Environment & Science

Environment & Science
3:56 pm
Thu August 22, 2013

Michigan getting more federal money to cleanup brownfield sites

Work continues to cleanup Flint's Chevy in the Hole
Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Michigan is getting about $1.5 million from the federal government to help with the continued cleanup of polluted former industrial sites.

The grant money will fund brownfield assessments, job training and cleanup of sites in Genesee County and southeast Michigan. 

“By redeveloping these sites, cleaning them up and redeveloping them…we’re essentially contributing economic activity to these communities,” Susan Hedman, the region 5 EPA administrator, said at a news conference in Flint, “Creating jobs….and transforming communities.”

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The Environment Report
9:00 am
Thu August 22, 2013

Finding Michigan's most remote spot

Ryan and Rebecca Means with their daughter, Skyla.
Robin Adams Photography

You can listen to the interview with Rebecca and Ryan Means above.

When was the last time you were someplace so remote, you didn’t see another person, or even a road for miles?

Getting that far away from civilization can be hard to do in the U.S. But a husband and wife team from Florida is setting out to do that. Rebecca and Ryan Means are both wildlife ecologists, and they started Project Remote. They’re mapping and visiting the most remote spots in all 50 states. They're preparing to go remote along the Canadian border in a few weeks, visiting Minnesota, North Dakota, Montana and Idaho.

Ryan Means says they got started on their mission a few years ago.

“We’ve always been interested in remote areas and as biologists and outdoor enthusiasts in general. Then about three years ago, we realized that with the advent of GIS computer software capabilities, coupled with Rebecca’s, my wife’s, great proficiency using this kind of technology, we could actually calculate remote areas,” he says.

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Environment & Science
2:49 pm
Tue August 20, 2013

Proposed nuclear dump site a mile from Lake Huron draws concern

Ontario Power Generation wants to bury nuclear waste less than a mile from Lake Huron.
Credit daBinsi / Flickr

Local environmental activists are concerned over a proposal that would create a nuclear waste dump less than a mile from the shores of Lake Huron. Community members met at a town hall meeting this week at Wayne State University to discuss the proposal.

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The Environment Report
9:00 am
Tue August 20, 2013

Helping Michigan cities plan for a warmer future

Screenshot of the interactive climate change map.
Great Lakes Adaptation Assessment for Cities

Cities in the Great Lakes region are trying to adapt to our changing climate.

Megan Hunter is the chief planning officer for the City of Flint.

“You know, we have to sort of think about how we can make ourselves more resilient for storms and unusual weather occurrences,” she says.

“We’re a city that is really stretched thin, we have very limited resources, so when we have an extreme weather event, it’s really hard for us to adapt with our limited finances.”

She says one of the things they have to think about is how to support vulnerable people in the city. That means things like creating more cooling centers during heat waves.

People like Megan Hunter are getting help from a project based at the Graham Sustainability Institute at the University of Michigan. It’s called the Great Lakes Adaptation Assessment for Cities (GLAA-C).

That group teamed up with Headwaters Economics to create an interactive map. It shows how 225 counties in the Great Lakes region are being impacted by changes in the climate that have already happened. It draws on data about economics, infrastructure and vulnerable populations.

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Environment & Science
1:01 pm
Mon August 19, 2013

Judge dismisses lawsuit aimed at stopping 'fracking' in West Michigan

Gas pipeline marker in Michigan.

A judge dismissed a lawsuit seeking to stop any oil and gas drilling on state land in western Michigan.

The area in question is Allegan State Game Area, the Barry State Game Reserve and Yankee Springs Parks and Recreation Area.

Yvonne Zip reports for MLive that a group called "Michigan Air Land Water Defense" filed the lawsuit last October. The group said the state should first assess the environmental impacts of horizontal hydraulic fracturing on public land.

Zip reports that Barry County Judge Amy McDowell said the lawsuit is jumping the gun:

In her opinion, McDowell called the plaintiffs' claims premature, since the leases auctioned were classified as non-developmental, which means that no surface drilling can occur without an application to the state for a change of status.

"As asserted by Defendants, the mere act of leasing oil and gas rights, in and of itself, does not constitute actual or imminent injury," wrote McDowell. "If the DNR initially classified that lease as 'developmental' or 'developmental with restrictions' prior to a review of the impact on protected areas, then this Court may have reached a different conclusion."

So far, no reclassification permit has been sought by a lessee, so the plaintiffs failed to establish "actual or imminent injury," the judge wrote.

Environment & Science
11:32 am
Mon August 19, 2013

After 12-year-old girl was attacked, officers kill black bear

A black bear.
Photo by Alan Vernon

Here's how the Michigan Department of Natural Resources describes last Thursday's bear attack on 12-year-old Abby Wetherell:

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Environment & Science
12:22 pm
Sun August 18, 2013

Feds to survey Detroit River for invasive lamprey

Sea Lampreys attached to a fish
Activistangler.com

DETROIT (AP) - A team with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will estimate the abundance of sea lamprey in the Detroit River this month to determine what control measures might be needed.

The eel-like lamprey invaded the Great Lakes during the 1920s and has remained ever since. Lampreys attach to fish with a mouth resembling a suction cup. Their sharp teeth dig through a fish's scales and skin and feed on blood and body fluids.

The average lamprey will destroy up to 40 pounds of fish.

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Environment & Science
12:45 pm
Sat August 17, 2013

Botulism tied to soaring loon deaths in Michigan

Loons and chicks
Michigan Loon Watch

DETROIT (AP) - An increase in annual loon deaths from a strain of botulism is sounding alarms among Michigan wildlife officials.

The Detroit News reports that it's been common over the years for common loon deaths to hit the hundreds but the numbers reached several thousand in in 2010 and 2012. Experts say invasive species such as mussels and gobies, and algae called Cladophora may be factors.

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Environment & Science
4:01 pm
Fri August 16, 2013

Green Bay is developing a large 'dead zone'

Algae like this is a leading cause of dead zones
NOAA Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory Flickr

Lake Michigan’s Green Bay is developing dead zones similar to those found in Lake Erie and the Gulf of Mexico. In these zones, the oxygen content in the water is so low, virtually no fish, insects, or worms can survive.

According to a report by the Associated Press, in a public webinar on Thursday scientists said the dead zone may cover as much as 40% of the Bay. Tracy Valenta, a water resources specialist for the Green Bay Metropolitan Sewerage District, said that the zone starts approximately eight miles northeast of the city and may extend more than 30 miles.

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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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