Environment & Science

PM Environmental

The U- Environmental Protection Agency is awarding Oakland County $600,000 to assess and clean up polluted sites. The idea is to prepare those sites for redevelopment.

"If you can show some economic development going into it, where you're actually investing the property, creating jobs, then it's eligible for funding," said Mike Kulka, founder and CEO of PM Environmental which helped apply for the grant.

The grants are awarded to communities deemed underserved and economically disadvantaged, including neighborhoods where environmental cleanup and new jobs are most needed.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Water experts from across the country are dismissing warnings from an environmental group of high levels of contaminants in Flint’s drinking water.    

The experts say new data actually show Flint’s water improving since the switch back to Detroit water last fall. The water is still not safe to drink or cook with unfiltered.  

At a news conference today in Flint, researchers from Virginia Tech University, Wayne State University and the University of Massachusetts outlined the findings of their recent tests on the city’s drinking water.

A bighead carp at the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago.
Rebecca Williams / Michigan Radio

There’s a coalition of federal and state agencies working to keep Asian carp out of the Great Lakes.

It’s called the Asian Carp Regional Coordinating Committee. It just came out with its carp plan for this year.

photo of a monarch butterfly
user Jim, the Photographer / Flickr - http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

The federal government has a competitive program for state wildlife grants.

Michigan and Wisconsin are getting $500,000 to help protect several species of bees and butterflies that are in trouble.

Jim Hodgson is with the Midwest Region of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

“They’re partnering together to restore grassland, prairie, and savanna habitats that will benefit the rusty patched bumblebee, the yellow patched bumblebee, monarch butterflies, the frosted elfin, mottled dusty wing butterfly, and the endangered Karner blue butterfly,” he says.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

A new Michigan State University study suggests, if you spent time this past weekend with a beer in your hand, it may be because of something you saw on social media.

MSU researchers say when participants in a study of social media’s influence were exposed to ads touting beer, as opposed to those selling bottled water, they were more inclined to consider drinking alcohol.

They studied the behavior of 121 test subjects. They were divided into two groups. Group one was exposed to beer ads on Facebook. Group two saw ads for bottled water.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

According to a new report, Google Trends can not only tell you about the latest celebrity news, but also if there’s a chicken pox outbreak.

Kevin Bakker has been pouring over a decade’s worth of Google Trends data.   He’s a doctoral student in the UM Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology.

He wanted to see what it told him about chicken pox.  Or more precisely, what parents were asking about the disease.  

Bakker noticed that those Google searches declined sharply, after government-mandated vaccination programs started.

user braun / Flickr

Detroit’s Marathon refinery will have to cut emissions, under new permits issued this week by the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality.

Marathon needs to meet new federal requirements for low-sulfur gasoline.

Because it needed to remove that sulfur, Marathon initially asked to increase its sulfur dioxide emissions, in a heavily-industrial area already considered the state’s most polluted ZIP code.

But after a fierce public backlash, Marathon and the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality found ways for the company to actually reduce those emissions.

a drinking fountain
Ian Sane / https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

Drinking fountains in two buildings on Wayne State University's campus have tested positive for lead, according to university officials. In a letter to the campus community, the university said it had tested water in 11 campus buildings, and found lead above the EPA action levels in two buildings – the College of Education Building and the Meyer L. Prentis Cancer Center Building.

The water inlets to the buildings were free of lead. The affected fountains have been shut off, and the University says it will test all other drinking water sources on campus as soon as possible. 

Asian Carp
Kate Gardiner / Flickr - http://bit.ly/1rFrzRK

For nearly two decades, The Environment Report and its predecessor The Great Lakes Radio Consortium have been reporting about invasive species on Michigan Radio. More and more kinds of pests are being introduced into the lakes, often by cargo ships bringing in critters from foreign ports. And it's a lot more than just Asian Carp, which has received plenty of headlines in recent years. 

Life stages of ticks.
CDC

It's tick season once again, and according to Michigan Radio's The Environment Report, Michiganders should be diligent when they're outdoors this summer. 

