Environment & Science

Wind turbine near Mt. Pleasant, MI.
Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

The Michigan Senate is back on break until after the election, but when they get back they have made a major piece of legislation a top priority. An overhaul to Michigan’s energy policy will be one of the first items up for vote when the Senate meets again.  

Two energy bills have been waiting for a vote since July of 2015. They finally got out of committee in May. Now, the press secretary for the Senate Republican majority, Amber McCann, says the Senate is finally ready to vote.


the plume, 1,4 dioxane
http://www.ewashtenaw.org/government/departments/environmental_health/card / Washtenaw County

A frustrated Ann Arbor City Council wants to force a faster cleanup of a plume of groundwater contaminated with 1,4 dioxane.

That's after the chemical was found in surface water near Slauson Middle School.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

U.S. EPA announced Friday it will consolidate and cap one-and-a-half-million cubic yards of old industrial waste in Kalamazoo. It’s been dubbed a compromise plan after residents and city leaders urged the EPA to choose a plan that would remove the waste entirely from the Allied Site.

“I’m reluctant to use terms like compromise because protectiveness is something the EPA can’t compromise on,” EPA Remedial Project Manager Michael Berkoff said.

West Midlands Police / https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

MSU scientists proved that you can trick commercial fingerprint scanners with a 3D-printed fake hand.

The finding was incidental to their goal of testing the accuracy of a set of fingerprint scanners like those commonly used in airports, banks, and police stations.

Flint River and water plant
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

UPDATED at 10:28 on 10/21/16

Two bills to help Flint recover from the water crisis are making their way through the legislature. Both bills passed through the Senate Thursday with a near-unanimous vote.

According to Nick Schroeck, the incinerator has been cited 21 times for odor violations since 2015.
tEdGuY49 / Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

With thousands of tons of trash burned every day, Detroit has the largest urban incinerator in the country.

Now its long and controversial history has a new chapter. The Great Lakes Environmental Law Center has filed a letter serving notice that it intends to sue Detroit Renewable Power, the operator of the incinerator.

Nick Schroeck, the executive director of the Great Lakes Environmental Law Center, joined Stateside to talk about the lawsuit and why they are filing it.

EPA Emergency response vehicle in Flint.

The EPA’s Inspector General says the agency should have issued an emergency order in Flint, Michigan seven months before it did.

The Inspector General’s investigation into the Flint water crisis found EPA Region 5 had enough information and the authority to issue an emergency order to protect Flint residents from lead-contaminated water as early as June 2015.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

The hunt is on for lead pipes in Detroit.

Flint officials still don’t know where all the city’s lead service lines are. That’s because the building records were in horrible shape.

Researchers at Virginia Tech received samples of Flint water (both clear and discolored) from residents. Dr. Edwards and his team there were among the first to call attention to lead contamination in Flint's water.
Flint Water Study / Facebook

The Legislature is going to work on toughening standards for lead in drinking water, although finishing the job may have to wait until next year.

State Senator Jim Ananich (D-Flint) has sponsored a bill to reduce the allowable levels of lead in drinking water. His bill would take the standard from the current 15 parts per billion (ppb) to 10 parts, and then to five pbb. He says the eventual goal is zero exposure to lead.

He says Michigan should adopt the toughest lead rules in the country following the Flint water crisis.                                     

A radar image of bird migration.

2016 has been on a record-breaking warm streak, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. 

So what does this unseasonably warm fall mean for birds that need to start packing up and heading south?

Andrew Farnsworth is a research associate with the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, and he runs BirdCast – it’s a tool the lab created to forecast what’s happening with bird migration each week. 

$340 billion dollars: a new study estimates that’s how much it costs Americans every year for daily low-level exposure to chemicals that mess with our hormonal systems. The figure includes health care costs and lost earnings. 

Dr. Leonardo Trasande is an associate professor of pediatrics, environmental medicine and population health at NYU School of Medicine.

A Flint resident holds a jug of tainted Flint water.
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

It was late September 2015 when the lid blew off of the Flint water disaster.

At the time, much of the attention and credit went to Virginia Tech water scientist Marc Edwards and to Flint pediatrician Dr Mona Hanna-Attisha.

Edwards had been issuing a steady flood of warnings based on his tests of water from Flint homes while Dr. Hanna-Attisha's study of blood lead levels in Flint's children finally convinced state officials that a public health catastrophe had occurred.

But there's another player in all of this and his analysis of Dr. Hanna-Attisha's medical findings destroyed the state's contention that Flint's water problem was being overblown.

Courtesy of Sue Nichols


Jack Liu of Michigan State University has spent some two decades studying pandas and people in a remote corner of China. His work has yielded powerful lessons in sustainability.

Liu is a human-environment scientist and a sustainability scholar at MSU, where he directs the Center for Systems Integration and Sustainability.

He joined us today to talk about his panda research and what it means for people outside of the remote Wolong Nature Reserve.

Scientists in Michigan have found a new dwarf planet in our solar system.

It's about 330 miles across and some 8.5 billion miles from the sun. It takes 1,100 years to complete one orbit.

But one of the most interesting things about the new object, known for the time being as 2014 UZ224, is the way astronomers found it.

Flickr user TIm Ereneta/ Flickr / http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

The Next Idea

I spend a lot of time looking for the future. I never really find it. Humans are too unpredictable. Innovations are like teenagers. They’re never really sure what they want be when they grow up, if they grow up at all. You can only hope they find their rightful place in the world somewhere along the way.

