Environment & Science

Lindsey Scullen/Michigan Radio

Amy Beth Edwards posed this question to our M I Curious team:

Why doesn't road kill get picked up on a timely basis in Michigan?

Edwards says she sees dead animals so often along her commutes to Chicago that she had to know why they're all there.

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

There are many Michiganders feeling uneasy about the idea of those 62-year-old twin oil pipelines running along the bottom of the Straits of Mackinac.

The aging Line 5 can carry 540,000 barrels of oil and natural gas liquids each day.

Enbridge has made promises to keep the pipeline maintained and said it’s got an emergency response team in place, but there’s a complicating factor that no one can control: big, turbulent waves.

Photo by d.boyd, Flickr

State officials plan to remove hundreds of chemicals from a long list that requires companies to perform  modeling of smokestack emissions. 

The Michigan Manufacturers Association says each model can cost between $20,000 and $100,000, and removing the chemicals will make the process more efficient.

The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality agrees. 

Spokesman Brad Wurfel, in an email statement, said:

Fishing on Lake Michigan.
Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore / Flickr - http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

Although domestic clean energy efforts are leading to decreases in mercury pollution in the Great Lakes, a new International Joint Commission report says that increased reliance on fossil fuels overseas poses new concerns.

The IJC report urged the Canadian and U.S. governments to better monitor for mercury in the Great Lakes after noting increased levels of mercury in some fish in some parts of the Great Lakes.

USDA.gov

A deer killed by a hunter in DeWitt Township in Clinton County tested positive for chronic wasting disease. It is the fourth deer found with the disease in southern Michigan this year, and it shows that efforts by the Department of Natural Resources to stop the disease from spreading have not been successful. 

The flooding event in Detroit fits the global warming pattern, according to reports such as National Climate Assessment.
Michigan Emergency Management & Homeland Security / Flickr

In 1997 world leaders met Kyoto, Japan to set goals to curb carbon emissions in response to the threat of global climate change. While some nations strove to meet those goals, other countries ignored them. Almost 20 years later, the world community is meeting again to come up with a global plan to fight climate change. 

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

A top researcher says it’s still too soon to drink Flint’s tap water unfiltered.

Virginia Tech University researcher Marc Edwards has been studying Flint’s water problems for months.    Tests conducted by Edwards’ team on water samples from more than 250 Flint homes showed elevated levels of lead.  

Edwards has been in Flint this week testing tap water in ten ‘sentinel’ homes.  He says the tests are tracking what’s happened in the six weeks since Flint switched back to Detroit water, after 18 months of getting tap water from the corrosive Flint River. 

Flickr user Mike Bell / Flickr / http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

Recent changes to the rules for deer hunting are changing the sport.

The rules apply to much of the northern Lower Peninsula, and they're more restrictive, making it harder to shoot a buck.

Plenty of hunters objected when they were put in place.

But after a few years, some say it’s a dramatic improvement and could make the region a hunting destination for people from other states.

A closeup view of spotted wing drosophila, collected by researchers near Traverse City.
Northwest Michigan Horticulture Research Center

A pesky insect that loves to invade fruit has found its way to northern Michigan’s cherry orchards. Scientists have had their eye on spotted wing drosophila since it arrived in the U.S. from Asia in 2008. 

Image courtesy the University of Michigan Bentley Historical Library

He became known to the world as “Dr. Death.” His first so-called “medicide” happened in the Detroit area in 1990.

From that point, Michigan pathologist Dr. Jack Kevorkian became the best-known face of the right-to-die movement. He assisted in the suicides of over 100 terminally ill people between 1990 and 1998.

He died in 2011 at age 83.

Now, Kevorkian’s papers are open to the public at the University of Michigan’s Bentley Historical Library.

Flint water treatment plant
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Flint leaders want the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to strengthen its regulation of public drinking water systems.

U.S. Congressman Dan Kildee, D-Flint, and seven others testified today in front of the EPA's National Drinking Water Advisory Council. The Council is developing recommendations to the EPA about changes to its rule on lead and copper in water.

