Environment & Science

Kindell Covey, left, and her sister Denae Covey with the giant sycamore that got Kindell the grand prize in the Michigan Big Tree Hunt
Mike Dickie Photography

Every year since 1993, the group ReLeaf Michigan has encouraged everyone to get out into the woods and search for the biggest tree we can find.

It’s the Michigan Big Tree Hunt.

This year, it was 13-year-old Kindall Covey from Lenawee County who found the biggest tree in the hunt. The sycamore is the biggest tree in Lenawee County, and maybe even the entire state.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

City officials around the country are trying to figure out how to make changes in their communities to adapt to climate change.

Researchers from the University of Michigan and the University of North Carolina looked at 44 of these climate adaptation plans, and found they were a mixed bag.

Michigan State professor Joan Rose
Siwi.org

Michigan State University professor Joan Rose was awarded the 2016 Stockholm Water Prize at the United Nation's World Water Day. She was honored for her contributions to global public health, including her research on human health in water.

Listen to the full interview on Stateside below.

oil field
wikipedia

Eric Kort was looking for methane when he and his team flew a NOAA Twin Otter aircraft over the Bakken formation in May, 2014.

What the University of Michigan climate researcher found was ethane. Lots and lots of ethane.

Kort says the air sample data he collected has solved a mystery. Wwhat caused global ethane emissions to rise between 2009 and 2014, after a significant decline prior to 2009?

Company withdraws permit application to use old pipelines

Apr 28, 2016
St. Clair River
Perry Quan / Flickr Creative Commons http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

A Houston-based company, Plains LPG Services, LP, has withdrawn its request for a federal permit to transport crude oil through a pair of 98-year-old pipelines under the St. Clair River in southeast Michigan, according to a joint statement issued yesterday by U.S. Reps. Debbie Dingell and Candice Miller.

“It puts to rest all of these very valid concerns over shipping crude oil through these old, antiquated pipelines,” said Miller.

Emory University researchers have found that six out of 10 Michiganders tested still have elevated PBB levels.
Michele Marcus / Emory University

In 1973, a plant owned by Velsicol Chemical made a mistake and shipped a toxic flame retardant chemical to a livestock feed plant. The chemical is called polybrominated biphenyl, or PBB. It took about a year to discover the accident. Millions of Michiganders ate contaminated beef, chicken, pork, milk and eggs.

Elevated lead levels found in Farmington schools' water

Apr 27, 2016
Steven Depolo / Flickr Creative Commons http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

Across the state, more schools are testing their water for lead because of the Flint water crisis. And Farmington Public Schools is one of those school systems.

In a letter to district families, Superintendent George Heitsch said recent testing revealed slightly elevated levels of lead in six faucets and drinking fountains in five school buildings.

The letter reads, "To put this in perspective, the lead level is to not exceed the number 15 and the highest in this group was a 37. A level of 500 is considered to be 'high.'" 

Water running from tap
jordanmrcai / Creative Commons

A common practice by operators of municipal drinking water systems is getting more scrutiny.

Last week the first criminal charges were filed in connection with the water crisis in Flint.

One of the charges caught my attention, because it includes a practice that’s the norm in Michigan cities.

Ken Bosma / Creative Commons http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

Representatives from the Great Lakes and Canada met last week to consider a Wisconsin city's request to pump water from Lake Michigan.

The groundwater in Waukesha is contaminated with radium, so the city wants to draw about 10 million gallons of water from Lake Michigan daily.

The Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River Water Resources Regional Body came up with a tentative plan that would reduce the number of communities in a future water service area.

American Lung Association

Every year, the American Lung Association looks at the state of air pollution in U.S. cities. This year’s State of the Air report is out.

The group analyzes data from air quality monitors on two kinds of air pollution: ground-level ozone pollution (aka smog) and particle pollution – tiny particles from power plants and our cars and trucks.

Under the Appeals Court's decision, companies would be allowed to drill for gas and oil underneath parks and cemeteries, as long as such a practice would not interfere with the normal surface-level operation of the properties. A rig like the one pictured
wikimedia user Meridithw / http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

The state Court of Appeals decided recently that voter approval is not needed for cities to be able to lease drilling rights under public parks and cemeteries. The Court rejected an appeal by a group called Don't Drill The Hills. It was challenging the City of Rochester Hills' decision to lease oil and gas drilling rights in two parks and a cemetery to one company, and to allow another company to replace an aging pipeline under a park. 

