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Environment & Science

A silver carp laying on top of a cooler.
COURTESY OF ILLINOIS DEPARTMENT OF NATURAL RESOURCES

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has released a long-anticipated study on ways to prevent Asian carp from spreading from the Mississippi River system to the Great Lakes through a manmade canal.

Tammy Newcomb, a senior water policy advisor for the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, joined Stateside today to explain which kinds of Asian carp threaten the Great Lakes and why. 

Paulette Parker / Michigan Radio

It's primary election day for cities in Michigan. 

There have been scattered, unconfirmed reports of polls opening late and voters being turned away. 

But so far, the problems don't seem anywhere near the scale they were in last year's presidential race. 

Sea lamprey
Michigan State University

The sea lamprey is an invasive fish with a round mouth like a suction cup. It latches onto big fish like lake trout and salmon, drills its razor sharp tongue into them, and gets fat drinking their blood and body fluids. A single lamprey can kill up to 40 pounds of fish in its lifetime.

We spend about $20 million dollars a year to control lampreys. One of the main ways people do that is with a pesticide, but researchers are working on other ways to control the invasive species.

Enbridge

State agencies have weighed in on the controversial Enbridge Line 5 pipeline.

There’s still time for people to comment on a report about potential alternatives to the Enbridge’s Line 5 pipeline. The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, Michigan Department of Natural Resources, Michigan Agency for Energy, Michigan Public Service Commission and Office of the Attorney General gave their thoughts over the weekend.

The line sends oil and liquid natural gas under the Straits of Mackinac.

water going into cup from faucet
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Grayling water officials announced in July they had found trace amounts of perfluorinated chemicals, or PFCs, in the municipal water supply. The levels are nowhere near the concentration of PFCs considered to be a health hazard by the Environmental Protection Agency.

David Andrews, senior scientist with the nonprofit Environmental Working Group spoke with Stateside to help us understand this mysterious family of chemicals and explore exactly what the news means for the Grayling area.

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

On Monday, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will release a study detailing the best ways to prevent Asian carp from getting into the Great Lakes.

A document outlining the study says the current defense – an underwater electric barrier – should be beefed up. The recommended plan would add complex noises – like the underwater recordings of a boat motor.

Courtesy of the Isley farm

Blooms of algae in Lake Erie have given rise to a toxin that got so bad three years ago, Toledo had to shut down its water system.

Fertilizer that runs off from farms, into rivers, and then into Lake Erie is a big reason those algal blooms exist.

But some farmers, like Laurie Isley and Jim Isley, are working to reduce that fertilizer contamination.

a picture of the lab in a can
NOAA GLERL

There are concerns that Lake Erie will experience the same kind of toxic cyanobacteria blooms this summer that caused Toledo’s water supply to be shut off three years ago.

Reseachers monitor Lake Erie to detect cyanobacteria blooms as early as possible, but it takes time to go out, gather samples, and then bring them back to the lab for analysis.

This year, however, a “lab in a can” is giving researchers a hand. 

Asian longhorned beetle
USDA

Officials want you to help them look for a tree killer.

It’s called the Asian longhorned beetle. It has a shiny black body with white spots, really long antennae, and sometimes, blue feet.

It’s not in Michigan yet, as far as anyone knows. But there are infestations in Ohio.

Bottled water.
John McDonnell / flickr http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

Back in January of this year, when I first decided to embark on reporting about bottled water in Michigan, I had literally no idea what I was in for. That’s probably a good thing, because I plowed ahead naively optimistic and enthusiastic.

Judge orders Flint and DEQ into mediation over water

Aug 2, 2017
Water running from tap
jordanmrcai / Creative Commons

A federal judge has ordered the state of Michigan and the city of Flint into mediation to try to resolve their differences regarding the future of Flint’s drinking water.

U.S. District Judge David Lawson on Tuesday appointed Troy-based attorney Paul Monicatti to facilitate an agreement between the city and the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality.

Screencap from Google Maps / Google

A group representing mayors and cities in the Great Lakes region has dropped its fight against letting Waukesha, Wisconsin, draw water from Lake Michigan.

The Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative says it has reached a settlement with a council representing the region's eight states. The council last year granted Waukesha permission to tap the lake, which ordinarily would be prohibited because the city is outside the watershed boundary.

Waukesha needs a new water source because its groundwater is contaminated with radium.

Jamie walking along beach
Courtesy of James Racklyeft

The pleasures of summertime on the Great Lakes carry a risk: drowning.

The Great Lakes Water Safety Consortium has been tracking drownings in the Great Lakes since 2010. They're up to nearly 590 deaths.

Most of those could have been prevented. The group's mission is to try and do just that. 

Water running from tap
jordanmrcai / Creative Commons

Water filters that you attach to your faucet are known to be good for filtering out heavy metals like lead and disinfectants like chlorine. But they’re not designed to filter out bacteria that can grow in the filter itself.

asian carp on bucket
COURTESY OF ILLINOIS DEPARTMENT OF NATURAL RESOURCES

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers says it will release a previously delayed report on measures that could be taken at an Illinois waterway chokepoint to prevent Asian carp from reaching the Great Lakes.

