Environment & Science

Environment & Science
6:24 am
Fri June 27, 2014

New task force to review pipeline safety in Michigan

Credit Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

A new government task force has been created to review the safety of Michigan's pipelines.

DEQ Director Dan Wyant and Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette will co-chair.

Formal oversight for interstate gas and oil pipelines comes from the federal government, but states are not required to do their own management.

Carl Weimer is executive director of the Pipeline Safety Trust. He said Michigan needs state oversight of its increasing number of pipelines.

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Environment & Science
8:38 pm
Thu June 26, 2014

Gardeners beware: Study shows harmful pesticide in garden store plants

2 out of 4 plants from a suburban Detroit Home Depot tested positive for neonicotinoids.
Credit Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

A Michigan environmental group says gardeners should be careful when buying plants – they may be inadvertently harming bees.

The Ann Arbor-based Ecology Center was part of a study looking at the pesticide content in plants bought from major home and garden stores in 18 cities across North America.

Of four plants purchased at a metro Detroit Home Depot, two tested positive for neonicotinoids, a class of pesticides known to be toxic to bees.

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The Environment Report
9:00 am
Thu June 26, 2014

Recycling that typical household battery is not as easy as you might think

Alkaline batteries before they're recycled at RBS Metals in Brighton, Michigan.
Mark Brush Michigan Radio

I was surprised to find out recently that you can’t recycle household batteries in Ann Arbor anymore. I used to collect them in a little steel can, but Recycle Ann Arbor stopped taking them.

From Recycle Ann Arbor’s website:

Alkaline household batteries do not contain hazardous materials and may be disposed of in the trash.

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Environment & Science
6:31 pm
Wed June 25, 2014

Great Lakes region not doing well on beach water quality

Credit Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

The Great Lakes region didn't do so well last year in beach water quality, according to the annual beach report by Natural Resources Defense Council. 

More than 3,000 samples were taken from coastal and Great Lake beaches across the country. Thirteen percent of the samples had bacterial levels that were too high for safe swimming. That means the region has one of the highest failure rates in the country. 

Steve Fleischli is with the Natural Resources Defense Council. He explained why this might be the case. 

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Environment & Science
6:24 pm
Wed June 25, 2014

Small businesses welcome carbon emission regulations

Credit Photo courtesy of Carbon Green BioEnergy

Support is growing within the small business community for tighter limits on carbon emissions, which contribute to climate change.

That's according to research by the American Sustainable Business Council. One in five of the surveyed businesses said they had already been hurt by extreme weather events.

Many business owners say they've searched for their own ways to reduce energy costs to become more efficient.

David Levine is CEO of the council. He said small businesses want to see these changes implemented across the board.

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The Environment Report
2:13 pm
Tue June 24, 2014

Help for honeybee researchers coming from Grand Valley State University

A second grader shares her feelings about bees.
Mark Brush Michigan Radio

Today's Environment Report from Michigan Radio. Listen to GVSU's Anne Marie Fauvel explain how hive weights can help researchers.

That’s right, bees rule. At least that what my second grader thinks after she studied them at school.

“You wrote bees rule. Why do bees rule?” I asked.

“I think it’s neat for how they can make it into honey and that they can speak to each other by doing a dance," she answered.

She, of course, isn’t the only one who think bees rule. A lot of us think they rule. Especially when you consider that around one out of every three bites of food we eat is the result of a bee.

But as you’ve likely heard, bees are in trouble. Beekeepers have been experiencing losses at alarming rates — and scientists across the country are scrambling to try to stop these losses. Whether from Colony Collapse Disorder, or other bee stressors, the problems bees face are more complicated than it once seemed.

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Energy
5:00 am
Mon June 23, 2014

Two meetings this week to discuss Palisades nuclear plant’s performance last year

Credit Entergy Corporation

People will get two opportunities this week to hear how the Palisades nuclear plant is doing. Palisades was recently listed as one of the worst-performing plants in the country.

Regulators have raised the plant's official safety rating, but they say the safety culture among security staff still needs to improve.

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Environment & Science
1:25 pm
Sun June 22, 2014

A rare bloom is expected to cause a big stink in East Lansing this week

Many people, like Pam Saunders, lined up last week to take a look, and sneak a sniff, of the Corpse Flower before it bloomed. The experience this week will not be as pleasant.
Credit Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Hundreds of people are expected to be drawn like flies to see and smell a reeking flower in East Lansing this week. 

“The Latin name for this plant is Amorphophallus Titanium,” says Peter Carrington, assistant curator of MSU’s Beal Botanical Garden, “which gloriously translates into "the very huge misshapen penis.”

