Environment & Science

Environment & Science
4:23 pm
Thu September 12, 2013

WMU researchers discover potentially lucrative mineral deposit

William and Linda Harrison with Theodore Pagano, general manager of Michigan Potash Co. LLC (center).
WMU

Researchers at Western Michigan University have discovered a mineral deposit in northern Michigan they say could lead to a multi-billion dollar industry.

A company interested in mining for potassium chloride – also called potash -- approached researchers at Western’s Geological Repository for Research and Education, where they keep thousands of samples of the earth’s core from around the state.

William Harrison directs the repository.

“We collected some samples and sent them off for testing and it turned out that that rock was the highest quality potash anywhere known in the world. It was just a remarkable thing,” he says.

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The Environment Report
9:24 am
Thu September 12, 2013

To prepare for invasive Asian carp, DNR tests its carp-catching skills

DNR fishery technician Vince Balcer holds up one of the "common carp" they're catching, tagging and releasing for the drill.
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

You can listen to today's Environment Report above.

This week, the Department of Natural Resources went through a big training drill that’s a first of its kind in Michigan. The drill is supposed to prepare the agency for what to do if the Asian carp makes its way into Michigan’s rivers.

A dozen boats stamped with the DNR logo line the shores of the St. Joseph River. Some of them are normal fishing boats.

But a few have these metal poles sticking out about three feet in front of the boat. At the end of each pole are these long pieces of metal cable that hang down in the water.

The DNR’s Todd Somers is the foreman of one of these homemade boats. He points out a 240-volt generator near the back of the boat. It can deliver up to 16 amps through the metal poles at the front of the boat; sending electric shocks through the cables into the river. That’ll stun any fish nearby.

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The Environment Report
8:55 am
Tue September 10, 2013

U-M researchers unravel mysteries about mercury in fish

Opah, also called moonfish, at a fish auction in Hawaii. Opah were one of nine fish species analyzed in a new study that looked at how mercury gets into open-ocean fish and why the levels vary with depth.
C. Anela Choy

An interview with U-M professor Joel Blum.

There are a lot of health benefits from eating fish. But some kinds of fish contain high levels of mercury. A form of mercury called methylmercury is toxic to people, and the main way that gets into our bodies is from eating fish. It can cause damage to the nervous system, the heart, kidneys, lungs and immune system.

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Environment & Science
4:44 pm
Mon September 9, 2013

Insect-spread deer disease found in Muskegon Co.

Deer
Noel Zia Lee/Flickr

MUSKEGON, Mich. (AP) — The state says it has confirmed an outbreak of an insect-spread disease among white-tail deer in Muskegon County.

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources and Michigan State University announced Monday that a deer has been found with epizootic hemorrhagic disease, known as EHD.

The DNR says it's the first confirmed outbreak this fall.

The department says a type of midge spreads the virus that causes EHD. It says the disease doesn't affect humans and venison from infected deer is safe to eat.

The DNR says infected deer can suffer extensive internal bleeding, lose their appetite and fear of humans, grow weaker, salivate excessively and lose consciousness. It says sick or dying deer often are found along or in bodies of water.

Environment & Science
4:59 pm
Fri September 6, 2013

Study finds 32 different drugs in Lake Michigan

Steve Carmody Michigan Radio

We excrete these drugs or dump them down the drain, and they find their way into our water.

Pharmaceuticals and personal care products (PPCPs) in rivers and lakes have been documented before, but this research finds levels in Lake Michigan that could have deleterious effects on the ecosystem.

Thirty-two different drugs were found - 14 of them were found at levels "of medium or high ecological risk."

The study was published in the journal Chemosphere:

The environmental risk of PPCPs in large lake systems, such as the Great Lakes, has been questioned due to high dilution; however, the concentrations found in this study, and their corresponding risk quotient, indicate a significant threat by PPCPs to the health of the Great Lakes, particularly near shore organisms.

Brian Bienkowski wrote about the study for Environmental Health News. Of the 14 chemicals found in concentrations of concern, Bienkowski writes triclosan has been studied the most.

...it has proven acutely toxic to algae and can act as a hormone disruptor in fish.

“You’re not going to see fish die-offs [from pharmaceuticals] but subtle changes in how the fish eat and socialize that can have a big impact down the road,” said Kolpin, who did not participate in the study. “With behavior changes and endocrine disruption, reproduction and survival problems may not rear their ugly head for generations.”

The four most commonly found drugs were:

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Environment
4:28 pm
Fri September 6, 2013

E coli has cleared from Rockford water system, residents advised to take precautions

Public drinking fountains in schools and churches had to be shut off earlier this week.
Darwin Bell Creative Commons

The E coli bacteria that was discovered earlier this week in Rockford’s municipal water system has cleared out. People living in the Grand Rapids suburb will need to do some things around their house to make sure their families are safe.

