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Environment & Science

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Three years ago today, Flint switched the source of its drinking water, and triggered a public health crisis.

The Flint Water Treatment Plant
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Three years ago today, the city of Flint switched to the Flint River for its drinking water. We all know how that story goes.

So now, three years later, how has what happened in Flint changed the way we look at our drinking water?

Lake Michigan
Jennifer Guerra / Michigan Radio

Representatives from the eight Great Lakes states have reaffirmed approval of Waukesha, Wisconsin's request to switch its own contaminated water supply to Lake Michigan.

The 2008 Great Lakes Compact allows such a diversion if a city is at least partly within the watershed of one of the lakes. 

Last summer, Great Lakes governors voted unanimously to allow Waukesha to draw Lake Michigan water, but the decision was appealed by the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative.

nl.monteiro / Flickr http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

Tomorrow, Earth Day, the March for Science will be held in Washington, D.C. Other marches are planned for hundreds of cities around the world.

The organizers’ mission statement reads: “The March for Science champions robustly funded and publicly communicated science as a pillar of human freedom and prosperity. We unite as a diverse, nonpartisan group to call for science that upholds the common good and for political leaders and policy makers to enact evidence based policies in the public interest.”

Laura Nawrocik / FLICKR - HTTP://J.MP/1SPGCL0

Michigan Radio's Issues & Ale series will stop at Bell's Brewery on Tuesday, April 25 from 6:30-8 p.m. to talk about the challenges facing Michigan's drinking water. 

From water diversion and pollution to our aging infrastructure system, the Environment Report's Rebecca Williams will lead a panel of experts through a conversation about some of the biggest threats.

We want to make sure that conversation answers your biggest questions. So what do you want to know about drinking water in Michigan? 

Fish in Lake St. Clair have a virus (VHSV) that is causing thousands of them to wash up dead on the shore.
jpowers65 / Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

There are two environmental stories making news today.

First, fish in Lake St. Clair have a virus (VHSV) that is causing thousands of them to wash up dead on the shore. Luckily, eating a fish with VHSV is not expected to cause any adverse health problems for humans, but with that many fish dying in the lake, this could cause a problem for the ecosystem. 

Second, Nestle has put in a bid to pump more Michigan groundwater to produce Ice Mountain bottled water for consumers, but they were denied. However, that's not the end of the story.

Celeste A. Journey / USGS

A lot of different chemicals end up in our rivers and streams.

Researchers are finding these mixtures of chemicals are more complex than we thought, and it could hurt fish and other creatures.

Lead pipes
Mitch Barrie / Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

Governor Rick Snyder plans to take executive action on tougher standards for lead in drinking water in the face of foot-dragging by the Legislature.

The Legislature’s Republican leaders have been cool to Governor Snyder’s proposed new lead-in-water rules, which would be tougher than federal standards. The governor says the federal rule is weak and confusing, and partially responsible for the Flint water crisis.

Fraser home falling into the sinkhole.
Bryce Huffman / Michigan Radio

State lawmakers are back at the Capitol following their spring break. One job facing them is ending a standoff over money to help Macomb County deal with a giant sinkhole.

The sinkhole is as big as a football field and displaced two dozen families after an underground pipe collapsed on Christmas Eve in Fraser. Now, the disaster threatens to rupture sewer lines that could send a giant mess into Lake Saint Clair, which is part of the Great Lakes system.

The state House approved a $3 million dollar grant before the spring break. But the Senate wants the money to be a loan.

Stateside 4.18.2017

Apr 18, 2017

Today, Stateside launches a new regular segment called Theater Talk to spotlight Michigan's professional stage scene. And, we hear about a plan to fix Detroit's dangerous air quality.

DPROVOST ~ PROSPER IN 2011 / FLICKR HTTP://J.MP/1SPGCL0

Poor air quality in Detroit is putting people into the hospital, and even killing some. It's making them sick and unable to go to work or school.

That's not opinion. That's a fact with scientific data to back it up.

Courtesy of Michigan Tech

This year’s Winter Study of the wolves and moose of Isle Royale found that there are still just two wolves hanging out on the island.

A close-up shot of a cannabis plant
Charlón / FLICKR - HTTP://J.MP/1SPGCL0

The Next Idea

Northern Michigan University has unveiled a new program: a first-of-its-kind undergraduate degree in medicinal plant chemistry where students will study the science of cannabis.

Mark Paulsen joined Stateside to discuss the new program. He’s a professor and head of the Department of Chemistry at Northern Michigan University.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says it has no current plan to close its Region 5 branch office in Chicago, and calls a Chicago Sun-Times newspaper story reporting the possibility an "unsubstantiated rumor." 

But despite saying the story "has no merit," there's clearly a reason for the rumor.

An EPA official says the agency may merge two of its branch offices, but hasn't decided if it will, let alone which ones. 

Stateside 4.14.2017

Apr 14, 2017

Today on Stateside, we hear why the nuclear industry blames government for not providing a permanent way to store nuclear waste. And, a visit to Scott Smith Pipe Organs takes us into the holiday weekend.

According to Samuel Brinton of the American Nuclear Society, there are more than 75,000 metric tons of nuclear waste in storage all over the country.
daveynin / Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

The nuclear power industry has a problem. It has no way to dispose of spent nuclear fuel rods, which are high-level nuclear waste.

