Environment & Science

The Environment Report
10:10 am
Thu September 20, 2012

Cleaning up a big, underground mess in Michigan (PHOTOS)

In 2007, Logan's Gas and Deli lost 8,000 gallons of gas underground. The owners walked away, and the state is still cleaning up the mess.
Mark Brush Michigan Radio

There are around 4,800 gas stations in Michigan, but at one time, there were a lot more. It seemed like just about every corner had a gas station on it.

Many of those gas stations are closed now, but taxpayers are often on the hook for what’s been left behind.

I visited one of these polluted sites recently with representatives from the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ). The heavy traffic along State Route 89 near Battle Creek makes it a perfect place for a gas station.

And for a long time, things were going well for Logan’s Gas and Deli.

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The Salt
4:10 pm
Mon September 17, 2012

Shriveled Michigan apple harvest means fewer jobs, tough year ahead

A lonely Michigan apple.
Noah Adams NPR

Originally published on Tue September 18, 2012 2:42 pm

An apple a day might keep the doctor away, but what do you do when there are no apples? It's a question western Michigan's apple growers are dealing with this season after strange weather earlier in the year decimated the state's apple cultivation.

Michigan is the third-largest apple producer in the U.S. after New York and Washington, but the state's apples will soon be in short supply. Now in the middle of harvest season, growers are picking only 10 percent to 15 percent of their normal crop.

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Environment & Science
2:42 pm
Mon September 17, 2012

Feds begin safety inspection at Palisades plant

Palisades Nuclear Plant.
Entergy Corporation

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. (AP) - A team from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission has begun a special inspection of the Palisades nuclear power plant in southwestern Michigan.

The inspectors will be following up on two incidents in 2011 that caused the plant's safety rating to be downgraded, making it among the nation's poorest performing nuclear plants.

One problem was an electrical fault that caused a reactor shutdown and the other was failure of a water pump that cools safety equipment.

NRC spokeswoman Prema Chandrathil said Monday the eight-member inspector team began work Monday and will remain at Palisades for about two weeks. They'll be determining whether problem areas have been fixed and examining the plant's safety culture.

Afterward, they'll prepare a report that will determine whether Palisades' rating will go up, down or stay the same.

Environment & Science
2:01 pm
Sun September 16, 2012

Palisades nuclear power plant inspection to begin this week

Palisades nuclear power plant (owned by Entergy)
U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission

A critical two week federal inspection of the Palisades nuclear power plant begins Monday.

Nuclear Regulatory Commission inspectors want to determine if Palisades’ owners have addressed problems that have raised questions about the nuclear plant’s “culture of safety”.

The problems have resulted in four unscheduled reactor shutdowns.

“It’s a very important inspection for us,” says Anthony Vitale, the plant’s site vice president,  “And it will give us a very good scrub as to where we are. We expect to come out of that with very good ratings.”

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Environment & Science
3:01 pm
Fri September 14, 2012

19 potential ways aquatic invasive species can move between GL and the Mississippi basins

Aside from the 'Chicago Area Waterway,' the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers lists 18 places along watershed divide between the Great Lakes and the Mississippi River basins where aquatic invasive species can get in.
USACE

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) has released a draft of its study on how aquatic invasive species can move between the Great Lakes and Mississippi River basins - the boundary between the basins stretches for around 1,500 miles.

Not including the major pathway of the 'Chicago Area Waterway,' the USACE said there are a total of 18 potential pathways:

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Environment & Science
11:59 am
Fri September 14, 2012

Dow chemical sampling properties in Midland, Michigan for dioxin pollution

Dow Chemical's headquarters in Midland.
wikimedia commons

MIDLAND, Mich. (AP) - The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality says Dow Chemical Co. is ahead of schedule as it samples residential properties in Midland for dioxin.

The DEQ this week approved Dow's request to begin work on 300 properties that had been scheduled for inspection next year.

It's part of a five-year plan to clean up neighborhoods contaminated for decades by airborne dioxin from a Dow plant in Midland, where the company is based.

Of about 150 properties sampled thus far, 22 have had dioxin levels higher than 250 parts per trillion, which triggers a company-funded cleanup if the owners want it.

Results from this fall's sampling will be available next spring. Any needed cleanups will get started then.

Dow is negotiating with federal officials over cleanup of the Tittabawassee and Saginaw rivers.

Environment & Science
3:31 pm
Thu September 13, 2012

Stateside: Asian Carp and the Great Lakes

Asian carp at Chicago's Shedd Aquarium.
Kate Gardiner Creative Commons

They've become YouTube stars: big fat Asian carp leaping into boats and sometimes breaking bones as they come flailing into the boat of some poor person who just wanted to enjoy some time on the water.

