Environment & Science

Rebecca Williams / Michigan Radio

Lake Superior is the largest freshwater lake in the world by surface area, and it has something the other Great Lakes don’t — stable populations of mostly native fish species.

But scientists say a key fish in Superior’s food web is now in trouble because of mild winters and an appetite for caviar in Europe.

General Motors

The Obama Administration says 13 of the nation's largest companies are taking the "American Business Act on Climate Pledge," including General Motors.

Other companies pledging to significantly reduce their carbon emissions are Alcoa, Apple, Bank of America, Berkshire Hathaway Energy, Cargill, Coca-Cola, Goldman Sachs, Google, Microsoft, PepsiCo, UPS, and Walmart.

Ford Motor Company / Flickr

Indiana Michigan Power, an operating unit of American Electric Power, recently started building its first solar power facility in Indiana.

I&M will also be building three other solar power facilities. One will be located in Watervliet, Michigan.

The confluence of Talmadge Creek and the Kalamazoo River in 2010 (left), and in 2015 (right).
USEPA and Mark Brush / USEPA, Michigan Radio

Five years ago today, an oil pipeline near Marshall, Michigan split open, starting the biggest inland oil spill in U.S. history.

The heavy tar sands oil came from Enbridge Energy's pipeline 6B. The oil flowed into Talmadge Creek and then into the Kalamazoo River.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources is offering a warning about bears in the state.

WLUC-TV reports the DNR has responded to dozens nuisance bear complaints so far this year as bears are on the move. The agency says that adult bears have been moving in mating season while younger bears are looking to find their own territory.

Frank Zinn and his family owned a farm right next to ground zero. They sued Enbridge saying their plans for a environmentally-frienly vineyard were lost.
Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

On July 25, 2010 at 5:58 p.m., Enbridge's Line 6B split open in a wetland near Marshall, Michigan.

The break was not discovered for 17 hours. During that time, with the pipeline split open, Enbridge controllers in Alberta restarted the system twice, thinking they had a pressure problem in the line.

Lylah's first full test run with the Angel Arms Exoskeleton prototype
screenshot

Sometimes the best way to approach an engineering problem isn’t complicated or costly.  

Two Grand Valley State mechanical engineering students took a step back and simplified a way to help a little girl use her arms.

Riding down the Kalamazoo River on a tube. As part of a settlement with the state, Enbridge built access points to the river. Those who know the river say they're seeing more people enjoying it these days.
Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

The biggest inland oil spill in U.S. history happened right here in Michigan. Now that five years have passed, we checked in with people who were affected by the spill.

Enbridge Energy’s Line 6B broke open on July 25, 2010. The massive oil spill changed life for a lot of people in the small town of Marshall and along the Kalamazoo River.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Flint residents should get a notice in their mail this week telling them there is still a problem with their tap water. 

However, city officials hope this will be the last time they have to mail out that notice.

an island from above
Flickr user Steven Tomsic / http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

Official at the Department of Natural Resources are inviting the public to comment on a draft plan for managing Lake Michigan islands.

“We are looking at developing a collaborative effort where we involve island residents and local governments and tribal governments and other interested stake holders in helping us, in the future, set priorities and then more importantly execute priorities. We can't do this ourselves, for some of this work we are outlining,” said Keith Kintigh, a field operation manager for the DNR. 

Kimberly Springer / Michigan Radio

Five years ago, on July 25, 2010, an Enbridge Energy pipeline burst, causing the biggest inland oil spill in U.S. history.

One of the rumors you can still hear about the incident is that the company must have dumped a surfactant into the Kalamazoo River to help break up the oil. The chemical is called corexit, and it can be harmful to humans.

Regulators and Enbridge deny corexit was ever used for the Kalamazoo spill. But that hasn’t put the rumor to rest.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

State officials say a second mid-Michigan deer has tested positive for a fatal neurological disease.

“Finding this second positive deer is disappointing, however, not unexpected,” said DNR Wildlife Division Chief Russ Mason. 

The second deer was discovered about a mile from where the first deer was found in Ingham County. Wildlife officials are genetically testing the two deer to determine if they are related.   

James Fassinger Stillscenes

U.S. Senator Gary Peters, D-Michigan, has introduced legislation with Illinois Senator Dick Durbin to require a study of the health effects of petroleum coke, along with best practices for storage and disposal.

Peters says both Chicago and Detroit have had problems with open piles of pet coke, which is a byproduct of processing heavy tar sands oil.

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

People in Michigan are naturally concerned about the thousands of miles of pipelines crisscrossing the state. After all, Michigan suffered through the worst inland oil spill in U.S. history.  

And there's one pipeline in particular that people are quite concerned about: Enbridge's Line 5 moves more than 500,000 barrels of oil and other liquid petroleum products (like propane) a day under Lake Michigan at the Straits of Mackinac.

NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center on Flickr / http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

The Hubble Space Telescope has allowed scientists to peer into deep space, expanding our understanding of the universe. But there are still many gaps in that knowledge, including knowing how many galaxies are really out there.

Brian O'Shea is an associate professor of physics and astronomy at Michigan State and part of a team that has been working on that question.

The team has been using the Hubble Space Telescope to view galaxies that are billions of light years away.

Wolf on Isle Royale.
IsleRoyaleWolf.org

Four public meetings have been scheduled to discuss the wolf and moose population on Isle Royale National Park. 

