answer to the question, "What's the status of the aged Enbridge oil pipeline running through Lake Michigan at the Straits of Mackinac?"

It was posed by Justin Cross for our M I Curious project.

One of the first things we discovered was that the company holds all the cards.

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Environment & Science
6:53 am
Wed October 8, 2014

Great photos rolling in from this morning's "Blood Moon"

The eclipse is happening now. You can watch it online here, or better yet. Go outside and look!

One of our Facebook fans, Ben Wojdyla, reminds us that a big event is yet to come:

If you're vigilant, you can catch the selenelion, a rare celestial occurrence wherein a lunar eclipse and the rising sun can be observed simultaneously. Should occur between 7:30 and 7:45.

Here are the photos being shared on Twitter:

Stateside
8:49 pm
Tue October 7, 2014

UM professor named one of "Brilliant 10" for building energy scavenging sensors

With Dutta's technologies, gadgets like Fitbit don't need to be plugged into the wall or need batteries.
Credit User: Ian D / Flickr

 

It's not often you can say without a shadow of a doubt that someone is "brilliant." 

But you can make a good case for Prabal Dutta. He's an assistant professor of electrical engineering and computer science at the University of Michigan.

And he has been named one of Popular Science's 2014 Brilliant Ten, a list saluting scientific innovators who are changing the world as we know it.

Dutta made this list for his work on energy scavenging sensors. He explains that these sensors won't need batteries because they can harvest energy from the world around them.

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Environment & Science
10:55 am
Tue October 7, 2014

Asian carp DNA found in southwestern Michigan

A silver carp.
Michigan Sea Grant

ALLEGAN, Mich. - Officials say genetic material of Asian carp has been found in a river in the Kalamazoo River in southwestern Michigan.

The state Department of Natural Resources and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on Tuesday announced DNA from silver carp was detected in one of 200 samples taken in July the Kalamazoo River in Allegan County. The river flows into Lake Michigan.

Officials say the discovery marks the first time so-called environmental DNA for silver carp has been found in Michigan's Great Lakes waters outside of Maumee Bay in Lake Erie. In a statement, the agencies say there's "no evidence that a population of silver carp is established."

The silver carp is one of the Asian species threatening to invade the Great Lakes and compete with native fish for food.

Environment & Science
10:06 am
Tue October 7, 2014

Study finds EPA proposal would benefit public health in Michigan

Central Power Plant, Ann Arbor, MI
Credit Press Release Distribution / prlog.org

A new study states that Michigan is one of five states that would see the most public health benefits from the EPA's proposal to reduce carbon emissions from power plants. 

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The Environment Report
8:55 am
Tue October 7, 2014

What is the condition of the oil pipeline in the Straits of Mackinac? Answer can be hard to find

Tom Prew, a region engineer for Enbridge, on the deck of the work barge on the Straits of Mackinac. Brackets for the pipeline sit on the deck.
Mark Brush Michigan Radio

A lot of us are curious about the oil pipeline running through the Straits of Mackinac.

Michigan Radio's M I Curious is a news experiment where we investigate questions submitted by the public about our state and its people.

As part of our M I Curious project, Justin Cross asked Michigan Radio this question:

What is the status of the aged Enbridge oil pipeline running through Lake Michigan at the Straits of Mackinac?  

Read more
Stateside
6:04 pm
Mon October 6, 2014

What's in a word? Politics of "climate change"

The subject of climate change has generated heated debate.
Credit User: Takver / Flickr

Say the words "climate change," and just watch the battle lines form.

On one side, we have those – including the scientific community – who say it is not only coming, it is here and we're going to be challenged by extreme weather as a consequence.

On the other side, we have those who doubt the grim warnings of climate scientists. They believe warming is just a part of nature's cycle.

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