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Environment & Science

Sarah Bird

 

"When can we eat the fish?”

That’s what the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula wants to know.

 

Officials in Michigan issue fish advisories. Those recommend limits on how much fish we eat because of toxic chemicals that can build up in fish.

 

Indigenous communities in the Great Lakes are at greater risk because they eat a lot of fish.

 

For years, there was a focus on trying to get tribes to follow the advisories more closely. But some people argue that’s the wrong way to tackle the problem.

 

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

Money might be on the way to help fight perfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS, in Michigan.

 

PFAS is a family of chemicals that’s been discovered in groundwater in 14 communities, and 28 sites, across the state. PFAS chemicals are used in things like flame retardants, cleaning products and food packaging.

 

Susanne Nilsson / Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

An archeological dig yields more than arrowheads, shards of pottery, or pieces of jewelry.

They also yield bones.

A research team at the University of Michigan has been studying some ancient dog bones dug up in Germany. In doing so, they’ve uncovered new clues about when our faithful domesticated dog evolved from wolves.

A small fish is held in a net.
Sarah Bird

 


If you eat wild caught fish from Michigan, you might know about fish consumption advisories. They’re recommended limits on safe amounts of fish to eat, and they're necessary because toxic chemicals build up in fish in the Great Lakes and inland lakes and streams.

The red lines show where Enbridge's Line 5 crosses Lake Michigan.
screenshot from Enbridge report to the state

Members of a pipeline advisory board are criticizing a deal Governor Snyder struck with the energy company Enbridge. They are calling for the line to be temporarily shut down.

The Pipeline Safety Advisory Board, created by a governor’s executive order, met Monday. Some members raised concerns over Enbridge’s Line 5 pipeline, and the agreement the governor made with the company after the line showed wear on the decades-old protective coating.

Japanese knotweed is a prohibited invasive plant species in Michigan.
USDA Forest Service

Invasive species tend to do well in new places, and they can push out native species. There’s an assumption that they do better in the same kind of environment as the country they came from.

But scientists have found that some invasive plants can change and adapt to new continents and new climates.

New wild bee species discovered in Michigan

Dec 7, 2017
Kim Phillips / Michigan State University

Michigan is home to more species of wild bees than has been previously known, according to the first census made of wild bee species in the state. 

"Overall we found that there's 465 species of wild bees in Michigan," said Michigan State University professor Rufus Isaacs, co-leader of the project. "And interestingly, 38 of those were new species that hadn't been seen before in the state of Michigan."

Caribb / Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

The Next Idea

From the Sears kit houses of the early 1900s to the McMansions of the '90s, the way we heat and cool our homes has mostly followed this formula: Build a space the size you want, then install heating and cooling that will keep that square footage comfortable. 

D. Tallamy, courtesy of Desiree Narango

Native plants are better for birds than non-native plants.

That’s the main finding of a study on chickadees and the caterpillars they eat.

A "no trespassing" sign from the House Street site boundary.
Bryce Huffman / Michigan Radio

People in northern Kent County have been dealing with the recent discovery of groundwater contamination for the past several months.

Some residents still have questions about what caused it and how it could affect their health.

Bruce Power / Ontario Power Generation

More than 100 Great Lakes mayors and elected officials want the Canadian government to say no to a controversial plan to bury low- and intermediate-level nuclear waste within one mile of Lake Huron at the Bruce Nuclear Power Plant in Kincardine, Ontario.

The officials from both side of the U.S-Canadian border slammed Ontario Power Generation's plan in a November 30, 2017 letter to Catherine McKenna, Canada's Minister of Environment and Climate Change.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Michigan’s Department of Environmental Quality is vowing to strengthen lead-in-water rules because of the Flint water crisis. At a public meeting in Lansing Wednesday night, state regulators said they cannot wait on the federal government to finish its own version of the new rules.

Today on Stateside, we talk to a physician who nearly died at her own hospital. Now, she's calling on medical staffers everywhere to be more empathetic. Also today, a deer specialist explains chronic wasting disease's impact on animals this year and what the Department of Natural Resources has learned from deer submitted by hunters for testing. And, Enbridge defends its agreement with the state on the Line 5 pipeline.

Michigan Department of Natural Resources / Facebook

All through this deer hunting season, Michigan hunters are bringing their deer to check stations to be tested for a disease called chronic wasting disease (CWD).

It's turning up again in deer in our state, which is why the Department of Natural Resources is keeping a close eye on this threat.

Today on Stateside, a member of the state Pipeline Safety Advisory Board explains why the state's agreement with Enbridge "mostly goes in the wrong direction." And, in a holiday rendition of Theater Talk, we learn what's playing now on Michigan stages.

Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

What does the newly-announced binding agreement between the state of Michigan and Enbridge mean for the future of Line 5, especially the stretch that runs under the Straits of Mackinac?

NOAA

 A new report finds governments are not making “sufficient progress” toward insuring the “drinkability, swimmability and fishability of the Great Lakes.”

The report, entitled the First Triennial Assessment of Progress on the Great Lakes, comes from the International Joint Commission, or IJC.   The IJC is a bi-national organization created under the Boundary Water Treaty of 1909.

The triennial assessment released today was required under a 2012 agreement.

The report finds not enough progress in reducing pollutants, including phosphorus which is creating cyanobacteria blooms in Lake Erie.  A bloom three years ago forced Toledo to shut off its water for two days.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Michigan’s Department of Environmental Quality is unveiling changes to lead in water rules this week.

Communities in Michigan with lead water pipes will have special interest in a public meeting Michigan's Department of Environmental Quality is hosting Wednesday night.

Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

TOLEDO, Ohio (AP) - Ohio has come out with an updated plan to sharply reduce what's making algae flourish in Lake Erie, but some environmental groups say the strategy lacks direction about what to do next.

  The plan is designed to lay out how Ohio intends to reach its goal of making a 40 percent reduction of phosphorus within the next eight years.

  Michigan and the Canadian province of Ontario along with Ohio signed a deal two years ago agreeing to make steep cuts of the phosphorus that sparked large algae outbreaks in recent years.

Recycling symbol
Alan Levine / Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

Kent County is closing its recycling facility temporarily. But this is a good thing in the long run, according to the Department of Public Works.

Kristen Weiland, marketing and communications director with the Kent County Department of Public Works, says the facility is shutting down so the county can install new equipment.

City of Ann Arbor Public Services Administration

Ann Arborites can rest easy that they will not be asked to volunteer to limit their water consumption over the Thanksgiving weekend, according to Robert Kellar, spokesman for the Ann Arbor Public Services Administration.

Kellar said a leak that might have led to a temporary shutdown of Ann Arbor's water treatment plant has been isolated and is getting fixed. 

Kellar said the leak was discovered last weekend in one of two intake pipes to Ann Arbor's treatment plant. 

"The staff did an excellent job. There's not a threat at this point to the quality or the use of people's water," said Kellar. "So everybody should enjoy their holiday."

According to Kellar, the possibility had always been remote that the leak might lead to temporary voluntary water restrictions. He said they were presented to Ann Arbor City Council on Monday night as part of considering a worst case scenario.

Photo by Scott McArt, used with permission.

We’ve heard a lot about honeybees and how important they are as pollinators. But bumblebees pollinate wildflowers and crops, too, and some kinds of bumblebees are in trouble.

aerial photo of the Great Lakes
National Oceanic and And Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

The Great Lakes Commission and Lawrence Technological University are teaming up to protect the Great Lakes by changing the way cities think about rain water.

They want to explore new ways communities can handle storm water to prevent things like flooding and sewage overflow into the lakes.

Michael Polich is a program specialist with the Great Lakes Commission. He says cities often view alternate storm water technologies as different and untested, making them hesitant to implement new ideas.

inside of lead service line
Terese Olson / University of Michigan

Ever since the Flint water crisis, Michigan cities and citizens have started paying attention to lead in drinking water pipes and faucets and the potential dangers they pose.

You might have lead pipes, or fixtures that contain lead, in your home without even knowing. Many cities are only replacing the public side of lead service lines. So determining what's coming into, and what's inside your home is up to you.

There are lead service lines in older communities across Michigan. Because of their age and population size, it’s fair to say the bulk of Michigan’s lead service lines are in cities in Southeast Michigan.

I spent a lot of time trying to determine which Detroit suburbs have lead service lines and how many. I wanted to see how far out into the suburbs lead was found in underground water pipes.

It was relatively easy (albeit an expensive FOIA bill near $2000 for these "public documents") to track down which communities were testing lead lines. But figuring out how many lead pipes were in each community is nearly impossible.

Documents: US Steel sought to keep chemical spill secret

Nov 16, 2017
Ken Lund / Flickr Creative Commons HTTP://MICHRAD.IO/1LXRDJM

Environmentalists are questioning why the public wasn't notified about an October chemical spill into a Lake Michigan tributary that U.S. Steel asked Indiana regulators to keep confidential.

Documents released by the University of Chicago's Abrams Environmental Law Clinic show that U.S. Steel's plant in Portage, Indiana, released 56.7 pounds (25.7 kilograms) of chromium on Oct. 25 after a wastewater treatment system malfunction. That's nearly double what the plant is permitted to release of the potentially cancer-causing chemical over 24 hours.

A dive team works on Line 5 under the Straits of Mackinac.
Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

It’s been a steady drip-drip-drip of revelations from Enbridge Energy about its Line 5 — the oil and gas pipelines running beneath the Straits of Mackinac.

The latest revelation is that there are more spots where the protective coating has worn off — lots more spots, even though a year ago we were told there weren’t any coating gaps.

The latest admission from the Canadian energy company drew a quick response from a plainly exasperated Governor Snyder, who called Enbridge’s “lack of transparency” to be “deeply troubling.”

But what are we hearing from Michigan's business leaders?

notices
Emma Winowiecki / Michigan Radio

Because of the Flint water crisis, several Michigan cities are making long term plans to replace old lead water pipes that connect homes to the water main.

That is good for public health, but well-meaning municipal water operators can actually make lead exposure worse if they’re not careful.

There’s a mix of lead and copper pipes buried near the corner of Trinity and Florence in a neighborhood on Detroit’s northwest side. When I visited a month ago the block was lined with nice, two story brick homes and orange construction barrels. It smelled like diesel.

As thousands of hunters head out with rifles today, a tiny group of Michiganders heads out with birds instead. We talk with one of those falconers on Stateside​. Also today, an ecologist says biodiversity could be the planet's "insurance policy," but only if we act fast. And, we learn Michigan State University sports doctor Larry Nassar is considering a guilty plea to charges he sexually assaulted young athletes.

Researchers manipulating the number of plant species in an experimental plot to determine how biodiversity impacts the productivity of ecosystems.
David Tilman

Biodiversity.

It's one of those scientific terms we hear and think, "That's a good thing. We need it,” without truly knowing why it's a good thing.

A University of Michigan and Smithsonian study now helps us understand. The researchers found biodiversity is even more powerful and important than they thought it would be.

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