The corps says the report involving the Brandon Road Lock and Dam will be made public Aug. 7. Project manager Andrew Leichty says it will evaluate "structural and non-structural options and technologies."

Rebecca Williams / Michigan Radio

Perhaps no state in the country is more aware of water safety than Michigan. Seeing the Flint water disaster play out since 2014 has given us all a harsh lesson in not taking safe water for granted. 

Yet President Trump's proposed budget takes an ax to the budget of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), one of the agencies most responsible for protecting our water.

inside of lead service line
Terese Olson / University of Michigan

New University of Michigan research appears to confirm that improper corrosion controls caused Flint's water crisis.

The team of UM researchers focused on the layer of lead scale inside ten service line samples from around Flint. Service lines connect homes and businesses to city water mains. In addition to examining pipe samples under a scanning electron microscope, the researchers pulverized the pipe linings to analyze what they're made of. 

dock surrounded by green water
Todd Marsee / Michigan Sea Grant

The same toxic bacterial blooms that shut down Toledo's drinking water system are a problem in Michigan's inland lakes too. New research suggests treating and preventing them may take a more comprehensive approach than is currently used for most inland lakes.

Courtesy Seth Herbst

A couple weeks ago, this guy in Kalamazoo County sees something a little odd: what looks like a tiny lobster, trying to cross the road.

He takes a picture of it, and sends it to the man who’s been dreading this moment: Seth Herbst, the aquatic invasive species coordinator for the fisheries division at the Department of Natural Resources.

“And as soon as I saw that photo, it was a clear as day that that was a red swamp crayfish,” Herbst sighs. But his day was only going to get worse. Later that very morning, he heard from another person in that same area – Sunset Lake in Vicksburg – who saw a red swamp crayfish walking around in their yard.

This was bad news.

A silver carp laying on top of a cooler.
COURTESY OF ILLINOIS DEPARTMENT OF NATURAL RESOURCES

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has completed a report looking into measures to keep Asian carp out of the Great Lakes.

That, we know. What we don’t know is what’s in the report, as it’s five months overdue.

Turning an old highway into a "pop-up forest"

Jul 25, 2017
Akron, OH
Ken Lund / Flickr - http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

Many cities in the Rust Belt are still shrinking, because people continue to move away. Some have lost so many people, that highways are unneeded, and being removed.

In one Midwestern city, what’s being constructed (at least, temporarily) is giving some people hope for the future of its downtown.

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

Enbridge’s Line 5 pipeline continues to face public scrutiny.

Several state officials heard public comment on Tuesday. It was the first of three such sessions planned around the state.

The Enbridge Line 5 pipeline carries crude oil and natural gas liquids under the Straits of Mackinac. Environmental groups say that could lead to disaster.

The feedback will be taken into consideration by independent contractors working on a final report about possible alternatives to the pipeline. A draft of the report was released several weeks ago.

American pika
Erik Beever

We talk a lot about how people can adapt to climate change, and scientists have found that some animals are changing their behavior, too. The ability to change rapidly because of environmental changes is called behavioral flexibility.

Water running from tap
jordanmrcai / Creative Commons

Grayling water officials say they’ve discovered “trace” amounts of a type of perfluorinated chemical in the city’s drinking water wells. The levels are far below a health advisory put out by the U.S. EPA.

Grayling Department of Public Works Superintendent Kyle Bond says they first tested for the family of chemicals known as PFCs in May.

User dsleeter_2000 / Flickr

Remember how it was too hot for planes to fly in Phoenix last month?

That could happen more often as our climate warms.

Radley Horton is an associate research professor at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory. Horton is an author of a new study on this issue in the journal Climatic Change.

A freshwater jellyfish. This species is clear and smaller than a penny.
Wikipedia Commons

A recent Facebook post has gone viral in the Great Lakes region. A few weeks ago, an Ontario woman posted a video and photo of a small, umbrella-shaped sea creature she says she caught in Lake Erie — a freshwater jellyfish. The video has been viewed more than a million times.

A map of the 13 trillion gallon plume of contaminated groundwater extending from Mancelona, Michigan.
Kaye LaFond / Michigan Radio

When I arrive at Bethany Hawkins' home, the first thing she does is offer me a glass of her well water.
"Our water's always been really good," she says.

USFWS

Biologists say the sixth mass extinction episode on Earth is already happening. But researchers say if we only look at species extinctions, we miss a big part of the story.

Paul Ehrlich is a professor emeritus of biology at Stanford University, and an author of a new study about this published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Joanna Paterson / Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

23 counties in Michigan have reported one or more unhealthy ozone days each year, on average. That’s from a new analysis by the Natural Resources Defense Council.

An online map the group produced also shows where those high ozone days tend to overlap with high pollen days. That can make air unhealthy for people with respiratory problems.

Paul Cryan / USGS

White-nose syndrome is killing millions of bats in 31 states including Michigan, and five Canadian provinces. It’s a disease caused by a fungus.

But clusters of bats that warm up together during hibernation might have an edge against the fungus. Researchers discovered this by putting temperature-sensing surveillance cameras in caves.

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