Kildee said the agency needs to tighten up its regulations to make sure what happened in Flint never happens again.

Screen grab

Material that repairs itself after being shot? Sounds like something out of a sci-fi movie, but what practical applications could this have?

Researchers at the University of Michigan have teamed up with NASA to develop a material that solidifies once it's exposed to the atmosphere and could help make space travel safer. 

A meteor during the peak of the 2009 Leonid Meteor Shower. The photograph shows the meteor, afterglow, and wake as distinct components.
user Navicore / Wikimedia Commons

Astronomy enthusiasts are gearing up for a viewing of the Leonid meteor shower, set to peak between midnight and dawn tomorrow.

Headlands International Dark Sky Park near Mackinaw City is welcoming a host of stargazers for one of the biggest meteor showers of the year. Mary Stewart Adams, program director at the Headlands International Dark Sky Park, spoke with Stateside about the Leonids.

The shower is produced when a comet coming through our planetary system breaks into pieces as it approaches the sun, Adams says. The Earth orbits through the comet debris, giving the appearance of falling stars.

The Vatican Observatory
Vatican Observatory / http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

Michigan native Brother Guy Consolmagno is one of 12 Vatican astronomers. He oversees the Vatican’s meteorite collection and was recently appointed as the director of the Vatican Observatory by Pope Francis.

A year ago, he became the first clergyman to win the Carl Sagan Medal, one of planetary science’s most distinguished honors. It’s given to the scientist who makes science accessible and understandable to the public.

American astronaut Scott Kelly posted a picture of Michigan and some of its Great Lakes to Twitter on Monday.
Scott Kelly

Many astronauts are using social media to showcase images of the blue planet from outer space – including awe-inspiring photos featuring Michigan cities and its Great Lakes.

Monday morning, NASA astronaut Scott Kelly tweeted out a picture of Michigan and the area surrounding the Great Lakes at nighttime. Kelly calls the Great Lakes "unmistakeable," even from 250 miles up.

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 Flint water crisis has uncovered all kinds of details about how cities test the safety of their drinking water.

In particular, critics say the state is giving bad advice on testing drinking water for lead.

The state of Michigan tells cities to do something called pre-flushing.

A coffee leaf infected with Hemileia vastatrix, or coffee rust
wikimedia user Smartse / http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

For many of us, the day doesn’t really start until we polish off that steaming cup of coffee.

But a fungus called "coffee rust” is putting that luxury in jeopardy. It’s attacking coffee plants across Mexico and Central America, and in recent years has caused more than $1 billion in crop losses and cost thousands of workers their jobs.

Two University of Michigan professors have been studying coffee in Mexico for nearly 20 years. They want to understand just how this fungus spreads and how best to shut it down.

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 Flint water crisis will be part of a public meeting this week in Virginia about federal rules on lead.

The National Drinking Water Advisory Council is holding meetings tomorrow through Thursday to develop recommendations for the Environmental Protection Agency.

The EPA is working on changing its rules on lead and copper in water. Those rules have been scrutinized lately because of Flint’s problems with lead in drinking water.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Firearm deer season is underway today in Michigan.

The hunt is giving state wildlife officials a chance to expand the search for more cases of chronic wasting disease.

In April, a 6 year old doe tested positive for CWD, a fatal neurological disease. It was the first case of a free ranging deer coming down with the disease. Since then, two more deer have tested positive. All three deer were from Ingham County and were related.    

A pair of Eastern Massasauga rattlesnakes, the only venomous snake native to Michigan.
Steven Parrish / Matthaei Botanical Gardens and Nichols Arboretum, the University of Michigan

The Eastern Massasauga — the sole rattlesnake to inhabit the state of Michigan — is facing rapid population loss that's prompting national concern for Michigan wildlife.

In September 2015, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposed to list the snake as a "threatened species" under the Endangered Species Act, which would qualify the snake for national funds to help preserve the species. 

State urges hunters to help keep deer disease out of UP

Nov 12, 2015
Michigan Department of Natural Resources

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources has launched an education campaign to try to keep chronic wasting disease from spreading to the Upper Peninsula.

