Environment & Science

Environment & Science
11:15 am
Fri August 16, 2013

EPA says 'No' to Enbridge oil spill cleanup extension request

EPA samples the air within 100 yards from the source of the spill.
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

The Environmental Protection Agency has rejected Enbridge’s request to extend the deadline to cleanup up part of an oil spill in the Kalamazoo River.

The EPA ordered Enbridge to do additional dredging in five parts of the Kalamazoo River where there are still significant deposits of crude oil from the 2010 oil spill near Marshall.   A broken pipeline leaked more than 800 thousand gallons of crude oil into the river.

Enbridge expects to complete work on four of the five sites well before the EPA’s December deadline.

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The Environment Report
8:55 am
Thu August 15, 2013

Wolf pups a good sign for struggling population on Isle Royale

John Vucetich/Rolf Peterson Michigan Tech

An interview with Superintendent Phyllis Green.

The wolves of Michigan’s Isle Royale National Park have not been doing well, but there’s some unexpected good news.

Earlier this year, researchers from Michigan Technological University who study the wolves reported there were just eight wolves left - and they reported they were unable to find any evidence of pups born to those wolves.

But now, that has changed. Michigan Tech researcher Rolf Peterson heard two or three wolf pups in July.

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Stateside
5:13 pm
Wed August 14, 2013

What happened in the 2003 blackout and could it happen again?

Maggie Koerth-Baker
Twitter

An interview with Maggie Koerth-Baker, a science columnist for the New York Times Magazine, the science editor at BoingBoing.net, and the author of "Before the Lights Go Out."

Where were you ten years ago when the power died?

That's what many of us in the Midwest are asking each other today.

It was ten years ago this day when the largest blackout in North America left 55 million people in 8 states and Canada in the dark.

The cost of the Blackout of 2003? Anywhere from $4-10 billion.

What changes have been made to the grid in that decade? Could a blackout like that happen again?

Maggie Koerth-Baker is a science columnist for the New York Times Magazine, the science editor at BoingBoing.net, and the author of "Before the Lights Go Out."

She joined us today from Minneapolis. 

Listen to the full interview above.

Environment & Science
11:34 am
Wed August 14, 2013

Ten years after the great northeast blackout of 2003

The region affected by the blackout in 2003.
Wikipedia

Today is the ten-year anniversary of the Northeast blackout of 2003.

On August 14, 2003 at 4:10 pm, eight U.S. states and parts of Ontario lost power. 

In Cleveland, Ohio, an overgrown tree branch touched a sagging, overloaded power line. The line short-circuited and, well, you know how it ended. 

It was one of the biggest power outages that the U.S. ever saw. At first, people were worried it was an act of terrorism, but when the blackout was confirmed as merely a power outage, the mood shifted.

Much of southeastern Michigan was affected (about 2.3 million households were without power). The cities of Ann Arbor, Lansing, and Detroit were victims of the blackout. Some areas, such as Brighton and Holly, were in geographical pockets where residents had power.

Water supplies in Detroit were disrupted because the city used electronic pumps. All water in the Metro Detroit area was required to be boiled until August 18 to ensure potability. 

Here at Michigan Radio, our back-up battery only lasted so long, so we scrambled to find a generator to keep us on-air (see a few photos above).

We asked our Facebook fans to chime in with their experiences. Here's a snippet:

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Environment & Science
9:42 pm
Tue August 13, 2013

In green initiative, Detroit Zoo looks to dump bottled water

Credit wikipedia

The Detroit Zoo is trying to “wean its visitors off the bottle”—off bottled water, that is.

The zoo plans to phase out sales of bottled water over the next 2-3 years.

Sarah Pope, the zoo’s manager of environmental services, says bottled water creates lots of plastic waste and other environmental costs. In fact, it’s the number one contributor to the zoo’s plastic waste.

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Environment & Science
12:51 pm
Tue August 13, 2013

Michigan State University developing a new way of producing energy down on the farm

MSU's new South Campus Anaerobic Digester
Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Michigan State University’s dairy farm is helping the university cut down on its electricity bill. It may also someday help small Michigan farms meet their energy needs.

South of the East Lansing campus, MSU maintains about 180 dairy cows. The cows produce more than milk of course. Now, university researchers have something to do with all that waste.

University officials this week cut the ribbon on an anaerobic digester. The digester takes organic waste and creates methane. The methane can be used to create electricity or meet other energy needs.

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The Environment Report
10:07 am
Tue August 13, 2013

Questions linger after company spreads toxic chemicals on northern Michigan roads

Bryan Black on his small farm in Benzie County.
Bob Allen Interlochen Public Radio

You can listen to today's Environment Report above.

Earlier this summer, a Kalkaska company spread industrial waste on roads in Benzie County. The toxic contaminants were mixed with brine from oil wells - it's used to keep down dust on gravel roads.

The pollutants tested way above what’s allowed for human contact.

The incident is leading some residents to think the Department of Environmental Quality is treating the oil and gas industry with kid gloves.