According to Rebecca Williams' recent story, the tick that we should be concerned about is the blacklegged tick. However, if you're starting to look for them now, good luck. They are currently in the nymph stage and are about the size of a poppy seed.

Auchter's Art: Tough to be a Michigander

May 27, 2016
John Auchter / www.auchtoon.com

CARTOONIST POV:

How much do I like beer? Well, I can tell you this: My wife and I recently traded a large and well-maintained trampoline for a single 12 ounce bottle of Founders Kentucky Breakfast Stout. Those who know me would likely say that was out of character. (Not the trading things for alcohol — that actually is in my wheelhouse.) No, I'm talking about the deep appreciation for something like Founders KBS — a high-end, critically praised consumable. I'm really more of a eat-because-I'm-hungry, water-from-the-faucet, breakfast-cereal-for-dinner kind of guy.

The red lines show where Enbridge's Line 5 crosses Lake Michigan.
screenshot from Enbridge report to the state

People who want Enbridge Energy's Line 5 shut down plan to make it an issue at next week's policy conference on Mackinac Island.

The oil pipeline runs under the Straits of Mackinac, near the island.

Enbridge Energy is the company responsible for the largest inland oil spill in U.S history, which happened when the company's Line 6B ruptured near Marshall, Michigan in 2010. 

The massive oil spill dismayed a lot of people, including Republican State Sen. Rick Jones. He says Michigan can't risk having a spill in the Great Lakes.

Life stages of ticks.
CDC

It’s that magical time of year, when you need to start checking yourself for ticks.

The blacklegged tick is the kind of tick we have in Michigan that can transmit Lyme disease, and it’s been expanding its range in our state.

Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

TOLEDO – Ohio's plan to take a big bite out of what's feeding the toxic cyanobacteria in western Lake Erie leans heavily on programs put in place over the last few years.

The strategy obtained by The Associated Press calls for additional water monitoring and more oversight of existing programs, but no new money toward targeting the blooms threatening drinking water.

The plan being rolled out Wednesday is the state's blueprint for reaching a 40% reduction in the phosphorus runoff that fuels the cyanobacteria in the lake's western end.

Flickr user LadyDragonflyCC - >;</Flickr

A group of communities in Detroit is working together to address climate change. The Detroit Climate Action Collaborative, a combination of people from private and public industries, has developed a Detroit Climate Action plan, which aims to make a cleaner, healthier Detroit while creating jobs and lowering costs.

Kimberly Hill Knott, project director for the Detroit Climate Action Collaborative, joined us today on Stateside. 

She said without action, and as the climate becomes more volatile, Detroit could see more events like the flood that hit the city in 2014. 

And action on climate change, Knott said, could prevent more than natural disasters.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

U.S. and Canadian government agencies took part in a mock oil spill drill along the St. Clair River just south of Port Huron today.

With temperatures in the low 80s and a light breeze, it was a lovely day to respond to a fake disaster.

But while a few first responders spent a sunny day on boats in the river, most of the more than 200 people taking part in the exercise spent their time indoors dealing with a scenario for a fictional disaster that included the need to corral thousands of barrels of oil leaking from Enbridge’s Line 5 pipeline.  

West Park, Ann Arbor
matth / public domaine

State environmental officials say 35 private wells on or near Rose Drive in Ann Arbor had no detectable level of 1,4 dioxane after testing water samples.

It's a little bit of good news in the ongoing saga of Ann Arbor's dioxane-contaminated groundwater. 

A plume of water contaminated with the dangerous chemical is slowly moving under the city towards the Huron River.

We Followed A Snowy Owl From Maryland To Ontario

May 24, 2016

At the end of 2013, snowy owls started showing up far south of their usual winter range. The big white birds were reported in South Carolina, Georgia, even Florida.

Dave Brinker, an ecologist with the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, had never seen anything like it.

Flint river
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Studies suggest even low levels of lead exposure can hurt a fetus’ development in the womb.

And for months now, the state health department has been looking into whether the Flint water crisis caused problems with pregnancies.  