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The Environment Report
1:45 pm
Thu June 19, 2014

Developers face obstacles to offshore wind farms in Great Lakes

The Middelgrunden is an offshore wind farm outside Copenhagen, Denmark.
Kim Hansen Flickr

As recently as a couple of months ago, construction of a wind farm in Lake Erie, off the Ohio shoreline near Cleveland, looked promising. But now some are sounding the death knell for any wind development in the Great Lakes. 

The Department of Energy estimates the country has an offshore wind capacity of four million megawatts. That’s four times the generating capacity of all U.S. electric power plants.

Michigan was among a handful of states working with federal agencies a few years ago to speed up the development of wind farms off the shores of the Great Lakes. 

Wind energy developer Lorry Wagner says leaders started looking toward the energy sector to create more jobs. He says that’s when they realized the region’s potential for offshore wind energy.

“The real resource is in the lake. And the reason for that is you get about three times the energy due to the higher wind speeds and less turbulence than you do on land," he says.

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Stateside
7:22 am
Thu June 19, 2014

U.N. panel: No one will be unaffected by climate change

A screenshot from a map of climate-change impacts in the Great Lakes region.
Credit Great Lakes Adaptation Assessment for Cities / University of Michigan

*Want to see how climate change will impact the economy of the Great Lakes region? Check out this interactive map from the Great Lakes Adaptation Assessment for Cities at the University of Michigan.

The most recent report on the world’s climate from the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change shows that no one will be untouched by the effects of climate change. Henry Pollack is one of the contributors to the IPCC report.

Pollack said the most important message from this report is that climate change is real. Humans are the principal factor, the consequences are not pretty, and the window for fixing the issue is getting smaller and smaller.

The report is a compilation of reports from experts all over the world.  

Pollack says climate change will affect everyone in different ways depending on where they live. In Michigan we can expect to see lower water levels in the Great Lakes. Earlier growing seasons may eventually occur, which could be problematic if there were an unexpected freeze. The two principle crops in Michigan, corn and soybeans, would also be very vulnerable to high temperatures.

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Environment & Science
3:49 pm
Wed June 18, 2014

New laws allow for coal ash in cement and asphalt

Credit Peter Ito / flickr

This week Gov. Rick Snyder signed laws that allow for more uses of industrial byproducts.

  

The idea is to send less material to landfills and instead recycle them into as many practical uses as possible. 

These are materials like coal ash, paper-mill sludge and foundry sand. In the past they were dumped in landfills. 

But the state has been researching ways to recycle them – such as mixing them into cement used in roads and parking lots. The law also allows for some of these materials to be used on farmland as soil conditioners. 

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Stateside
5:47 pm
Tue June 17, 2014

Cow manure could become a source of clean water

Credit Wikimedia Commons

Did you know one cow can produce 10,000 gallons of manure each year?

Now do the math: A large farm with a thousand cows means about 10 million gallons of manure every year.

Now, thanks to research from Michigan State University, that cow poo could become the source of, believe it or not, clean water.

Steve Safferman is an associate professor of biosystems and agricultural engineering at Michigan State University.

Safferman says 90  to 95% of cow manure is water.

There is a multi-step process used to retrieve the water. First the manure goes through pretreatment, then filtration, air stripping, and reverse osmosis.

Research shows that from 100 gallons of cow manure, 50 gallons of water can be retrieved.

The water is just like fresh water that comes out of the faucet. This water even has higher quality of drinking for the cows than well water.

Within a year of commercializing, there has been a lot of interest from farmers who are interested in the water-extraction system.  

Safferman said the system could be very useful for farmers who may have to sell their livestock because there is not enough water. It could also cut their water use potentially in half. 

*Listen to full interview above.

Environment & Science
4:51 pm
Tue June 17, 2014

New technology could improve beach water-quality testing

Credit Kathleen Tyler Conklin/ Flickr

A new technology will make testing water quality at Michigan beaches faster. And that means safer swimming. 

County water departments  are required to test  public beach water for E. coli contamination. But the testing process has been pretty slow – it can take around 24 hours for results to come in. That means that a health department may not close a beach a full day after it discovers water was unsafe for swimmers. 

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The Environment Report
11:22 am
Tue June 17, 2014

Michigan entrepreneurs want the saskatoon to be the next big fruit

Saskatoons look like purple blueberries, but taste like apples.
User: waledro Flickr

An unusual berry should be widely available at farmers markets in northern Michigan this summer. In fact, the region has become the center of saskatoon growing in the United States.

Most people who grow saskatoons around Traverse City were not farmers until a few years ago, but the berry could have a bright future in northern Michigan.