A gardener investigates

If Bryan Black hadn’t been out tending his garden one morning in early June, it’s likely nobody would even know about the toxic chemicals spread on nearby roads.

Black saw a tanker truck go by and then pull off the highway and onto a dirt road just down from where he lives.

When he later saw the truck go by again, he hopped in his pickup and followed it.

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Environment & Science
5:29 pm
Mon August 12, 2013

Woodpeckers and nuthatches benefit in ash borer's wake

Female red-bellied woodpecker.
Credit @maia bird / Cornell

Red-bellied woodpeckers and white-breasted nuthatches, to be specific.

Scientists say the two bird species thrived when the emerald ash borer moved in. The invasive insect wiped out tens of millions of ash trees around the region.

The researchers compared four bird populations in the outbreak’s epicenter in southeastern Michigan (near the Detroit Metro Airport), to the populations outside just of the epicenter and with five other cities in the region (Cincinnati, Cleveland, Columbus, Indianapolis, and Pittsburgh).

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Stateside
5:21 pm
Mon August 12, 2013

The Undocumented Migration Project uses archeology to tell migrant's stories

Jason De León, director of the Undocumented Migrantion Project
lsa.umich.edu

An interview with Jason De León, the director of the Undocumented Migration Project.

It was the mid 1990's when the United States began an immigration enforcement strategy called Prevention Through Deterrence, or PTD.

It consisted of boosting security in unauthorized crossing areas surrounding major border cities with the idea that undocumented migrants would have to shift towards remote border regions where crossing conditions are much more difficult -- places like the Sonoran Desert in southern Arizona.

Two decades later, it's clear that PTD has failed to deter undocumented migrants.

The smuggling industry in northern Mexico has grown to serve the migrants, and here in the U.S., the movement to reform our broken immigration system is growing with bipartisan support.

But what of the life stories of these migrants?

That question has led Jason De León to apply his scientific training in anthropology and archeology to discovering the thousands of stories of these migrants.

De León is a professor of anthropology at the University of Michigan and he's the director of the Undocumented Migration Project.

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Transportation
4:33 pm
Fri August 9, 2013

Bike sharing programs return to Michigan

The Divvy program is a bike share in Chicago.
Steven Vance Flickr

Okay, so we couldn't find any write-up online for it, but back in the 1980's Ann Arbor was home to the "green bike" program - an informal program set-up to share bikes.

From what we've gathered, bicycles were painted green and sprinkled throughout the University of Michigan's campus. They were never locked, and if you needed a bike you just found a green one and went on your merry way.

The "green bikes" didn't last long, and it took awhile for another bike sharing program to come to Michigan.

Last night, Ann Arbor's City Council voted to create a more formal bike share program, following in the footsteps of other cities like New York, Boston, Chicago, Minneapolis, Denver, Miami Beach, San Francisco, D.C., and Detroit.

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Environment & Science
3:20 pm
Fri August 9, 2013

South Haven implements beach safety program, pays drowning victim's family

Waves in Lake Michigan
screen grab from YouTube video

Aaron Mueller of the Kalamazoo Gazette reports on a settlement reached between the family of a 2009 drowning victim, and the "Michigan Municipal Risk Management Association." Martin Jordan of St. Charles, IL drowned in Lake Michigan after being caught up in strong rip currents.

More from Mueller:

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Environment & Science
12:52 pm
Fri August 9, 2013

Enbridge asking the EPA for more time for oil spill clean up

Enbridge is asking the Environmental Protection Agency for more time to clean up a portion of its 2010 oil spill in the Kalamazoo River.

Earlier this year, the EPA ordered Enbridge to remove more crude oil from the spill that settled on the bottom of the river and Morrow Lake.

Enbridge spokesman Jason Manshum expects the company will be able to complete work on four of the five sites the E-P-A wants dredged by December 31st.

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The Environment Report
8:55 am
Thu August 8, 2013

Fracking and the environment: what do scientists know so far?

Eusko Jaurlaritza Flickr

You can hear the interview with Abrahm Lustgarten two minutes into today's Environment Report.

As the national debate around horizontal hydraulic fracturing continues, one of the central questions is: what does the practice do to our environment?

Abrahm Lustgarten is an energy reporter with ProPublica. He's covered fracking extensively, and he recently wrote a piece investigating the Environmental Protection Agency's decision to back away from several studies on fracking.

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The Environment Report
8:55 am
Thu August 8, 2013

Michigan Chamber of Commerce steps into fracking debate

A natural gas well.
World Resources Institute

You can listen to this story on today's Environment Report.

The Michigan Chamber of Commerce is getting into the debate over horizontal hydraulic fracturing, or fracking.

Fracking pumps a mixture of water, sand and chemicals into a well under high pressure to force open shale rock formations and extract natural gas. Vertical fracking has been done in Michigan for decades. But horizontal fracking is much newer, and it uses a larger amount of chemicals and millions of gallons of water per well. (For more information, check out Lester Graham's article, "Fracking for natural gas, the benefits and the risks.")

The Chamber of Commerce has launched a campaign they’re calling “Protect Michigan’s Energy Future.”

