Environment & Science

The Environment Report
12:43 pm
Thu February 20, 2014

Enbridge has a new plan for dredging parts of the Kalamazoo River

The Benteler site (green) is where Enbridge will set up for their dredging project.
Enbridge

Enbridge Energy is still cleaning up oil left over from its pipeline spill in the Kalamazoo River.  

The company has already recovered most of the oil, but it's still working to comply with an order from the federal regulators, who say they need to clean up another 180,000 gallons. 

According to Enbridge's new plan, they can start that cleanup March 15. But that's all dependent on this crazy weather. Right now, everything is frozen. But, if spring warms things up and there's flooding, that can also be problematic for the dredging process. 

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Environment & Science
9:11 am
Thu February 20, 2014

EPA says decision about Kalamazoo’s ‘Mount PCB’ will come this summer

Many residents can see the 80-acre, fenced-off Allied site from their backyards in Kalamazoo.
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

The Environmental Protection Agency hopes to select a cleanup plan by this summer for an old landfill site in Kalamazoo that's full of toxic material.

The Allied site served as a dumping ground for the paper mill industry for decades. There are 1.5 million cubic yards of material at the site laced with polychlorinated biphenyl, or PCBs. Some neighbors have dubbed it Mount PCB.

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Environment & Science
4:54 pm
Wed February 19, 2014

What's behind Michigan's propane emergency?

A propane tank covered in snow.
sierrafoothillsreport.com

Last month, in the midst of the polar vortex, Gov. Rick Snyder declared an energy emergency in the state as propane supplies dropped.

The shortage continues as Michiganders who rely on propane  for their heat have to worry about getting propane – and when they do, dealing with major price increases.

What's behind the shortage? And what does it mean for the 9 to 10 percent of Michigan homes that use propane for heat?

Listen to the full interview above. 

Environment & Science
12:24 pm
Wed February 19, 2014

Even winter haters think these ice caves are awesome

Ice caves in northern Michigan
Lizzy Freed

Very few people are amused with what this winter has brought Michigan.

The Associated Press wrote that the polar vortex (let's be honest, vortices) covered 79% of the Great Lakes in ice. 

It's not a record, but it's well above the long-term average of about 51 percent.

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Environment & Science
8:42 pm
Tue February 18, 2014

Experts say it's time to plan for the worst when it comes to Asian carp

The USGS says it could take decades to deal with Asian carp threat. State officials say that's too long to wait.
flickr Kate Gardiner

State lawmakers say they’re concerned about the time and expense of plans to keep the Asian carp out of the Great Lakes. And some experts say it’s time to plan for the worst.

State invasive species experts say Michigan does not have the luxury of waiting for a final plan to ensure Asian carp don’t infest the Great Lakes and upset the food chain. 

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The Environment Report
11:10 am
Tue February 18, 2014

New farm bill shakes up the way we pay for land conservation

user acrylicartist MorgueFile.com

You can listen to today's Environment Report above.

The farm bill has about $57 billion for conservation.

Director of the Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition Todd Ambs says a lot of people don't realize the farm bill is where we find the largest source of conservation money from the federal government.

"That’s because there are so many activities that happen on the land that bring us our food, that if done improperly can have a very adverse impact on the soil and also to surrounding waterways," he says.

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Environment & Science
8:55 am
Tue February 18, 2014

Now with local approval, Enbridge hopes to finish dredging Kalamazoo River by fall

The Kalamazoo River near Ceresco, Michigan.
Mark Brush Michigan Radio

Enbridge Energy can move forward with plans to dredge thousands of truck loads worth of contaminated sediment from the Kalamazoo River - 135,000 cubic yards to be exact. The cleanup is related to the pipeline company’s 2010 oil spill. 

On Monday night, Comstock Township’s planning commission unanimously approved the company’s plans to dredge. The heavy crude oil has broken down and mixed with the river sediment.

Enbridge was supposed to finish dredging contaminated river sediment a couple of months ago, but it failed to meet the deadline in part because the first set of plans it had in Comstock Township were rejected last summer.

The township said the operation was too close to homes and businesses, among other reasons.

About a dozen residents came to the meeting to raise specific concerns about pollution, smells and noise.

But in the end, the concerns were not enough to prevent the temporary operation in a district zoned for heavy manufacturing.

“I do think that this is the best site of all of the ones that we looked at with a minimum amount of impact,” Township Supervisor Ann Nieuwenhuis said. “And what’s most important is that the river is going to get clean.”