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Stateside
7:33 pm
Mon June 16, 2014

Great Lakes lover and her thousand-mile adventures

Loreen at Manitou Passage (Lake Michigan) with the Manitou Islands visible offshore
Credit User: Loreen Niewenhuis / Facebook: Loreen Niewenhuis Fan Page

After hiking some 2,000 miles around the Great Lakes, Loreen Niewenhuis is headed to the islands of the Great Lakes for another thousand-mile adventure of hiking, boating, kayaking, and bicycling.

First, she hiked completely around Lake Michigan, her "1,000 Mile Walk on the Beach." Then she decided to hike the shorelines of all five Great Lakes, another 1,000-mile adventure.

She has turned both of those into books.

Now she is working on her third journey: A 1,000-mile Great Lakes Island adventure. This month, she'll be visiting Isle Royale to help out with wolf and moose research.

Niewenhuis joined Stateside today to talk about the environmental issue she observed on her island journeys and recount her amazing experiences, including searching for moose bones on Isle Royale and hiking Pictured Rocks on Lake Superior.

*Listen to the full interview with Loreen above.

Environment & Science
9:01 am
Mon June 16, 2014

The U.P. could soon have a wine country thanks to a new grape

Northern Sun winery in the Upper Peninsula runs on cold-hardy grapes.
Credit Emily Fox / Michigan Radio

We've all heard of Cabernet, Merlot and Chardonnay. Those wines have been around for centuries.

But what about Frontenac, Marquette and La Crescent? Those grapes have only been around for a decade or two and they can withstand harsh winters, and thrive.

I went to the Upper Peninsula to see if it has what it takes to develop a new wine region in the state.

Click here to listen to the story

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Environment & Science
4:15 pm
Fri June 13, 2014

Program targets invasive plants at Belle Isle – and you can help

Credit Matt Lavin/ Flickr

A program to remove invasive plants is coming to Detroit's Belle Isle this summer.

A federal grant from the EPA of almost half a million dollars will go to Friends of the Detroit River. Sam Lovall is the project manager. He says removing the invasive plants is really important for the health of the island's ecosystem.

"Although some of them are quite attractive, they tend to overpopulate the area," said Lovall.

"They are very aggressive and they can compete very well with some of our native plants."

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The Environment Report
1:45 pm
Thu June 12, 2014

Big increase in the number of fatal drownings in the Great Lakes

One way to prevent fatal drownings is to know what drowning looks like. Pay attention to these five signs.
GLSRP.org

Swimmers and boaters in Michigan need to be more careful on the water.

"We're at 23 fatal drownings on the five Great Lakes so far this year. It's about 50% up from last year at this time," says Bob Pratt, the director of education at The Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project. He says many recent deaths have been boaters who were swimming or they ran into trouble while boating on the lakes. 

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Environment & Science
8:43 am
Thu June 12, 2014

Living off the grid can be illegal

Rolf and Mari von Walthausen at their 12 x 16 square-foot cabin in Cedar, Michigan
Credit Emily Fox / Michigan Radio

Energy use on the globe is expected to go up by more than 50% in the next 25 years. Michigan law is mandating a heavier reliance on renewable sources by next year. But some say that’s not enough, and they are taking matters into their own hands.

Click here to listen to the story

Experimenting with sustainability

Take Rolf and Mari von Walthausen for example. They were a typical Traverse City couple. They worked 40-hour-a-week jobs and lived in an average-sized home. But one day they did an experiment.

“We moved all of our belongings into one room of the house and said, let’s see how it is to live in a space that is 12 by 16 [feet],” Rolf von Walthausen said.

Then they tried another experiment.

“There was a time that one summer at our house, we actually set up the tent in the yard and we lived in this tent for four months,” Rolf von Walthausen said.

Living off the grid

Then came the big test. The von Walthausens sold their house, quit their day jobs and built a tiny cabin in the woods with no running water or electricity. They got new part-time jobs teaching yoga and tuning pianos, they were living in the woods, getting their water from a stream nearby, gathering wood to heat their wood- burning stove, and using their compostable toilet outside.

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The Environment Report
11:34 am
Tue June 10, 2014

Lawmakers considering early bear hunt to protect beehives

Commercial beekeeper Kirk Jones checks on his honeybees at Sleeping Bear Farms.
Sara Hoover

The Environment Report

Beekeepers have to keep their honeybees healthy against a lot of challenges: deadly mites, pesticides and harsh winters.

Once they make it to the spring though, it doesn’t mean they’re in the clear. Bears are emerging from hibernation at their hungriest.

And beeyards are like a dinner bell.

Michigan lawmakers are considering a bill (H.B. 5226) that could allow beekeepers and hunters to work together to protect honeybees from bears. 

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