Environment & Science

The Environment Report
9:00 am
Thu October 17, 2013

Michigan town looks forward to cleaning up mess left behind by chemical company

A granite marker was placed on the site of the former Vesicol Chemical Corp. plant site in St. Louis, Michigan warning people to stay away.
Mark Brush Michigan Radio

You can listen to today's Environment Report above.

Forty years ago a chemical mix-up led to one of Michigan’s worst environmental tragedies, and it’s not over yet.

The mix-up occurred in early 1973 at the former Michigan Chemical Corporation plant (which later became the Vesicol Chemical Corporation) in St. Louis, Mich. The company accidentally shipped flame-retardant chemicals to livestock farms around the state.

Farmers thought they were getting a feed supplement. Instead, they were dosing their animals with the toxic chemical PBB.

The problem wasn’t discovered for another year -- and the chemicals were passed up the food chain to humans.

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Environment & Science
3:40 pm
Tue October 15, 2013

Have your say on Michigan renewable energy report by Wednesday

Wind turbines make up the bulk of Michigan's renewable energy sources.
warrenski Creative Commons

Wednesday is the deadline to comment on a report that's likely to shape renewable energy standards in Michigan. People can submit comments on the state’s website here.

The state-issued report says renewable energy production is getting cheaper and more efficient. In Michigan, the vast majority is from wind turbines.

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Environment & Science
1:55 pm
Mon October 14, 2013

PCB cleanup in Portage Creek in Kalamazoo finishing under budget, ahead of schedule

EPA workers have dredge and refilled sections of Portage Creek in downtown Kalamazoo that were contaminated by PCBs. Soon the water will be rerouted through the creek.
Paul Ruesch Environmental Protection Agency

For decades, paper mills dumped waste into the Kalamazoo River. Some of it had polychlorinated biphenyls; or PCBs. People can be exposed to PCBs by eating fish from the Kalamazoo River. PCBs can cause cancer, and other health problems.

Workers are wrapping up a project to remove toxic chemicals from Portage Creek near downtown Kalamazoo.

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Environment & Science
1:18 pm
Fri October 11, 2013

Federal judge approves Lake Michigan coal-dumping deal

The SS Badger.
user rexp2 Flickr

Federal District Court Judge Janet T. Neff approved a plan that would allow “the country’s last coal-dumping ferryboat” to continue operations as it shifts from unloading coal waste into Lake Michigan to storing the ash elsewhere.

The agreement settles a dispute between the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Lake Michigan Carferry company over the coal ash discarded in Lake Michigan, and the impacts of such discharging.

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Stateside
2:51 pm
Thu October 10, 2013

When Gerald Ford demanded answers for UFO sightings in Michigan

An interview with Dr. Rudi Lindner.

If you are a baby-boomer who grew up in Michigan, chances are good you remember a particular point in time when you were out in your backyard, peering into the night sky, searching for UFOs.

For one week in March 1966, Michigan was awash with reports of UFO sightings. Scores of people called police to report suspicious items in the sky. Ultimately, the Air Force dismissed these sighting as nothing more than "swamp gas,” causing then-Congressman Gerald Ford to fire off an indignant statement, declaring people deserved a better explanation than something as laughable as swamp gas.

Dr. Rudi Lindner is a professor of History and Astronomy at the University of Michigan. He teaches a class called "Discovery of the Universe" that includes the history of UFOs. He joined us in studio to Michigan’s close encounters with the third kind. 

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Stateside
5:18 pm
Tue October 8, 2013

How is the shutdown affecting Michigan's medical research?

Dr. Ora Pescovitz, CEO of the University of Michigan Health System.
University of Michigan Health System University of Michigan

An interview with Ora Pescovitz.

As we get into the second week of the partial government shutdown, and with the debt ceiling debate looming ever closer, more voices are being raised in warning and concern over how the shutdown is impacting our daily lives.

One of those voices is that of Dr. Ora Pescovitz.  Pescovitz is the CEO of the University of Michigan Health System, and the executive Vice President for Medical Affairs.

How is the shutdown affecting medical research at the University of Michigan? Is life-saving research falling victim to the debate down in Washington, D.C.?

Pescovitz talked to us about the shutdown’s damage to research.

Listen to the full interview above. 

The Environment Report
9:05 am
Tue October 8, 2013

Algal blooms causing concern in northern lakes

Hamlin Lake on Ludington State Park.
Flickr

For years Lake Erie has been the poster child in the Great Lakes for the problem of toxic algae.