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Environment & Science
2:18 am
Thu September 13, 2012

Palisades critics still doubt nuclear power plant's management's commitment to safety

Catherine Sugas lives just west of the Palisades nuclear power plant. At last night's public meeting, she asked officials with the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission to shut down the plant
Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

The owners of the Palisades nuclear power plant promised last night to improve their “culture of safety."   

But dozens of people at the public meeting doubted that promise.   Catherine Sugas spoke for many people who attended the meeting when she questioned why the problem plagued nuclear power plant is still operating.

“If you can’t shut down a plant that’s dangerous…what are you?    How can you keep a plant going that’s obviously dangerous,” Sugas asked a panel from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

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Asian Carp & the Great Lakes
8:55 am
Wed September 12, 2012

VIDEO: Keeping Asian carp out of the Great Lakes in Indiana

This fence, constructed at Eagle Marsh near Fort Wayne, is designed to block potential advancement of Asian carp toward the Great Lakes.
Mercedes Mejia Michigan Radio

Many biologists, politicians, and other say the threat of Asian carp getting into the Great Lakes is cause for concern. The silver carp are especially a nuisance. Those are the ones that can jump as high as 10-feet out of the water. They flop onto boats, and can cause injuries to fishermen.

The Environment Report has been taking a closer look at the effects these fish could have on our rivers and lakes, in the series -- Asian Carp & the Great Lakes.

Rebecca Williams and I took a trip to Eagle Marsh, Indiana. The wetland preserve is located on the southwest border of Fort Wayne. There, the Indiana Department of Natural Resources built what is nearly a 1,200 foot long, 8 foot high chain link fence, designed to block potential advancement of Asian carp toward the Great Lakes.

Here's a video of our trip, plus footage of Asian carp in action, and interviews with experts.

Environment & Science
1:01 am
Wed September 12, 2012

Palisades nuclear power plant's safety record will be the subject of a public meeting tonight

The Palisades nuclear power plant, near South Haven, Michigan
Nuclear Regulatory Commission

The safety of west Michigan’s Palisades nuclear power plant will be the topic of a public meeting tonight in South Haven.

Palisades has one of the worst safety ratings in the country.

Maintenance mistakes and other problems led to four unscheduled reactor shutdowns at Palisades in 2011.  And there have been more problems this year.

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Environment & Science
2:53 pm
Tue September 11, 2012

NOAA: Summer 2012 third hottest on record, see how local climate has changed

The redder the higher the difference from average temperature, June-August 2012.
NOAA

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's National Climatic Data Center reported today that the summer of 2012 "was the third hottest summer on record for the contiguous United States since recordkeeping began in 1895."

They looked at records from June through August of 2012 (summer is technically over on the morning of September 22).

...the average temperature for the contiguous United States between June and August was over 74° Fahrenheit, which is more than 2° F above the twentieth-century average. Only the summers of 2011 and 1936 have had higher summer temperatures for the Lower 48.

The online weather service, the Weather Underground, has compiled data that allows users to look at how their local climate has changed over the years.

It also allows users to see how local the climate is expected to change in the coming years using two different IPCC greenhouse gas emissions models.

Environment & Science
12:59 pm
Tue September 11, 2012

Enbridge pays $3.7 million fine to feds for 2010 Michigan oil spill

Great blue heron covered in oil from the 2010 Enbridge oil spill near Marshall, Michigan.
Michigan's oil response Flickr page State of Michigan

The U.S. Department of Transportation has closed its pollution case against the owner of a pipeline that ruptured in 2010, spewing oil into the Kalamazoo River.

Federal regulators say Enbridge paid a $3.7 million fine to the U.S. Department of Transportation Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) last month.

The company is responsible for the largest inland, freshwater oil spill in U.S. history.

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Environment & Science
5:53 pm
Mon September 10, 2012

Sikkema says green energy mandate would lead to higher energy costs

user vaxomatic flickr

The campaigns for and against Proposal 3 on the November ballot are arguing the economic merits of renewable fuels versus coal and gas.

Proposal 3 would require 25 percent of the state’s electricity be generated using wind, the sun, or bio-fuels by 2025.

Ken Sikkema conducted a study for the campaign against Proposal 3.

He compared the costs of renewable generation to the costs of using coal or natural gas.

He found renewable energy will be more expensive. Sikkema says businesses, in particular, need flexibility in planning for their energy needs.