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Stateside
5:11 pm
Wed August 7, 2013

Michigan weather forecasts could double in accuracy

Meteorologist Mark Torregrossa
Twitter

An interview with meteorologist Mark Torregrossa.

Have you heard the rueful little wisecrack about Michigan's weather forecasters?

Something like, "they're wrong just enough that you don't take them seriously and they're right just enough that you need to take them seriously."

Well, the weather forecasters in Michigan will soon be able to give us forecasts that are twice as accurate.

Mark Torregrossa got his degree in meteorology from Northern Illinois University and he's been forecasting Michigan's weather for more than two decades. His weather website, farmerweather.com specializes in weather information for farmers and agriculture.

Torregrossa joined us today to discuss forecasting technology.

Listen to the full interview above.

Stateside
5:30 pm
Tue August 6, 2013

Michigan has one of world's few 'dark sky parks' for stargazers

Headlands International Dark Sky Park
Facebook

An interview with Mary Stewart Adams, the program director at the Headlands International Dark Sky Park.

If you live in the city or the suburbs and you travel to the country, the first thing that often strikes you after the sun goes down is the incredible show in the night skies.

The difference between what city-dwellers see each night, and the same sky when you're on the shore of Lake Michigan in Emmett County is unbelievable.

That's the magic behind the Headlands International Dark Sky Park, a 600 acre park along the shore of Lake Michigan near Mackinaw City.

It's one of only 10 designated dark sky parks in the world.

Mary Stewart Adams, the program director at the Headlands International Dark Sky Park, joined us from Emmett County.

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The Environment Report
4:19 pm
Tue August 6, 2013

The high cost of cleaner vehicles

A demo of the Hyundai Sonata plug-in hybrid drive train at the North American International Auto Show.
Mark Brush Michigan Radio

You can listen to today's Environment Report above.

The Center for Automotive Research (yeah, the acronym is CAR) is holding its Management Briefing Seminars this week in Traverse City. A big part of the conference focuses on how to make the auto industry more sustainable.

Brett Smith is the Co-Director of the Manufacturing, Engineering & Technology Group with CAR.

Sustainability can be such a squishy term - it's hard to define. I asked him what it means for the auto industry.

"I think it is really difficult, and if you look at sustainability, you can think about it for literally the viability, the sustainability of the company. 'Is the company going to be able to keep the factories open, keep the products moving?' - that simplistic," Smith says.

"It also obviously has much bigger connotations to most folks, being long term, the viability of the planet. I think the challenge for the auto industry is combining that sustainable short period with a sustainable long term view and it historically has been a great challenge for the auto industry and one I think is worth talking a lot about."

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Environment & Science
4:09 pm
Mon August 5, 2013

Would you accept an organ donation from a criminal?

Fotos GOVBA Flickr

A study from the University of Michigan suggests that people won't accept organ donations or blood transfusions from donors who are criminals.

The study's lead author is Meredith Meyer. She is a research fellow in the University of Michigan's Psychology Department. The study was published in the Journal of Cognitive Science.

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Stateside
3:11 pm
Mon August 5, 2013

Oakland County teen gets recognized for her efforts to clean up her community

http://www.actionfornature.org/

An interview with Brianna Moore, winner of an International Young Eco-Hero Award.

When you're walking in your favorite park, what do you do when you see trash? Plastic bags, empty bottles, and cigarette butts?

Chances are most of us would shake our heads in dismay at the nerve of someone who would deliberately litter like that and keep on walking.

We wanted you to meet an Oakland County teenager who doesn't just keep on walking. She puts on her rubber gloves and picks up other peoples' trash.

17 year old Brianna Moore has just been recognized by a San Francisco group called "Action For Nature." They've given Briana an International Young Eco-Hero Award for her efforts to clean up her community.

Brianna Moore joined us today from her home in Oak Park.

Listen to the full interview above.

Environment & Science
11:31 am
Mon August 5, 2013

Drownings in Lake Michigan prompt calls for new beach warning signs

Could beach flags help in Michigan? (Warning flags on Paradise Beach.) Some residents are calling for yard signs to warn visitors.
Michael Dawes Flickr

After two drownings in Lake Michigan in recent weeks, some are calling for a better warning system when beach conditions are dangerous.

The Muskegon Chronicle's Lisha Arino reports on an idea being proposed from Hugh and Kathleen Kallen.

The couple was moved to develop a new approach after 15-year-old Raybeon Jenkins drowned in the waters off Pere Marquette Park.

Not long after the incident, it moved them to do something to help prevent another drowning.

Their plan: create yard signs that would notify beachgoers of dangerous swimming conditions.

"We wanted to do something for the next rip current day because there aren't any warnings posted on the severe days," said Kathleen.

The couple wants residents to put up yard signs, similar to political yard signs, on days when hazardous conditions are predicted.

There are permanent signs warning visitors of possible dangerous waters, but nothing to indicate current conditions.

Ocean communities work with beach flag warning systems. The International Life Saving Federation has a document showing the standards for this flag warning system.

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