More recently, though, the problem has been showing up farther north around Lake Michigan.

Figuring out the causes of the algal blooms can be tough since watersheds are complex systems but some environmentalists are pointing the finger at corn. It’s a valuable cash crop today and could be a growing part of the farm landscape in the Great Lakes in the years ahead.

Algal bloom hits Mason County

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Environment & Science
1:00 pm
Sun October 6, 2013

Group finds 2nd shipwreck in Lake Superior

DULUTH, Minn. — The group that found a sunken freighter off the Lake Superior shore of Marquette, Mich. this spring has found a second one — this time north of Duluth, Minn.

The Duluth News Tribune reports (http://bit.ly/15TjMOm ) the shipwreck hunters confirmed the location of Scotiadoc last month. It's in more than 850 feet of water near Thunder Bay, Ontario, possibly making it the deepest shipwreck ever found in the Great Lakes.

The 424-foot ship sank after colliding with another freighter in 1953, killing one person.

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The Environment Report
9:03 am
Fri October 4, 2013

Warmer waters fuel toxic algal blooms in the Great Lakes

Algae scooped out of Maumee Bay in Lake Erie.
Mark Brush Michigan Radio

Big, ugly algal blooms are reappearing in the western basin (and sometimes the central basin) of Lake Erie.

The blooms happen when excess nutrients – mostly phosphorus – run off into the lake from farms and sewage treatment plants.

Some of these kinds of algae produce toxins that are among the most powerful natural poisons on Earth.

Over the past decade, these algal blooms have been common in Lake Erie. And scientists predict climate change could make the problem worse.

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Stateside
1:46 pm
Thu October 3, 2013

How much solar energy does it take to cross Australia?

U-M's solar car.
umich.edu umich.edu

Cars running on solar energy might not be in every driveway in the country, but a group of students at the University of Michigan are helping keep the solar power dream alive.

The university’s solar car team, one of the most decorated teams of its kind in North America, is in Australia now, preparing to compete in the World Solar Challenge on Sunday. They’ll be shooting for the fastest time on an 1800-mile race from the top of the continent to the bottom. Teams from across the globe will be using nothing but the sun and a jet-like roadster to get them across the outback.

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The Environment Report
6:00 am
Thu October 3, 2013

Too warm for your fried perch dinner?

Researchers pulling in a trawl net on the USGS Muskie.
Jennifer Szweda Jordan

The fourth story in our week-long series, In Warm Water.

Yellow perch are a staple of firehouse and church fish fries, and the delicate fish on that dish might once have lived in the Great Lakes. But warmer lake waters in a changing climate threaten the yellow perch population as well as other popular cool water fish, like walleye.

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The Environment Report
6:00 am
Wed October 2, 2013

A mystery at the bottom of the Great Lakes food web

Michael Twiss is a professor of biology at Clarkson University, Potsdam, NY.
David Sommerstein

The third story in our series, "In Warm Water."

Phytoplankton – the algae that are food for plankton which in turn feed fish – are behaving strangely. They’re surrounded by a nutrient they need to grow. But for some reason, they’re not using it.

The puzzle has big implications for how scientists think about the Great Lakes’ future in a warming world.

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Environment & Science
9:06 am
Tue October 1, 2013

Beginning today, Michigan bow hunters will see how deer population has recovered from 2012 outbreak

Hunter poses with kill
mikehanback.com

This is a big day for thousands of Michigan deer hunters. It’s the beginning of bow season.

Hunters should expect to see more deer in southern Michigan this fall.

Last year, nearly 15 thousand deer died of Epizootic hemorrhagic disease or EHD.

The disease is spread to deer by small insects. It was the largest EHD outbreak in Michigan history.

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The Environment Report
6:00 am
Tue October 1, 2013

Great Lakes fish on a diet

University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Professor John Janssen
Chuck Quirmbach

The second story in our series, "In Warm Water: Fish & the Changing Great Lakes."

Scientists say one way climate change is harming the Great Lakes is by warming the water too quickly in the spring.

That warm-up can decrease food for tiny creatures in the lakes--the creatures that game fish like trout and salmon eat.

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Environment & Science
1:39 pm
Mon September 30, 2013

Michigan health officials release report on impacts of Enbridge oil spill

An oil covered blue heron caught in the 2010 spill.
Michigan's oil response Flickr page State of Michigan

The Michigan Department of Community Health released its public health assessment of the waters and fish affected by the 2010 Enbridge oil spill.

You can read their report here.

