Environment & Science

Researchers from the University of Michigan looked at how far oil might travel with a 12-hour release in the Straits of Mackinac.
UM Water Center

The scenario: Someone has spotted oil on Lake Michigan in the Straits of Mackinac. They place a call to an emergency response center.

What happens next?

Today, Enbridge and other emergency response officials will test whether their emergency oil spill response plan is effective.

Painting of a boy grabbing a sea lamprey by Mark Heckman.
Painting by Mark Heckman, courtesy of Thunder Bay Press.

Officials are reporting significant progress in the battle against an invasive, fish-killing Great Lakes parasite.

The Great Lakes Fishery Commission says the population of sea lampreys has reached a 30-year low in Lake Huron and a 20-year low in Lake Michigan. 

A diver inspects Enbridge's Line 5 pipeline under the Straits of Mackinac for a possible dent. Enbridge performs inspections, but won't share what they find.
Credit an Enbridge inspection video shared with the state of Michigan

Both U.S. senators from Michigan are spearheading legislation meant to protect the Great Lakes from an oil spill.

Senators Gary Peters and Debbie Stabenow say the measures would ban shipping of crude oil on the lakes. That’s something that’s not happening now, the senators admit.

Schwallier's Country Basket / http://schwalliers.com/

Honeycrisp harvest is underway in Michigan.

The many fans of Honeycrisp apples will be happy to learn that all signs point to a fine crop this year.

But that good news presents new challenges for Michigan growers.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

CLARE, Mich. (AP) - A man hunting for porcupine was attacked by a black bear in Clare County.

  The Department of Natural Resources says the 46-year-old was treated for minor injuries Thursday night. The hunter told authorities that the bear knocked him over from behind.

Gray wolf confirmed in lower peninsula

Sep 17, 2015
Gray wolf
Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians

The presence of a gray wolf in Michigan's lower peninsula was confirmed this week.  

In the winter of 2014, a motion-activated wildlife camera on the reservation of the Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians captured several shots of what appeared to be a wolf.

flickr user Kenny Louie / http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

The first day of autumn is less than a week away, but if you’re planning to take a trip up north to marvel at the fall colors, MLive and farmerweather.com meteorologist Mark Torregrossa tells us you might want to wait.

He says rain and warm weather are keeping the trees lush and green.

A female green frog. Researchers are finding more females than males in suburbia.
Geoff Giller / Yale University

Past studies have found strange things happening to frogs when they’re exposed to farm chemicals. A new study shows estrogen in suburban areas is messing with frogs’ hormonal systems too.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

The head of Michigan's Department of Environmental Quality plans to respond Monday to a demand for answers about Flint’s water woes.

Last week, State Sen. Jim Ananich, D-Flint, state Rep. Sheldon Neeley, D-Flint, and state Rep. Phil Phelps, D-Flushing, sent a letter to DEQ director Dan Wyant demanding answers to a list of questions about the safety and treatment of Flint’s drinking water.

Wikipedia

Plans to expand a hazardous waste facility have sparked worries from residents in a Detroit neighborhood.

The US Ecology facility site has been processing and temporarily storing hazardous waste on Detroit’s east side for decades.

That includes toxic chemicals and other byproducts from nearby industrial facilities.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

New tests show that possible changes to how Flint treats its drinking water may not solve a problem that could be creating "serious" lead levels in people's tap water.

Virginia Tech University researchers say a big part of the problem with Flint’s tap water is the corrosiveness of Flint River water.

They claim it’s 19 times more corrosive to lead solder used in pipes than the Detroit water it replaced.     

MDEQ

The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality has released its first status report on the wetlands in our state. 

You can think of wetlands as nature’s kidneys — they filter water.

Wetlands also help control floodwater and all kinds of creatures live in them.

Two environmental groups say the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) needs to do more to protect local residents from toxic pollutants from a renewable energy power plant in the Upper Peninsula.

The two groups, Michigan-based Friends of the Land of Keweenaw and Massachusetts-based Partnership for Policy Integrity, filed comments today with the MDEQ on the department's draft Renewable Operation Permit for the L'Anse Warden "biomass" plant, charging that the pollution standards at the plant are weak to nonexistent.

Map showing the location of Waukesha, WI.
Screencap from Google Maps / Google

The city of Waukesha, Wisconsin has a contamination problem in its aquifer, and the federal government has ordered the city to find a new source of drinking water by 2018.

Waukesha is just a mile and a half outside the Lake Michigan watershed, so tapping Great Lakes water seems like the most obvious solution to the city’s problem.

Much of the corn grown in the U.S. today is genetically engineered to resist the herbicide Roundup.
Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

The study, published in the journal Environmental Health, found that continuous exposure to very low doses of the herbicide Roundup might be linked to liver and kidney damage.

The researchers looked at how genes changed in rats that were given a commercial Roundup formulation containing 0.1 parts per billion of glyphosate (the active ingredient in Roundup) over a two-year period.

Paula Friedrich / Michigan Radio

Rewind a few thousand years to a time before grocery stores existed. You would have gotten a lot of your food by finding it out in the wild.

Foraging is no longer a necessary skill … but some people like to do it as a hobby. Rachel Mifsud is one of those people. 