Perpetual Plastic Project

Plastic pollution is all around us, from grocery bags that aren’t properly recycled to islands of plastic floating in the oceans. An industrial designer from the Netherlands is trying to get people to think differently about plastic’s long life cycle.

A cyanobacteria bloom on Lake Erie in 2013.
Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

A lot of people are focused on trying to fix Lake Erie’s toxic bloom problem. The green cyanobacteria blooms are fueled by phosphorus that gets into the lake from farms and sewage treatment plants.

A new report says we need to focus a lot more on cleaning up the streams in Michigan and other states that feed the lake.

Stuart Ludsin is an author of the report and an associate professor at Ohio State University. He says too much sediment, phosphorus and nitrogen can also hurt the fish in streams.

Tens of thousands of water filters have been distributed in Flint.
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

The University of Michigan, Wayne State University and Michigan State University have researchers looking into when Flint residents should replace their home water filters.

The point-of-use filters, which became widely installed amid the Flint water crisis, are known to be effective in removing metals like lead and other contaminants from drinking water.

The universities have been looking into the water filters since news of the water crisis became public.

bat with white nose syndrome
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Headquarters / Flickr / http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

It's hard out here for a bat.

Especially if it's a bat in Michigan, according to Detroit News reporter Charles E. RamirezHe writes that the three biggest threats to bat populations are: "disease-causing fungus, wind turbines and loss of habitat."

steve carmody / Michigan Radio

Flint homeowners are getting new kits to test their tap water from the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality.

For nearly a year, Flint residents have been able to pick up testing kits at water distribution sites.  The state would test the water samples for the presence of lead.

The new testing kits will now contain two bottles. Residents will be instructed to fill the smaller bottle first. State officials say the test will produce three results.   

The intent is to assess if home water faucets are a significant source of lead in the tap water. 


The Next Idea

Every year, the United States spends $218 billion growing, transporting, and processing food that no one ever eats. That's billion. The financial, resource, and environmental costs of all the wasted food in the United States is staggering. 

Jason James/flickr / http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

In his article for The Conversation, University of Michigan Professor Andrew Hoffman discusses why academics and scientists are losing relevance in the eyes of the public and how they can - and must - reverse this trend. Hoffman is the Holcim Professor of Sustainable Enterprise at U of M.

user: Soil Science / Flickr

State officials are accepting more feedback on proposed new statewide standards for more than 300 environmental contaminants, including dioxane. 

The last public comment period ended in mid-September.  

This week the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality released revised proposed rules with a new comment deadline of October 18, and an additional public hearing scheduled for October 17 in Lansing. 

A brown marmorated stink bug is shown in Kalamazoo, Mich.
Michigan State University Department of Entomology

If you've seen a small shield-shaped brown insect slowing crawling on the walls inside your home, you might be housing one of Michigan's newest invaders: the brown marmorated stink bug.

This particular stink bug doesn't harm humans. They don't bite or spread disease, but they do eat plants and tree fruit. Since they first hitchiked to the United States about 20 years ago, but weren't seen in Michigan until 2010, they have become a pest to farmers and gardeners alike.  

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

We're coming up on the 50th anniversary of the partial meltdown at the Fermi 1 nuclear power plant next to Lake Erie. The plant, located a few miles northeast of Monroe, inspired the 1975 book We Almost Lost Detroit by reporter John Grant Fuller. 

The owner of the Fermi 1, DTE, published its own account of the meltdown called We Did Not Almost Lose Detroit. DTE says what happened at Fermi 1 has been exaggerated.

Michael Keegan, a member of the Coalition for a Nuclear-Free Great Lakes, joined Stateside to look back at the near-disaster half a century ago, where nuclear technology is at in 2016, and where it's going. 

Ann Arbor water bills might increase. Here's why.

Oct 4, 2016
water faucet
Laura Nawrocik / Flickr http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

Ann Arbor residents might see an increase in their water bills over the next few years to fund a project that will help continue disinfecting and filtering water. 

In conjunction with Ann Arbor's capital improvement plan, the city will recommend replacing pre-treatment basins, which help disinfect, filter and soften drinking water.

The eastern massasauga rattlesnake.

The eastern massasauga rattlesnake is now listed as a threatened species.

Scott Hicks is a field supervisor in Michigan with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. He says the massasauga’s new status is due to the loss of its wetland habitats.

Terry Kreeger / Wyoming Game and Fish Department/CWD Alliance

Archery season for deer started over the weekend, and that means state officials are gearing up to test more deer for chronic wasting disease

The disease is contagious, and it’s always fatal for the animals. It creates tiny holes in their brains, and deer get very skinny and start acting strange.

Since it was first found in wild deer in Michigan last year, seven deer have tested positive, with an 8th case suspected.

Lindsey Scullen / Michigan Radio

If there’s an unwanted thicket in your backyard, you know getting rid of it isn’t easy.

Bushes, shrubs and invasive species can be in hard-to-reach places. And beating down the weeds once, with bobcats or brushcutters, doesn’t mean they won’t sprout up again later.

That’s why father-son duo Mike and Doug Mourer of Twin Willow Ranch have been working their way around southeast Michigan with goats in tow.

They call their service “all-natural brush clearing.”

Enbridge Line 5 runs from Superior, Wisconsin to Sarnia, Ontario.

UPDATED 10/4/16 at 12:50 pm

The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality says Enbridge Energy can install four additional anchor supports on the Line 5 pipeline that runs beneath the Straits of Mackinac.

The MDEQ issued a permit for the four supports to maintain the integrity and safety of the pipeline.

Enbridge still needs a permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.