Environment & Science

The Environment Report
9:00 am
Thu September 19, 2013

Experts trying to get leg up on walnut tree disease before it hits Michigan

Carpathian walnuts (left) and black walnuts (right).
Michael Dority

An interview with Michael Dority.

Anyone who had to pay a lot of money to cut down dead ash trees in their yard remembers a pest called the emerald ash borer.  In our region we’ve had a lot of pests and diseases that kill trees, and now experts have their eye on a disease that kills black walnut trees. This disease is called Thousand Cankers Disease and it’s caused by a fungus. The fungus is carted around by a bug called the walnut twig beetle.

You might have a black walnut tree in your yard. The lumber is beautiful and the trees are also important to people who grow them for the nut.

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Environment & Science
7:35 pm
Wed September 18, 2013

Biggest-ever gift to Detroit Zoo is a big deal for penguins

The Detroit Zoo announced the largest single private gift in its history Wednesday—and it’s all about penguins.

The $10 million gift from the Polk Family Fund will go toward building the Polk Family Penguin Conservation Center.

Zoo officials say the Center has been in the “planning and design” phase for two years now.

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The Environment Report
12:00 pm
Tue September 17, 2013

Salmon's favorite food dwindling in Lake Michigan

Alewives washed up on shore.
Lester Graham Michigan Radio

An interview with Peter Payette.

It looks like food for salmon will continue to be scarce in Lake Michigan. Researchers say it appears not many alewives were born in the lake this year - and salmon eat almost nothing else.

Neither salmon nor alewives are native to the Great Lakes, but it's bad news for people trying to keep the billion-dollar sport fishery alive in Lake Michigan.

Peter Payette is with our partners at Interlochen Public Radio and he's been covering this story. He explains that every year researchers go out on the lakes to see what’s happening.

"One of the important surveys is of prey fish, the little feeder fish that big fish like salmon like to eat, and in Lake Michigan this year they found very few newborn alewives. There are alewives in the lake, ones that were born in years past. But the young of the year, the new class of alewives; they found very few," he says.

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Environment & Science
10:58 am
Tue September 17, 2013

The University of Michigan plans to renovate nuclear research labs

The University plans to renovate the current nuclear energy facilities
user: Free Grunge Textures Flickr

The University of Michigan is almost finished decommissioning its nuclear reactor. The process began ten years ago. But there are new plans in the works to renovate the building.

According to MLive, the University wants to create research labs, testing areas, offices and academic support spaces in the building. The 17,400-square-foot building would get a 5,200-square-foot addition and would be renamed as the Nuclear Engineering Laboratories. It's on North Campus on Bonisteel Dr. 

The University of Michigan Board of Regents will vote on the proposed plans at 3 pm on Thursday. 

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Environment & Science
11:12 am
Sat September 14, 2013

Deal sought to end ship's coal ash dumping by 2015

SS Badger
Bill MCChesney/Flickr

LUDINGTON, Mich. (AP) - Federal officials want to enter into a revised consent agreement with a car ferry operator that would stop the nation's last coal-fired ferryboat from dumping waste ash into Lake Michigan before the 2015 sailing season.

The Ludington Daily News reports that the Environmental Protection Agency and the Justice Department filed a motion Friday to enter into the revised deal with Lake Michigan Carferry, operator of the S.S. Badger.

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Stateside
6:27 pm
Thu September 12, 2013

Flipping poles: what the Sun's changing polarity means for us Earthlings

Get ready -- the Sun's poles are flipping.
User: Caneles Flickr

It sounds like the plot of an apocalyptic Hollywood blockbuster:  the poles on the Sun are flipping.

But why is this polar flip happening? And, what does changing polarity mean for us Earthlings? We talk to MLive Meteorologist Mark Torregrossa about the sun's latest flip-flop. 

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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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