Environment & Science

Today on Stateside, we talk to a physician who nearly died at her own hospital. Now, she's calling on medical staffers everywhere to be more empathetic. Also today, a deer specialist explains chronic wasting disease's impact on animals this year and what the Department of Natural Resources has learned from deer submitted by hunters for testing. And, Enbridge defends its agreement with the state on the Line 5 pipeline.

Michigan Department of Natural Resources / Facebook

All through this deer hunting season, Michigan hunters are bringing their deer to check stations to be tested for a disease called chronic wasting disease (CWD).

It's turning up again in deer in our state, which is why the Department of Natural Resources is keeping a close eye on this threat.

Today on Stateside, a member of the state Pipeline Safety Advisory Board explains why the state's agreement with Enbridge "mostly goes in the wrong direction." And, in a holiday rendition of Theater Talk, we learn what's playing now on Michigan stages.

Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

What does the newly-announced binding agreement between the state of Michigan and Enbridge mean for the future of Line 5, especially the stretch that runs under the Straits of Mackinac?


 A new report finds governments are not making “sufficient progress” toward insuring the “drinkability, swimmability and fishability of the Great Lakes.”

The report, entitled the First Triennial Assessment of Progress on the Great Lakes, comes from the International Joint Commission, or IJC.   The IJC is a bi-national organization created under the Boundary Water Treaty of 1909.

The triennial assessment released today was required under a 2012 agreement.

The report finds not enough progress in reducing pollutants, including phosphorus which is creating cyanobacteria blooms in Lake Erie.  A bloom three years ago forced Toledo to shut off its water for two days.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Michigan’s Department of Environmental Quality is unveiling changes to lead in water rules this week.

Communities in Michigan with lead water pipes will have special interest in a public meeting Michigan's Department of Environmental Quality is hosting Wednesday night.

Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

TOLEDO, Ohio (AP) - Ohio has come out with an updated plan to sharply reduce what's making algae flourish in Lake Erie, but some environmental groups say the strategy lacks direction about what to do next.

  The plan is designed to lay out how Ohio intends to reach its goal of making a 40 percent reduction of phosphorus within the next eight years.

  Michigan and the Canadian province of Ontario along with Ohio signed a deal two years ago agreeing to make steep cuts of the phosphorus that sparked large algae outbreaks in recent years.

Recycling symbol
Alan Levine / Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

Kent County is closing its recycling facility temporarily. But this is a good thing in the long run, according to the Department of Public Works.

Kristen Weiland, marketing and communications director with the Kent County Department of Public Works, says the facility is shutting down so the county can install new equipment.

City of Ann Arbor Public Services Administration

Ann Arborites can rest easy that they will not be asked to volunteer to limit their water consumption over the Thanksgiving weekend, according to Robert Kellar, spokesman for the Ann Arbor Public Services Administration.

Kellar said a leak that might have led to a temporary shutdown of Ann Arbor's water treatment plant has been isolated and is getting fixed. 

Kellar said the leak was discovered last weekend in one of two intake pipes to Ann Arbor's treatment plant. 

"The staff did an excellent job. There's not a threat at this point to the quality or the use of people's water," said Kellar. "So everybody should enjoy their holiday."

According to Kellar, the possibility had always been remote that the leak might lead to temporary voluntary water restrictions. He said they were presented to Ann Arbor City Council on Monday night as part of considering a worst case scenario.

Photo by Scott McArt, used with permission.

We’ve heard a lot about honeybees and how important they are as pollinators. But bumblebees pollinate wildflowers and crops, too, and some kinds of bumblebees are in trouble.

aerial photo of the Great Lakes
National Oceanic and And Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

The Great Lakes Commission and Lawrence Technological University are teaming up to protect the Great Lakes by changing the way cities think about rain water.

They want to explore new ways communities can handle storm water to prevent things like flooding and sewage overflow into the lakes.

Michael Polich is a program specialist with the Great Lakes Commission. He says cities often view alternate storm water technologies as different and untested, making them hesitant to implement new ideas.

inside of lead service line
Terese Olson / University of Michigan

Ever since the Flint water crisis, Michigan cities and citizens have started paying attention to lead in drinking water pipes and faucets and the potential dangers they pose.

You might have lead pipes, or fixtures that contain lead, in your home without even knowing. Many cities are only replacing the public side of lead service lines. So determining what's coming into, and what's inside your home is up to you.

There are lead service lines in older communities across Michigan. Because of their age and population size, it’s fair to say the bulk of Michigan’s lead service lines are in cities in Southeast Michigan.

I spent a lot of time trying to determine which Detroit suburbs have lead service lines and how many. I wanted to see how far out into the suburbs lead was found in underground water pipes.

It was relatively easy (albeit an expensive FOIA bill near $2000 for these "public documents") to track down which communities were testing lead lines. But figuring out how many lead pipes were in each community is nearly impossible.

Documents: US Steel sought to keep chemical spill secret

Nov 16, 2017
Ken Lund / Flickr Creative Commons HTTP://MICHRAD.IO/1LXRDJM

Environmentalists are questioning why the public wasn't notified about an October chemical spill into a Lake Michigan tributary that U.S. Steel asked Indiana regulators to keep confidential.

Documents released by the University of Chicago's Abrams Environmental Law Clinic show that U.S. Steel's plant in Portage, Indiana, released 56.7 pounds (25.7 kilograms) of chromium on Oct. 25 after a wastewater treatment system malfunction. That's nearly double what the plant is permitted to release of the potentially cancer-causing chemical over 24 hours.