There are only three wolves left on Isle Royale. The population has dropped by almost 90% since 2009. 

This aerial photo of the 2010 Enbridge oil spill was taken five days after the initial spill. We're approaching the five-year anniversary now.
State of Michigan

We're coming up on the five-year anniversary of the largest inland oil spill in U.S. history.

On a Sunday evening, July 25, 2010, an Enbridge oil pipeline split open and dumped around 1 million gallons of thick, heavy, tar sands crude oil into Talmadge Creek and the Kalamazoo River.

No one knew there was a major oil spill underway until the next day.

Since that time there have been massive clean-ups, river restoration projects, real estate being bought and sold, and countless lawsuits.

Your experience

Attorney General Bill Schuette
Courtesy of Bill Schuette

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette says the days of an energy pipeline running beneath the Straits of Mackinac are numbered. But, a task force led by Schuette does not recommend that day should come anytime soon.

“You wouldn’t site, and you wouldn’t build and construct pipelines underneath the straits today,” Schuette said at a news conference to roll out the Michigan Petroleum Pipeline Task Force report. “And so, if you wouldn’t do it today, how many more tomorrows will the pipelines be operational?”

U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service

You might’ve heard about cougars being spotted in Michigan. There are also cougars out west and there’s the Florida panther. But what we’re talking about here is something called the eastern cougar.

Michael Mazengarb / Creative Commons http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

The solar power industry is not happy with Republican state lawmakers’ new energy plan.

The bills introduced last month would get rid of the state’s renewable energy standard.

They would also make significant changes to net metering. That allows customers in Michigan to use solar panels or wind turbines on their property to lower their energy bills.

WNEM TV

The city of Flint celebrated the beginning of the first phase of installation for a new water filter system today.

The $1.6 million dollar granulated carbon filter is expected to contribute significantly to reducing the formation of trihalomethanes (TTHM). This odorless pollutant is usually formed as a byproduct when chlorine is used to disinfect drinking water. The trouble is that lengthy exposure to TTHM – drinking about two liters a day for approximately 70 years – can lead to cancer.

Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

Another severe algal bloom will hit western Lake Erie later this summer, according to environmental scientists from the University of Michigan and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Last August, high levels of cyanobacteria shut down Toledo's drinking water supply.

Heavy rains in June have set up conditions for another severe bloom, ranking between an 8.1 and 9.5 on a 10-point scale. Any bloom greater than a 5.0 is of concern. Scientists say they can't predict whether there will be another "Toledo event," as that depends on how the bloom develops. 

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs

Especially in the early years of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, soldiers burned their waste in big, open-air pits. They burned everything from tires, batteries, and plastic to human and medical waste.

Curtis Gibson is an Air Force veteran. He served in Afghanistan in late 2011.

“I’d see things floating in the air — burned papers — you see them floating through the air so you know you’re taking something in,” Gibson says.

He says he had a medical exam when he came home to Detroit.

A mosquito
flickr user trebol-a / http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

All that rain we've had isn't just making our lawns and flowers grow.

Howard Russell is an entomologist with Michigan State University, and he says that the booming mosquito population is directly related to the rain.

Victor Li with a sample of his self-healing concrete
Victor Li

Michigan isn’t alone in the struggle to repair crumbling roads and bridges.

The American Society of Civil Engineers has given America's infrastructure a grade of "D" based on years of underfunding and delayed maintenance.

Victor Li may have the key to solving this nationwide struggle.

The University of Michigan civil and environmental engineering professor has invented self-healing concrete. It can bend, and if it cracks, it can repair itself.

Rebecca Williams/Michigan Radio

In Afghanistan and Iraq, especially in the early years, soldiers burned their waste in big, open-air pits. 

“A burn pit’s just a big hole in the ground. You push dirt up and just have trash there, and light it on fire and walk away,” says Army veteran Eric Mullins.

Mullins and I met up in Campus Martius Park in Detroit, near where he works.

He served in Iraq in 2003 and again in 2008. On his first tour, he was assigned to burn barrels of human waste.

Gray wolves.
USFWS / Flickr

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service says it won’t change the status of the gray wolf in Michigan and other Great Lakes states from “endangered” to “threatened.”

Michigan wildlife officials cheered the decision, even though it denies them a measure of flexibility to manage wolves in the western Upper Peninsula.

Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

Under current state law, utilities in Michigan must get 10% of their power from renewable sources, like wind and solar, by the end of the year.  

After a year of work, Republican lawmakers have outlined an energy policy to replace Michigan’s renewable energy standard.

State Sen. John Proos, R-St. Joseph, says the new policy wouldn’t require utilities to have a certain amount of renewable energy, like wind or solar.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Ottawa County has a new weapon in the fight against invasive plants. This week, I got a chance to check out the weapon in action at Burr Oak Landing, a 260-acre natural park about 20 miles west of Grand Rapids.

“These are what we call our ‘prescribed browsers,’ aka, goats,” said Melanie Manion, Natural Resources Management Supervisor for Ottawa County.

Flickr user St Stev / Flickr

Pity the lowly wood pallet. Nobody thinks about it. But it does so much work.

Most merchandise in supermarkets and big box stores is shipped on wood pallets. There are roughly two billion wood pallets circulating in the U.S.

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