People were told to boil their water and sponge bathe their kids earlier this week to avoid the nasty illness E coli exposure can cause. Six schools closed over safety concerns. Some restaurants closed voluntarily.

Lisa LaPlante is with the Kent County Health Department.

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Environment & Science
1:37 pm
Thu September 5, 2013

Ann Arbor, facing water contamination, urges state to step up

A government map the water contamination
http://www.ewashtenaw.org/government/departments/environmental_health/card Washtenaw County

As a plume of contaminated ground water keeps expanding in Ann Arbor, the city council wants the state to move faster to protect people from harmful exposure.

To be clear: Ann Arbor drinking water is safe.

But growing swaths of the city’s ground water is no longer a good idea to ingest (and again, the city is NOT getting their water from those areas,) thanks to chemical runoff from years ago.

That chemical compound is 1,4 dioxane and it seeped into ground water between the 1960's and 1980's when a manufacturer stored it in unlined lagoons.

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Environment
12:31 pm
Thu September 5, 2013

Six schools in Rockford will remain closed Friday over E. coli contamination concerns

Scanning electron micrograph of Escherichia coli, grown in culture and adhered to a cover slip.
National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Creative Commons

Around 2,500 students in the Rockford Public Schools district are home today because of E. coli bacteria in the city’s water system. Complications over the holiday weekend led to elevated levels of the bacteria that could be a risk to human health. A boil water advisory is in effect until further notice.

Rockford schools superintendent Mike Shibler says six schools on the Rockford water system will have to be closed tomorrow too for the safety of the students who attend.

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The Environment Report
9:16 am
Thu September 5, 2013

A good summer for raising baby sturgeon in northern Michigan

Small sturgeon raised at the Black River streamside rearing facility near Onaway are loaded into a truck at a release party last week.
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

You can listen to today's Environment Report above.

It’s been a fantastic summer for one lake sturgeon hatchery in Michigan.

Many lake sturgeon populations in the Great Lakes were wiped out decades ago. Demand for their eggs for caviar led to overfishing. Plus, dams built to power industry blocked sturgeon spawning grounds upstream.

Last spring, we told you about new efforts to restore a sub-species of sturgeon in the Kalamazoo River. This is the time of year when these little hatchery-raised fish are supposed to get released.

Unfortunately, things didn’t go very well for the new hatchery in the Kalamazoo River. Of the couple thousand eggs they had, only 52 survived. They were released into the river earlier this summer without much fanfare.

But I found another hatchery for lake sturgeon in Michigan that had an awesome year. This one is way up near Onaway, at the tip of the Lower Peninsula. They had a big release party last week.

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Environment
5:30 pm
Wed September 4, 2013

Kent County health officials tell Rockford residents to boil water, sponge bathe kids

Rockford residents are advised to boil tap water before using it.
jordanmrcai Creative Commons

Update 9/5/13: Rockford Public Schools have closed six schools today because of the water advisory. Superintendent Mike Shibler wrote in a letter to parents he made that decision based on the recommendation of the Kent County Health Department. Schools could be closed tomorrow too if the problem with the water system isn't resolved.

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Stateside
5:07 pm
Wed September 4, 2013

How has this summer treated Michigan farmers?

This was taken at the Allendale Farmers Market summer 2008.
user tami.vroma Flickr

The end of summer is at hand and we wanted to find out how the year treated Michigan farmers so far.

They were slammed in 2012 by a cold, wet spring and a hot, dry summer.

Earlier this summer we spoke with Macomb Township farmer Ken DeCock to see how things were going for him and got mixed reviews. So we wanted to check in with him to get an end-of-summer view.

He joined us today from Boyka's Farm Market in Macomb Township. Tree fruit specialist William Shane with the Southwest Michigan Research and Extension Center also joined us.

Listen to the full interview above.

Stateside
5:07 pm
Wed September 4, 2013

Poor air quality in Michigan is not limited to areas of industry

DTE's St. Clair Power Plant in East China, Michigan.
user cgord wikimedia commons

If we asked you to name the areas in Michigan most likely to have poor air quality, chances are pretty good you'd start with the Detroit area, or southeast Michigan. Certainly with all of the vehicles, the industry, and the dense population, it's not too surprising that the Detroit area most often has the most polluted air.

But some of the most beautiful, most scenic areas of Michigan also suffer from poor air quality.

MLive meteorologist Mark Torregrossa joined us today to help is find out where and why this is happening.

Listen to the full interview above.

Environment & Science
9:58 am
Wed September 4, 2013

Here comes Comet ISON

This comet’s orbit will bring it near the sun in November 2013. Some are predicted it’ll be briefly as bright as a full moon then, but, unfortunately, as its brightest it’ll also be near the sun’s glare
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

Michigan stargazers will get a treat this fall.