A dive team works on Line 5 under the Straits of Mackinac.
Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

It’s been a steady drip-drip-drip of revelations from Enbridge Energy about its Line 5 — the oil and gas pipelines running beneath the Straits of Mackinac.

The latest revelation is that there are more spots where the protective coating has worn off — lots more spots, even though a year ago we were told there weren’t any coating gaps.

The latest admission from the Canadian energy company drew a quick response from a plainly exasperated Governor Snyder, who called Enbridge’s “lack of transparency” to be “deeply troubling.”

But what are we hearing from Michigan's business leaders?

Emma Winowiecki / Michigan Radio

Because of the Flint water crisis, several Michigan cities are making long term plans to replace old lead water pipes that connect homes to the water main.

That is good for public health, but well-meaning municipal water operators can actually make lead exposure worse if they’re not careful.

There’s a mix of lead and copper pipes buried near the corner of Trinity and Florence in a neighborhood on Detroit’s northwest side. When I visited a month ago the block was lined with nice, two story brick homes and orange construction barrels. It smelled like diesel.

As thousands of hunters head out with rifles today, a tiny group of Michiganders heads out with birds instead. We talk with one of those falconers on Stateside​. Also today, an ecologist says biodiversity could be the planet's "insurance policy," but only if we act fast. And, we learn Michigan State University sports doctor Larry Nassar is considering a guilty plea to charges he sexually assaulted young athletes.

Researchers manipulating the number of plant species in an experimental plot to determine how biodiversity impacts the productivity of ecosystems.
David Tilman


It's one of those scientific terms we hear and think, "That's a good thing. We need it,” without truly knowing why it's a good thing.

A University of Michigan and Smithsonian study now helps us understand. The researchers found biodiversity is even more powerful and important than they thought it would be.

Courtesy of Chris Wysocki

Firearm deer season starts today and thousands of hunters are heading out with their rifles. But around this time of year, there's a tiny group of Michiganders heading out with birds instead.

A diver inspects Enbridge's Line 5 pipeline under the Straits of Mackinac for a possible dent.
Enbridge inspection video shared with the state of Michigan

There’s something that seems to have united state officials and representatives across party lines and despite political disagreements.

That something is a new safety report from Enbridge Energy on Line 5, the pipeline that runs beneath the Straits of Mackinac.

1992 LCR document from Battle Creek
Emma Winowiecki / Michigan Radio

One of the things Flint’s water operators got in trouble for was falsifying records; for saying the city was testing homes at the highest risk of having elevated lead levels when it was not. But records obtained by Michigan Radio show Flint is not the only city in the state that tested the wrong homes over the years and potentially underestimated lead in water.

The biggest culprit for high lead in tap water is the lead water pipes that connect a house to the water main. That’s why cities are supposed to test those homes.

Hillary Miller

The Next Idea

FEMMES, Females Excelling More in Math, Engineering and Science, is a group of University of Michigan graduate students and faculty who are working to get girls in the 4th through 6th grades excited about science and to get them thinking about going into STEM fields. They do this through hands-on activities and presentations that show science in action.

We reported on FEMMES back in 2014 and decided to check back in three years later. Hillary Miller, a PhD candidate in cell and molecular biology at the University of Michigan and a part of FEMMES, joined The Next Idea to provide an update.

construction workers
Bryce Huffman / Michigan Radio

Public and political pressure from the Flint water crisis is beginning to shape new, tougher water regulations in Michigan - and other states are taking notice.

If passed, they’d be the strongest such measures in the country.

Two years ago, when news broke about the Flint water crisis, lots of people wondered if Michigan’s governor would resign. That’s because emails show Rick Snyder’s top aides had concerns about Flint’s water long before pediatricians and scientists proved there was a huge problem.

Rebecca Williams / Michigan Radio

A bill that environmental groups say would be a step backward in the fight against invasive species in the Great Lakes is on its way to Governor Rick Snyder's desk.

Snyder has opposed the bill, according to spokesperson Anna Heaton, but has not said whether he will veto it.

Grass carp

There are several federal agencies in charge of trying to control Asian carp, and they just came out with their latest report to Congress on how those efforts are going.

Barry Chignell / Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

Have you ever thought of a bee as a healer? 

Adam Ingrao was serving in the Army until his career was ended by an injury. After his discharge, he somehow landed on beekeeping. He found that tending hives was powerful and healing.

Today, Ingrao is working on his doctorate in entomology, and he's helping other vets to discover the healing power of bees and beekeeping by founding a program called Heroes to Hives.

Map of animals that have evolved in cities.
Marc Johnson & Jason Munshi-South

Cities are creating new ecosystems, and they’re changing the way some creatures evolve. Those are the findings of a new paper in the journal Science.

Rebecca Williams / Michigan Radio

More than 185 species of foreign fish, algae, plants, insects, and viruses have been brought into the Great Lakes. Many of them are invasive species that are damaging the lakes, such as zebra mussels, quagga mussels, round gobies, and Phragmites.

About a third of those invasive species were brought here in the ballast water of ocean-going ships. As they picked up their ballast water in foreign ports, they sucked up aquatic life along with it.

Natural gas power plant in California
David Monniaux / Wikimedia Commons

The reliability of our power supply is vulnerable to climate change. But the grid can be made more adaptable.

Those are the conclusions of a new study in the journal Nature Climate Change.

On this Halloween day, we hear how hauntings and paranormal activities abound in Michigan. We also learn about the honor system state legislators have when it comes to spending campaign donations. And, researchers explain what sheep have to do with a possible cure for Huntington's Disease.