Officials want people in Flint to open up their bathtub tap first.
Alena Navarro- Whyte / Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

Starting May first, if you live in Flint, officials with the EPA, Michigan Department of Environmental Quality and the city want you to flush water through your home or business every day.

They say you should take your water filter off your kitchen tap or flip the lever to bypass the filter, open your cold water taps in your kitchen and your bathtub all the way, and let them run for five minutes. They want you to do that every day for two weeks.

They’re calling the campaign Run to Restore.

Richard Steih / Creative Commons http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

Selling morel mushrooms in Michigan could soon get easier.

Right now, people who gather and sell morels to restaurants and other local businesses must first be certified as mushroom identification experts.

Until last year, the state didn't offer a way to get that certification. Now there's a class and test mushroom hunters can take to become certified experts. It costs $175. 

DNR Fisheries Biologist Tim Cwalinski holds a sturgeon with Michigan State University students on the Black River.
MSU

Lake sturgeon are a threatened species in Michigan. And there’s one spot in the state where the fish are in particular danger.

One group gets together every year to watch over them, and they want your help.

Most people never see this rare fish -- which is too bad, because they’re quite a sight. Lake sturgeon can live to be 100 years old and can weigh hundreds of pounds.

They spawn in several rivers in Michigan in the spring – but parts of the Black River in the northern-lower-peninsula are shallow, so you can see these fish as they swim upstream.

Rebecca Williams / Michigan Radio

State officials talked about the Pall-Gelman dioxane plume at a town hall meeting in Ann Arbor last night. The meeting was hosted by State Rep. Jeff Irwin, D-Ann Arbor.

Rolf Peterson

This year’s winter study on the wolves and moose of Isle Royale is out today.

It says it appears there are only two wolves left – down from three last year, and a high of 50 in the 1980s.

Rolf Peterson is a research professor at Michigan Tech University. He says these last two wolves are closely related.

“They’re father and daughter and they’re also half-siblings, because they share the same mother," he says.

Washtenaw County

State Representative Jeff Irwin, D-Ann Arbor, will host a town hall this evening to talk about the Pall-Gelman dioxane plume.

The plume of 1, 4-dioxane has contaminated three square miles of groundwater under the city of Ann Arbor. The EPA says the solvent is likely to cause cancer.

Courtesy of Warren Taylor

When you walk through the supermarket, you might see food labeled organic or fair trade. Now, some food companies are also starting to identify genetically modified ingredients. A law is set to take effect this summer in Vermont that would mandate GMO labels. Large food manufacturers have been lobbying Congress to stop it. But one milk producer in our region doesn’t think the Vermont law goes far enough.

A postcard from 1953 shows Line 5 being installed in the Straits of Mackinac. The group says it's proof the easement wasn't followed in the first place. Enbridge says that's not true.
Oil & Water Don't Mix

Several environmental groups and tribes say Enbridge Energy is operating its oil pipelines under Lake Michigan illegally. They sent a letter to Governor Snyder, Attorney General Bill Schuette, and others calling for the immediate shutdown of the twin pipelines.

The Oil & Water Don’t Mix campaign put together a list of what they say are eight violations of the state’s easement with Enbridge.

Back in 1953, the state allowed the pipelines to cross the Straits of Mackinac under this legal contract.

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

If you have any kind of affection for penguins – and really, who doesn't? – start making plans to check out the Detroit Zoo's Polk Penguin Conservation Center.

The zoo's biggest, most complex project ever is set to open its doors next week. 

The $30 million conservation center aims to be a state-of-the-art habitat for 83 King, Gentoo, Macaroni and Rockhopper penguins.

The Canada warbler is declining throughout its range in the U.S.
US Fish and Wildlife Service

Some kinds of birds are doing better in our changing climate, and others are declining. These changes are happening in similar ways in both the U.S. and Europe.

Those are the findings of a new study in the journal Science.

Phil Stephens is a senior lecturer in ecology at Durham University in the UK, and he’s a lead author of the study. 