Comet ISON was first spotted last year, and since then some have said it could be the ‘comet of the century’.

The comet should first appear in the night sky in mid-November.    If it survives a close pass by the sun, it would reappear in December.

John French is the interim director of the Michigan State University-Abrams Planetarium.    He hopes Comet ISON will live up to the hype.

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The Environment Report
8:55 am
Tue September 3, 2013

Making Michigan wine with cheaper solar energy

Installing the solar panels on the vineyard.
Interlochen Public Radio

Crain Hill Vineyards in Leelanau County is touted as the first in Michigan to run 100% on solar power, and a start-up energy business sees an opportunity for homes and farms because of the steep price drops to install solar in the last year.

Robert Brengman owns Crain Hill Vineyards with his two brothers. He says it’s been a goal from the beginning to tread lightly in this place.

“We’re looking at having a zero carbon footprint on this vineyard, in this winery. I mean that to me is exciting,” Bregnman said. “I think it’s a little part. And we’re trying to do our part of keeping this beautiful area the way it is.”

They won’t be buying electricity generated by burning fossil fuels. There are three new solar arrays mounted on steel poles on a south facing slope that are within sight of the winery’s tasting room.

Tom Gallery designed the system for Crain Hill and says the arrays are built to gather as much sunlight as possible.

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Environment & Science
9:09 am
Mon September 2, 2013

More Michigan utility customers get credit for generating excess power

(file photo)
Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - More wind and solar energy users in Michigan are getting billing credit for excess power they generate.

State regulators issued a report last week showing utility customers with their own windmills and solar panels onsite increased the net metering program's production size by 55% from 2011 to 2012.

There also were more than 300 additional residential or business customers taking part in the program last year than the year before.

Environment & Science
10:00 am
Fri August 30, 2013

The 'last weekend of summer' could include a risk of wildfires

This has been a below-average summer for wildfires in Michigan.  Though parts of the Lower and Upper Peninsulas have been under a ‘high fire danger’ warning for much of August.

Jim Fisher is with the Department of Natural Resources.  He says three-day weekends can add to the problem.

“Usually on three-day weekends there’s many more people out and about in the woods doing things, including having campfires…it does usually cause more fires on those weekends when its drier,” says Fisher.

The Environment Report
9:00 am
Thu August 29, 2013

Hunting for plastic pollution in the Great Lakes

Rios-Mendoza on the deck of the Sea Dragon, preparing to go out to test Lake Michigan's waters for plastics.
Lewis Wallace

You can listen to today's Environment Report above.

A research expedition recently set sail from Chicago to search for a Great Lakes garbage patch.

So-called "garbage patches" or islands are actually collections of tiny plastic particles that are choking up regions of the world’s oceans. The expedition has been testing the waters of Lakes Huron and Michigan for a similar phenomenon.

I met up with expedition organizer Asta Mail at a marina in downtown Chicago. It’s a hot day, and a street vendor immediately offers us bottled water.

Mail points down at a plastic bottle in Lake Michigan. It’s pretty easy plastic hunting.

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Stateside
5:08 pm
Wed August 28, 2013

Slowing down climate change, one cloned tree at a time

A stand of red pine trees in the Huron-Manistee National Forest.
Photo courtesy of Joseph O'Brien, USDA Forest Service

David Milarch co-founded Archangel Ancient Tree Archive in 2008. 

His vision?

To spread the genetics of the world's remaining ancient forests. His work attracted the attention of journalist and science writer Jim Robbins, and the result was the book The Man Who Planted Trees: Lost Groves, Champion Trees and an Urgent Plan to Save the Planet.

To listen to the interview, click the link above.

Environment & Science
3:01 pm
Tue August 27, 2013

Enbridge gets state permit to dredge in Morrow Lake, now to find a suitable location

Dredging work needs to be done between mile posts (MP) 36 and 39 as tagged on this MDEQ map.
Michigan Department of Environmental Quality

This week Enbridge Energy got a permit that will allow the company to dredge some of the oil that remains from the Kalamazoo River oil spill. But the company still needs to find the right location to do the work.

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Stateside
1:11 pm
Tue August 27, 2013

What is causing the Green Bay dead zone and can it be fixed?

Excess algae is creating a dead zone.
NOAA Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory Flickr

An interview with Don Scavia, an aquatic ecologist with the University of Michigan and the director of the Graham Sustainability Institute.

There's a "dead zone" in Green Bay.

That may sound like a title of a Stephen King novel, but it is happening in Lake Michigan's Green Bay. A growing dead zone with so little oxygen that fish can't survive. Neither can smaller critters.

Don Scavia is an aquatic ecologist with the University of Michigan and the director of the Graham Sustainability Institute. He joined us today to talk about what’s causing this dead zone and what can be done to fix it.

Listen to the full interview above.

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