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

  MACKINAW CITY, Mich. (AP) - Environmental activists are planning events during the Labor Day Mackinac Bridge Walk to call attention to a number of issues, including a controversial oil pipeline in the area.

A group called We Protect Mother Earth says its protest will feature speeches and a drumming ceremony. It will begin around 9 a.m. Monday at the St. Ignace Welcome Center on the north side of the bridge, where thousands of people will be taking part in the annual holiday walk.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

State wildlife officials are shifting their investigation into Chronic Wasting Disease in deer in mid-Michigan.  

The Department of Natural Resources has examined the brains of roughly 600 deer since the first case of CWD was confirmed in Ingham County in May. In all, three have tested positive for the fatal neurological disease.

A diver inspects Enbridge's Line 5 pipeline under the Straits of Mackinac for a possible dent. Enbridge performs inspections, but won't share what they find.
Credit an Enbridge inspection video shared with the state of Michigan

The state of Michigan has signed a deal with Enbridge Energy that heavy crude oil will not be shipped through a pipeline that runs beneath the Straits of Mackinac.

But the agreement doesn’t change anything as far as protecting the Great Lakes.

Enbridge Line 5 wasn’t built to carry heavy crude oil and never has. 

Jindong Zhang, Michigan State University Center for Systems Integration and Sustainability

There's just something about the panda that captures our imagination.

The recent birth of panda twins at the National Zoo caused much excitement, although that was tempered somewhat when the smallest cub died last month.

And pandas have captured the interest of a research team from Michigan State University, which has discovered that pandas truly "march to the beat of their own drum."

Dow Chemical

There’s heated debate over the future of renewable energy policy in Michigan – and it’s not just Democrats versus Republicans.

A bipartisan group of lawmakers is criticizing legislation that would put new limits on Michigan’s net metering program. That program allows people with solar panels to sell surplus energy back to the grid.

The changing role of women in farming

Sep 3, 2015
Brian Peshek

During the 1970s and 80s, America lost millions of family farms. Agriculture was specializing, and getting bigger —   large dairies and croplands; monocultures of corn and soybeans.

Since then, there have been other changes: the local food movement, for example. And women have taken a bigger role in agriculture.

The number of farms owned and operated by women has tripled in the U.S. in recent decades.

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

In 2010, we were given a pretty good reason to care about how companies maintain the 3,280 miles of hazardous liquid pipelines crisscrossing our state.

Being the state that suffered through the worst inland oil spill in U.S. history has that effect.

So people perked up when they found out that Enbridge, the company responsible for the Kalamazoo River oil spill, owns another pipeline that travels under Lake Michigan at the Straits of Mackinac.

If Michigan has a “crown jewel,” this area might be it.

Building a stronger honey bee

Sep 1, 2015
Lou Blouin/The Allegheny Front

Honey bee die-offs are so common now that beekeepers generally just order more bees when they lose a hive. But this has put a lot of pressure on bee breeders to raise more and more bees. And that is only bringing the quality of bees down.

But researchers and backyard beekeepers are now teaming up to build a better honey bee. And not through genetic engineering—through good old-fashioned selection.

Tracy Samilton / Michigan Radio

Officials with the Michigan Agency for Energy and the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality will announce results of the state's initial review of the federal Clean Power Plan on Tuesday.

The plan aims to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from power plants by roughly 30% by the year 2030.

Craig and Sharon Goble invested $30,000 in their solar array. They say the proposed changes to Michigan's solar program would make their investment less valuable.
David Cassleman / Interlochen Public Radio

More and more people are putting up solar panels in Michigan. It's getting a lot more affordable to do it. And there's a payback when you get your monthly utility bill.

But a bill in the state Senate could fundamentally change the solar program in Michigan, and it has some people worried. 

How "net metering" works in Michigan

Craig and Sharon Goble’s electricity bill looks different than most people’s.  

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Michiganders have until the end of the week to make suggestions for managing the state’s water resources for the next 30 years.

Jon Allan is the director of the Office of the Great Lakes in the Department of Environmental Quality.     Allan’s office is producing “Sustaining Michigan Water Heritage, A Strategy for the Next Generation,” a blueprint for protecting and improving Michigan’s water resources.

Michigan is toying with the idea of building open-water fish pens, like this one in Ontario.
Northern Ontario Aquaculture Association

 

OK, this is where I fess up and tell you that the answer to that headline is "only time will tell."

A scientific advisory panel is studying the possibility now (see their names here), and we expect to see their findings this October. After that report, there will be more "time telling" as state officials decide whether to allow it.

AeroVelo

A Canadian group hoping to break the human-powered land speed record is testing its speed-bike on a General Motors test track on Monday.

The current record is 83.1 miles per hour. 

AeroVelo thinks its new recumbent speed bike can go about 87. 

All photos by Marvin Shaouni

Andrew Niemcyzk worked for years as a coal miner in his native Poland, during which time he would examine the mine's earthen walls and think about the way water was moving from the surface deep into the ground. He didn’t know it then, but that curiosity would lead to the establishment of Parjana, a Detroit company that is poised to change the way the whole world manages water.

Parjana's true origins, however, are in a wet Hamtramck basement.

Pages