The disease affects the central nervous system and is always fatal to white-tailed deer, mule deer, elk, and moose, according to the DNR. And there is no known treatment.  

Tom Kowalczk

The Coast Guard has been responding to a leaky shipwreck on the bottom of western Lake Erie.

The shipwreck is believed to be the Argo. It’s a tank barge that sank in 1937 and it’s considered the biggest pollution threat from a shipwreck in the Great Lakes.

NOAA

Scientists say a toxic bacteria bloom in Lake Erie this past summer was the largest on record, and produced a thick scum so big it could almost cover New York City.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says the outbreak surpassed the record-setting bloom in 2011 that stretched from Toledo to Cleveland.

Sandy Bihn is with Lake Erie Waterkeeper Inc. 

She says states bordering Lake Erie have to dramatically reduce the amount of phosphorus getting into the lake.

Phosphorus is a nutrient that helps cyanobacteria grow.

Susan Ellis, USDA APHIS PPQ / Bugwood.org

It's called a swede midge.

A tiny insect that has the power to cause some big problems for farmers. And now this pest has turned up on several organic farms in Sanilac County.

Zsofia Szendrei is a Michigan State University associate professor who specializes in arthropod farm pests.

She joined us today to talk about the scope of the midge population and what's at stake for Michigan's vegetables. 

DAVID KENYON MICHIGAN DNR

Snowy owls are doing some unusual things again this year.

The last two winters, people in Michigan saw a lot of them. There were big migrations of owls called irruptions – that’s when they fly south from their breeding grounds in the Arctic.

This year, researchers don’t expect those big numbers again, but they are surprised by how early owls are arriving.

Most snowy owls start arriving here in the middle of November into December, but owls started showing up in the Great Lakes region in mid-October this year.

Wikipedia

The US Environmental Protection Agency has pledged almost $20 million dollars to help clean up the Clinton River in southeast Michigan.

The river, which flows largely through Macomb County into Lake Saint Clair, has been designated a Great Lakes Area of Concern for many years.

EPA officials announced Monday that more federal money is coming through the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative.

Pinhole-sized leak plugged on sunken barge in Lake Erie

Nov 7, 2015
Tom Kowalczk

TOLEDO, Ohio (AP) - The U.S. Coast Guard says divers in Lake Erie have found and plugged a pinhole-sized leak on a sunken barge near where an oil-based substance has been spotted in recent weeks.

The Coast Guard says there appeared to be a colorless liquid coming from the tiny leak.

Crews have been monitoring the site near the U.S.-Canadian border since discovering a sheen on the surface late last month.

The substance is believed to be coming from the barge that sank in 1937 and is on a federal registry of the most serious pollution threats to U.S. waters.

wikimedia commons

Wayne County's wastewater treatment plant will soon have to reduce the amount of phosphorus it dumps into the Detroit River.

It's part of the state's plan to lower phosphorus levels in Lake Erie to control cyanobacteria blooms. 

Bill Creal is with the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality.  He says the new permit for Wayne County will be the same as the permit given to Detroit Water and Sewerage last year, which was more successful at reducing phosphorus than anyone envisioned.

The office of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau

Michigan’s two United States Senators have sent a letter to Canada’s new prime minister to kill plans for a nuclear waste dump along Lake Huron.

The plans call for nuclear waste storage facility less than a mile from the shore of Lake Huron.

The former Conservative prime minister’s government was supportive of the plan. But the Conservatives lost a recent election to the Liberal Party. 

Jason Jenkins-Asian Carp Regional Coordinating Committee / flickr creative commons http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

Members of Congress want faster government action to stop Asian carp from reaching the Great Lakes through Chicago-area waterways.

US Senator Debbie Stabenow and a bi-partisan group of Great Lakes legislators met Wednesday with representatives of key federal agencies.

"We have to keep the Army Corps of Engineers, who has the primary responsibility now, laser focused on doing everything they can to stop these carp," said Stabenow.

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