Since 1987, the plan was a facility in Nevada known as Yucca Mountain. The Obama administration basically put that project on hold. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission completed a safety evaluation report and completed an Environmental Impact Statement last year.

Now the Trump administration indicates Yucca Mountain is back on the agenda. In the president’s proposed budget, $120 million is set aside for restarting the approval process.

The Michigan Senate in Lansing.
Lester Graham / Michigan Radio file photo

For more than 40 years, royalties from oil and mineral rights on State of Michigan-owned land have gone to the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund. The Trust Fund is controlled by a non-partisan board. It uses the money to buy park land and to help cities and counties develop public recreation areas.

More than 30 years ago voters passed a constitutional amendment that barred the Legislature from raiding that fund.

A hackathon for Lake Erie

Apr 14, 2017
A cyanobacteria bloom on Lake Erie in 2013.
Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

Pollution and other problems plague areas all over the Great Lakes region, and they can make drinking or swimming dangerous. There’s plenty of blame to go around for this – city water utilities, agriculture, and politicians to name a few.

Now an unlikely industry has joined the search for solutions: technology is taking on Lake Erie.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

About 500 people showed up to a public hearing in Big Rapids hosted by Michigan’s Department of Environmental Quality last night. Almost every one of them spoke against Nestle’s plan to pump 400 gallons of water a minute to sell under the company’s Ice Mountain bottled water brand. 

steve carmody / Michigan Radio

People walking near part of the Flint River will see, and likely smell, a major dredging project this summer.

About a quarter mile segment of the Flint River will be dredged to remove tons of soil contaminated with coal tar from a gas plant that closed a century ago.    The plant operated from the mid-1800’s to the late 1920’s. Consumers Energy bought the old coal plant back in the 1920’s.   

Jim Innes with the MDEQ is the project manager.    He says coal tar does present a potential health issue for people.

Center for Lakes and Research / Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

Volunteers will help monitor several Michigan trout streams for the invasive New Zealand mudsnail.

The tiny snail made its first Michigan appearance in 2015, when it showed up in the Pere Marquette River. Since then, it's been spotted in the Boardman and Au Sable rivers.

They reproduce in great abundance and gobble food needed by the native invertebrates that are food for trout and other fish.

Michigan Radio mapped 49 bottled water facilities in Michigan. An interactive version is below.
Kaye LaFond / Michigan Radio

Tomorrow evening at 7pm, the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality is holding a public hearing on a request from Nestle Waters. 

Inside the Flint water treatment plant.
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

The Next Idea

Take the combined brainpower of Michigan State, the University of Michigan and Wayne State University-- and apply that to solving the water infrastructure problems we face not only in Flint, but across Michigan.

Menominee River
Wikimedia Commons

Michigan’s first potential new gold mine since the late 1800s now has three of four permits it needs to open.

The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality issued a surface water permit for the Back Forty Project this month.

That proposal is an open-pit sulfide mine located along the Menominee River in the Upper Peninsula. A group of investors, led by the Canadian mining company Aquila, plans to mine the site for gold, copper and zinc.

Stateside 4.7.2017

Apr 7, 2017

Today on Stateside, we learn what's at stake if Republicans cut regulation on concealed weapons and vaccinations. And, we're joined by creators and stars of Comedy Central's Detroiters. They explain how local favorites like fowling and Mel Farr Superstar made their way into the show.

The Bruce Nuclear Generating Station right on Lake Huron in Ontario.
user Cszmurlo / Wikimedia Commons

A proposal by Ontario Power Generation to bury low- and intermediate-level nuclear waste less than a mile from Lake Huron has met with stiff resistance on both sides of the border.

The Canadian government is considering the request. On Wednesday, the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency asked Ontario Power Generation for additional information about the nuclear waste dump, further delaying its implementation.

So what is the risk posed by low- and intermediate-level nuclear waste?

Smokestacks spewing pollution
mdprovost ~ Prosper in 2011 / Flickr http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

Detroit suffers from unhealthy levels of air pollution nearly half the year.

That’s according to new EPA data, and a national report from the group Environment America, including its Michigan chapter.

The report found that Detroit had 161 “dirty air days” in 2015, “increasing the risk of premature death, asthma attacks and other adverse health impacts.”

young woman at Science Gallery Lab
Courtesy of Jeff Grabill

The Next Idea

Science Gallery has been described as a place where science and art collide. The result? Creative ways to tackle some of the world's biggest problems.

The first Science Gallery Lab is in Dublin. Now, Michigan State University is launching Science Gallery Lab Detroit.

Courtesy of Nature and Nurture Seeds

As we ease our way into spring, gardeners might want to consider planting heirloom seeds.

That's Erica Kempter's advice to growers this year. She's co-owner of an organic seed farm called Nature and Nurture.

The result could be a chance to taste surprising and often forgotten foods that belong here in the Great Lakes region. 

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

Some government websites are changing what they say about the environment, and a group of researchers is keeping track. Researchers in the U.S. and Canada are continuing to back up scientific data from federal agencies in the U.S.

They’re also keeping a close eye on how information is changing on federal websites like the EPA, the State Department and the Department of Energy, along with other federal agency sites, and they've been finding changes are happening.

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