“All of the work will be done under the oversight of the federal and state regulators, and any comments or questions or concerns, we’ll do our best to address those as well," Enbridge spokeswoman Lorraine Little said after the vote.

Getting rid of the oiled sediment is key to meeting standards under the federal Clean Water Act.

Enbridge hopes to start work in a month and wrap it up by fall.

Environment & Science
5:55 pm
Mon February 17, 2014

Lawmakers question $18 billion price tag to protect Great Lakes

Will it really take 25 years and $18 billion to protect the Lakes?
Rebecca Williams Michigan Radio

State lawmakers want to know whether the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is inflating the cost and time it would take to keep invasive species out of the Great Lakes.

Army Corp officials will face questions from legislators Tuesday about a report it released last month.

It says separating the lakes from the Mississippi River would take more than two decades and up to $18 billion to complete.

Many state officials and environmental groups say separating the two watersheds is the best way to prevent Asian carp and other species from moving into the Great Lakes.

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Environment & Science
4:11 pm
Mon February 17, 2014

Solar power in the not-so-sunny UP

Can solar power be used the Upper Peninsula?
Ford Motor Company Flickr

When we think solar power and solar panels, what comes to mind? 

The sun, of course. So what are the prospects for solar power in areas that tend to be cloudy, snowy, and cold? Places with short days and long nights? Places like Michigan's Upper Peninsula?

Upper Peninsula Second Wave writer Sam Eggleston joins us from Marquette to discuss what might happen when solar power meets the UP.

Listen to the full interview above. 

Environment & Science
3:02 pm
Sat February 15, 2014

Gap in concrete wall found at nuclear plant near Toledo

Davis-Besse Nuclear Power Station, Ohio’s first nuclear power plant, is located 35 miles east of Toledo. The plant produces 40% of the electricity used by residences, businesses and industries in northwestern Ohio.
FirstEnergy

OAK HARBOR, Ohio (AP) - Operators of a northern Ohio nuclear plant that sits along Lake Erie say workers there found a gap within the concrete of a protective wall.

Officials at the Davis-Besse nuclear plant near Toledo describe the gap as an air pocket and say they don't believe it affected the structural integrity of the shield wall.

The gap was discovered Thursday while the plant was shut down to replace two steam generators.

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Environment & Science
4:30 pm
Fri February 14, 2014

Judge allows cancer lawsuit against Whirlpool to move forward

City building in Clyde, Ohio
City of Clyde

A federal judge in Ohio is allowing a cancer lawsuit against the Whirlpool Corporation to go ahead.

After documenting a high incidence of childhood cancer around the company's Clyde, OH plant, several families filed suit, accusing the Benton Harbor company of polluting the air and water. Clyde is about 50 miles from Michigan.

Whirlpool asked that the case be dismissed for lack of proof.

Attorney Chuck Boyk represents the families. He says the ruling will force Whirlpool to reveal what chemicals they use at the plant.

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The Environment Report
10:52 am
Thu February 13, 2014

Backyard farmers to lose Right to Farm protection?

Wendy Banka and one of her salmon faverolle chickens.
Rebecca Williams Michigan Radio

Take a listen to Wendy Banka and her chickens, and MPRN's Jake Neher describing why some state officials say backyard farms should not be covered by the Right to Farm Act.

Life could soon get a little harder for backyard farmers.

A law passed in 1981 protects Michigan farmers from nuisance lawsuits. It’s called the Right to Farm Act.  It was created to protect farmers from angry neighbors who were moving out into rural areas from cities.

At the moment, the law also protects people who raise chickens and other animals in their backyards.

Wendy Banka lives in Ann Arbor.  She has seven chickens with orange feathers living in a coop in her backyard.

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Environment & Science
10:00 am
Thu February 13, 2014

Enbridge unveils new plans to dredge oily sediment from Kalamazoo River

The pink areas in the Morrow Lake delta are where dredging needs to be completed. The two proposed locations for dredge pads are also highlighted.
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

Enbridge Energy has new plans to finish dredging oil from the Kalamazoo River spill in 2010. The spill was the biggest inland oil spill in U.S. history. The cleanup has cost the company more than a billion dollars so far.

The roughly 180,000 gallons of crude oil that was left on the river bottom before dredging began isn’t really oil anymore. It's tiny particles of weathered material that’s mixed in with sediment.