They conclude the spill is "not harmful to health":

MDCH has concluded that no long-term harm to people’s health is expected from contact with chemicals in the surface water during recreational activities, such as wading, swimming, or canoeing. However, contact with oil sheen and globules in the river may cause temporary effects, such as skin irritation.

Fish from the Kalamazoo River and Morrow Lake were tested for oil-related chemicals, as well as chemicals that were previously found in fish there. Fish from areas impacted by the oil spill, including Ceresco Impoundment and Morrow Lake, had similar levels of oil-related chemicals as fish caught in Marshall Pond (upstream of the spill). All oil-related chemical levels were very low. Mercury and polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) levels were similar to levels measured in fish caught before the oil spill.

The MDCH has released previous reports on the oil spill's effects on drinking water wells, and on the effects of submerged oil in the sediments of the Kalamazoo River.

Environment & Science
1:20 pm
Mon September 30, 2013

Michigan lawmakers testify in Canada against proposed underground storage site for nuclear waste

The Bruce Nuclear Power Plant is directly across Lake Huron from the thumb region of Michigan.
Bruce Power Ontario Power Generation

Canadian officials are hearing testimony again this afternoon on a proposal to store low to medium level nuclear waste at an underground repository near Lake Huron.

You can watch the hearings live at this website.

Ontario Power Generation wants to build the repository near the town of Kincardine. The company already has a nuclear power plant located there. The Bruce Nuclear Generating Station is one of the biggest nuclear plants in the world.

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Environment & Science
12:58 pm
Mon September 30, 2013

Join in our discussion about the changing Great Lakes

The Great Lakes are changing. Warming air and water, shorter winters with less snow and ice and more extreme weather are impacting the lakes and the fish that live there. In addition, harmful algal blooms are creating dead zones that are bad news for fish, and impact recreational users as well.

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The Environment Report
6:00 am
Mon September 30, 2013

A chilly Lake Superior warms up

Herring fisherman and president of the North Shore Commercial Fishing Association, Steve Dahl, says the commercial fishing industry on Lake Superior is doing better than ever, but experts predict fish populations will shift due to warming waters.
Photo by Doug Fairchild, courtesy of the Minnesota Sea Grant Institute.

You can listen to the first piece in our series above.

We kick off our week-long series In Warm Water: Fish and the Changing Great Lakes with a look at Lake Superior.

It has long been the coldest and most pristine Great Lake. Its frigid waters have helped defend it from some invasive species that have plagued the other Great Lakes.  But Lake Superior’s future could look radically different. Warming water and decreasing ice are threatening the habitat of some of the lake’s most iconic fish.

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Energy
9:00 am
Fri September 27, 2013

U of M researchers to study how well materials hold up in nuclear reactors over time

Members of the Michigan Ion Beam Laboratory work on various projects in the research group's main facility in the Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering building on North Campus in Ann Arbor, MI on January 15, 2013.
Joseph Xu Michigan Engineering Communications & Marketing

Engineering researchers at the University of Michigan are trying to figure out how radiation damages the different materials used to make nuclear power plants.

There are roughly 100  nuclear power plants in the U.S., and most of them are getting old. Researchers want to figure out how long the reactors can hold up in such harsh environments over time.

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Environment & Science
12:48 am
Fri September 27, 2013

Wolf hunt licenses go on sale Saturday, while hunt opponents plan busy weekend too.

Wolf cubs
HSUS

Beginning tomorrow, Michigan hunters will start laying down $100 for a license to hunt wolves in the Upper Peninsula this fall.    

State wildlife officials admit they don’t know if the wolf hunt licenses will sell out.   The licenses will be available for hunters as young as 10 years old and from out of state. 

1,200 licenses are being sold for the wolf hunt which starts November 15.

It’s the first wolf hunt since the gray wolf rebounded from near extinction in the Upper Peninsula.   

But along with people buying wolf hunting licenses, there will be people working this weekend to protect the wolves.

Jill Fritz is with Keep Michigan Wolves Protected.  Her group is collecting signatures on a petition to put a challenge to the wolf hunt law on next year’s ballot.

“We’re encountering an enthusiastic public everywhere we go.  Whether we’re out in front of a library in Marquette or at ArtPrize in Grand Rapids,” says Fritz. 

The Department of Natural Resources has set a goal of killing 43 wolves in this fall’s hunt.  The hunt will take place in 3 separate zones in the Upper Peninsula.

Supporters say the U.P.’s growing wolf population is threatening livestock and household pets. Detractors complain the hunt will indiscriminately kill wolves and may make wolf attacks on livestock more common.

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