Stephens and an international team of researchers studied data on more than 500 common species of birds over a 30 year period (1980-2010) in both Europe and the U.S.

Marc Edwards delivers the results of the tests on April 12, 2016.
YouTube / screen grab

New tests from the team at Virginia Tech show Flint’s water is “highly variable” and still not safe to drink without a filter.

Marc Edwards says tests done last month show Flint’s water is still above the federal action level for lead.

More from their press release:

A view of Zug Island from Windsor, Ontario in 2009
user Jamie / Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

A few years ago, residents in the southern and western parts of Windsor complained of a mysterious noise. It was described as a “hum” sound that brought with it vibrations that were often strong enough to rattle windows.

Here is an example of the "Windsor Hum" that was recorded by Michigan Radio’s Tracy Samilton in May of 2012 (It was digitally enhanced so you are able to hear it on your speakers).

Fishing on Lake Huron
U.S. Department of the Interior

The lake trout used to be the fish to catch in the Great Lakes. But by the 1950s, severe overfishing and an infestation of an eel-like, blood-sucking parasite called the sea lamprey had drastically reduced the number of lake trout and other fish.

Then, a fish called the alewife invaded the Great Lakes through man-made canals.

Without enough lake trout to keep them in check, alewife populations exploded, and have since varied wildly year to year. Dead alewives have been spotted washed up on beaches in piles stretching miles along Great Lakes coasts.

In 1964, the Department of Natural Resources hired a fish biologist named Howard Tanner. They asked him to figure out how to deal with the alewife problem, and left him with an order: “Make it spectacular.”

Courtesy Photograph / Land Conservancy of West Michigan

A 25-year struggle is almost over to save two acres of beach and dunes from development in Muskegon County.

The property will expand the Barrier Dunes Sanctuary and add 204 feet of undeveloped Lake Michigan shoreline to the existing 1,100 feet of public land, bringing the total length to one-quarter mile.

The land had been slated for a road and home construction.

Gov. Rick Snyder signed legislation this week to allocate $300,000 to help buy the scenic two-acre parcel. 

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Because of the Flint water crisis, the U.S. EPA wants more transparency about where the nation’s lead lines are. Specifically, the EPA wants to know how many lead service lines there still are underground, and they want to know exactly where they are. As we reported Tuesday, many Michigan cities do not know this basic information, it’s not just Flint.

The EPA also wants water systems to post the results from water tests to prove cities are in compliance with the Lead and Copper Rule.

This week, the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality gave the feds an update on these requests.

In 2010, oil spilled into a creek near the Kalamazoo River from Enbridge Line 6b
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio


It was April of 2010 when Enbridge Line 6b ruptured, spilling more than a million gallons of Canadian heavy crude oil into a creek near Kalamazoo.

It was the largest inland spill in United States history.

That spill gave Michiganders a very good reason to sit up and pay closer attention to the nearly 3,300 miles of hazardous liquid pipelines that weave through our state, particularly Enbridge Line 5, which runs in the Straits of Mackinac.

A worker holds a lead service line removed from a home in Flint.
Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

The state is now recommending that cities avoid replacing only part of a water service line if it's made of lead. Partial replacements aren’t uncommon.

Typically the municipality only owns part of the line, the part from the water main to the property line. This is the publicly owned portion of the service line. In this case, the part of the line that runs from the public right of way into a home is the privately owned portion of the line.

Consumers Energy / Flickr/user

Seven of Consumers Energy's oldest and smallest coal-burning power plants will shut down for good on April 15.

They're being shut down to comply with an order to reduce mercury emissions.

Spokesman Brian Wheeler says the shutdown is expected to be smooth.

"Power plants obviously do go on and offline at different times," says Wheeler.  "Sometimes plants get shut down for maintenance.  So the shutdown process  isn't that difficult, but once they're closed for sure by April 15th, they won't come back."

20 Michigan parks to stay open late for Dark Sky Week

Apr 3, 2016
Night Sky
User: seriousfun / MorgueFile.com

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - Twenty of Michigan's state parks and recreation areas will stay open late during International Dark Sky Week, which begins Monday and continues through next Sunday.

The state Department of Natural Resources says the parks are good spots for self-guided stargazing.

If you're interested, call ahead for individual park hours and bring a blanket to deal with frosty night weather.

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