"We don’t know what the cost of fuel’s going to be – for example, natural gas prices are on a downward spiral," says Sikkema. "That could be a factor in, if you need new generation, what do you use? Do you use wind? Do you use natural gas, or coal?"

The campaign for Proposal 3 says the ballot question would help stabilize energy costs, because the cost of wind and solar energy is not as volatile as fossil fuels.

The campaign also says the 25 percent target would help make renewable energy more affordable.

energy
12:48 pm
Mon September 10, 2012

Last call for low-cost energy audits from federal stimulus money

Sara Potyraj in the attic of her home in Grand Rapids. A low-interest loan allowed her to make improvements that'll add up to big savings in her energy bills.
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

A federal program that tries to get homeowners to invest in energy efficient home improvement projects is nearly over.

The program provides a detailed home energy audit for a super low price. Homeowners who want to make improvements based on the audit can take out a low interest loan.

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The Environment Report
9:00 am
Mon September 10, 2012

Asian Carp & the Great Lakes: Separating the Basins (Part 1)

The way things were, circa 1900 (before the construction of the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal).
Great Lakes Commission

by Adam Allington for the Environment Report

Earlier this spring, the Obama administration ordered the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to speed up a five-year study of options to block invasive Asian carp from entering the Great Lakes.  Many biologists say the best solution would be complete separation of the Great Lakes from the Mississippi River watershed.  But basin separation comes with its own multi-billion dollar price tag... and it would require re-plumbing the entire City of Chicago.

This story begins with a nice round number, and that number is 1900… the year the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal was complete. 

Back then, the canal’s opening was touted as one of the biggest civil engineering feats of the industrial age—significant, for completely reversing the flow of the Chicago River away from Lake Michigan and taking all the sewage from the city of Chicago with it.

Over 100 years later, that canal is still doing the same job.

“On any given day, depending on the time of year, approximately 60-80 percent of the volume of the Chicago River is treated municipal wastewater.”

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Energy
1:56 am
Fri September 7, 2012

Entergy uses open house to show workers “are returning Palisades to excellence”

People got a chance to speak with Palisades managers and engineers at the open house Thursday night in South Haven.
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

Dozens of people crowded around several small tables at conference center in South Haven, six miles north of the Palisades nuclear plant.

Each table features a different area of concern or interest at the plan; the reactor vessel’s embrittlement factor, a water tank leak, a coupling failure, replacement of a cooling tower, how spent fuel is stored, community projects Entergy supports.

Engineers and project managers point to pictures and diagrams to help answer questions. There are little freebies and even a raffle for a new Ipad.

The plant has one of the worst safety ratings in the country after a series of problems in 2011.

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Environment & Science
12:46 pm
Thu September 6, 2012

Stateside: Palisades' dubious distinction

Palisades reactor from ouside
Mark Savage Entergy Nuclear Operations

One of the biggest environmental stories in our state this year comes from the West Side of Michigan near South Haven, on the shores of Lake Michigan.

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Environment & Science
9:00 am
Thu September 6, 2012

Operators of Palisades nuclear power plant to hold open house

Palisades Nuclear Power Plant near South Haven, MI
Entergy Corporation

The Palisades nuclear power plant is hosting an open house tonight in South Haven. It’s a rare opportunity for people to ask detailed questions about the plant.

It’s impractical to host the open house at the plant because of security reasons. Instead, it’ll take place at the same conference center where the Nuclear Regulatory Commission has held a number of public hearings this year about the plant’s poor safety rating. In fact, the NRC will host a public meeting next week at the same place to discuss those safety concerns in detail.

Palisades spokesman Mark Savage says the open house tonight will be informal… kind of like a science fair.

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energy
8:49 am
Wed September 5, 2012

Team of federal regulators prepare for major inspection at Palisades nuclear plant

Some electrical equiptment at the Palisades plant.
Mark Savage Entergy

New documents show a team of nuclear regulators will begin a major inspection of the Palisades nuclear power plant this month. The inspection is a direct result of the plant’s downgraded safety rating that was issued earlier this year.

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Environment & Science
4:43 pm
Tue September 4, 2012

Lake Michigan approaching record low water level

A chart showing historic water levels on the Great Lakes.
GLERL NOAA

Just about a half a meter less, and the record will be beat.

That's how much the water level in Lake Michigan would have to drop to reach the record low level set in March of 1964.

In that month, the Lake Michigan water level was measured at 175.58 meters above sea level.

This past July, it was measured at 176.04 meters above sea level.

You can explore historic Great Lakes water level data on this NOAA website.

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