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The Environment Report
3:33 pm
Tue February 11, 2014

Study finds liver tumors in mice exposed to low levels of BPA

Bisphenol A lines the inside of most metal food and drink cans.
(Photo courtesy of Sun Ladder at Wikimedia Commons)

We’re all regularly exposed to the chemical Bisphenol A or BPA. Companies have taken it out of baby bottles, and many kinds of those hard plastic water bottles no longer have BPA in them.

But it’s still used on paper receipts and to line most food and drink cans.

Dana Dolinoy is a Searle Assistant Professor of Environmental Health Sciences at the University of Michigan School of Public Health.

“There is mounting evidence that BPA has negative health effects in both animal models and humans,” says Dolinoy.

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The Environment Report
8:55 am
Tue February 11, 2014

How bad (or wonderful) is this winter?

It might be cold, but it sure is pretty.
Mark Brush

Barbara Mayes Boustead on the "misery index" - or "index of greatness" for you winter lovers. (Story starts about a minute in)

Maybe you think this is the best winter ever.  Or maybe you’ve had some choice words for Punxsatawney Phil.

So, just how bad - or how fabulous - is this winter? There’s a scientist in Nebraska who has put a number on it.

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Environment & Science
12:29 pm
Sat February 8, 2014

Gov. Snyder talks about economy, bridge and pandas (?)

The Detroit News says Snyder repeated many points from his State of the State address during an appearance at the Detroit Regional Chamber.
Steve Carmody Michigan Radio

DETROIT (AP) - Panda bears at the Detroit Zoo?

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder tells business leaders that he'd like to see it happen, although he acknowledged Friday that the bears are expensive and hard to obtain. He's been interested since traveling to China on trade missions.

The Detroit News says Snyder repeated many points from his State of the State address during an appearance at the Detroit Regional Chamber. He also repeated his criticism of the federal government for its failure so far to agree to a U.S. Customs plaza at a new bridge linking Detroit and Canada.

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Environment & Science
3:02 pm
Fri February 7, 2014

Ice bridge to Isle Royale is complete, will new wolves cross it?

Lake Superior on Feb. 4, 2014. Can you find the ice bridge to Isle Royale in this photo? It's there.
MODIS NASA

The last time I checked, the ice bridge to Isle Royale had not fully formed, but there's an ice bridge now.

Michigan Technological University's Rolf Peterson confirmed it in an e-mail to me last night.

"There's been a good ice bridge for the past 10 days."

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The Environment Report
10:54 am
Thu February 6, 2014

How emergency responders in Michigan are preparing for the next pipeline break

Workers measure pipe before cutting and removing the section from the Enbridge pipeline oil spill site near Marshall, Michigan. This photo was taken on August 6th, 2010.
EPA

There are close to 70,000 miles of underground pipelines in Michigan carrying all kinds of materials around the state – things like natural gas, refined petroleum, and crude oil.

And for the most part, we really don’t notice these pipelines. That was true in Michigan until one summer day three and half years ago when this happened:

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Stateside
5:25 pm
Wed February 5, 2014

What will the country's farm bill mean for Michigan?

President Barack Obama
(Official White House photo)

It’s official. The country will have a farm bill. On Friday, President Obama plans to sign the nearly $1 trillion bill into law on his trip in East Lansing. On today’s show we take a closer look at the farm bill and explore what all this means to Michigan farmers.

Listen to the audio above.

Environment & Science
9:28 am
Wed February 5, 2014

200-300 gallons of fuel spill into Detroit River

USCGC Mackinaw
United States Coast Guard

DETROIT (AP) — About 200 to 300 gallons of diesel fuel spilled into the Detroit River while a U.S. Coast Guard ship was taking on fuel, officials said.

The discharge from the Cutter Mackinaw happened Tuesday afternoon near the Ambassador Bridge, which connects Detroit and Windsor, Ontario.

The Coast Guard said the ship's crew secured the source of fuel and conducted initial cleanup operations onboard. Crewmembers also deployed a boom around the fuel to prevent further spread. A contractor is expected to finish cleanup efforts.

"We take our role as environmental stewards seriously, and any accidental discharge of fuel is regrettable," Capt. Eric Johnson, chief of the Coast Guard 9th District Incident Management Branch, said in a statement. "We are already at work mitigating any potential impacts."

The cause of the discharge is under investigation, Johnson said, and the Coast Guard wants to ensure that another spill doesn't happen.

Ice breaking work is keeping Coast Guard crews busy on the Great Lakes, and the Mackinaw was cleared Tuesday to leave for an ice breaking operation.

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