Meanwhile, researchers at Hurley Medical Center are investigating whether the lead in the water increased the number of miscarriages.

But it turns out that trying to track miscarriages is really tough.

Dioxane concerns prompt collection of groundwater samples

May 21, 2016
Ann Arbor's West Park
adaenn / flickr http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

State officials want to collect water samples in the West Park area of Ann Arbor due to concerns that groundwater contaminated by a toxic chemical may be seeping to the surface.

The Ann Arbor News reports that the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality plans to start the groundwater collection next week.

The chemical is dioxane, an industrial solvent. Federal agencies say long-term exposure could cause health problems, including cancer.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Michigan Governor Rick Snyder, by executive order, has re-established the state's commission focusing on reducing lead poisoning among children.

The previous commission was disbanded in 2006 because the state legislature did not renew the statute that created it.

The commission will have a statewide focus.

Snyder says the new commission will focus on the elimination, rather than prevention, of lead poisoning. 

He says the commission will present its report by November, 2016.

NEFCO, a Massachusetts-based company, has partnered with the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department to turn waste water residue into fertilizer pellets like the ones shown above.
Flickr/City of Geneva / http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

Waste water sludge is making its way to Michigan farms in the form of fertilizer pellets. The practice has not gone unnoticed in rural Lenawee County, where last fall and this spring, residents have complained about the foul odor emanating from nearby fields. 

Here's how James Bryja of Onsted describes the smell: 

A magazine cover criticizing Canada's stance on climate change.
Kyle Pearce / Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

New research finds people often stay quiet when it comes to talking about climate change.

It’s not because they’re afraid of being disliked.

A study published in the Journal of Environmental Psychology found that people avoid bringing up the subject for two main reasons:

1) People underestimate how much other people care about the subject.

2) People feel like they don’t know enough about the science of climate change to hold a discussion.

Punkin Shananaquet, a member of the Gun Lake tribe, holds a Gete Okosman squash at the Gteganes Farm.
Jijak Foundation

There's an ancient variety of squash that was largely forgotten about. But it’s been rediscovered.

Tribes around the Great Lakes region are sharing the seeds of this squash with each other and with small farmers.

Sarah Hofman-Graham works at Eighth Day Farm in Holland, Michigan. She invited me to a dinner party featuring a soup made from an ancient squash. The soup tasted sweet and mild.

Climate activists see bringing climate change into the classroom as a simple matter of updating the science curriculum. But a recent survey revealed that science teachers are often ill-equipped to deal with the subject.
nl.monteiro / Flickr http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

 


A survey published in the journal Science earlier this year showed that most science teachers spend little time teaching climate change - just an hour or two a year.

 

But making climate change a classroom priority doesn’t always win you fans.

 

person using a computer
flickr user Christopher Schirner / http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

You may have seen recent news stories describing some U.S. hospitals being hit by malware attacks. 

This "ransomware" works by locking up computers until an amount of money, usually in the form of bitcoins, is paid to the hacker. 

When hospitals are hit, patient records can be in danger.

Boat on Northport Bay, Lake Michigan
Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

A lot of us in Michigan are passionate about going up north.

“I remember the good old days when my dad would pack us up in the station wagon and head up north. It was 80 acres in the middle of nowhere … I’m heading to Petoskey on Wednesday and on Thursday or Friday to Whitefish Point and Tahquamenon Falls… Tomorrow, I’m making my annual pilgrimage to Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.”

Those are comments from Michigan Radio's Facebook fans, answering the question, “Anyone headed up north this weekend?”

Why a 36-year-old Michigan oil spill still matters today

May 11, 2016
flickr user mtsn/Flickr / http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

A Michigan oil spill is still bringing in new questions, even after its events took place over 30 years ago.

It was around 1980 when Canadian oil transport company Enbridge leaked five barrels of oil into the Hiawatha National Forest. However, they were only able to clean up four of the barrels, leaving the area contaminated to this day.

The same company owns 63-year-old pipelines that run under the Straits of Mackinac, causing concern over the safety of Michigan's shorelines.

Detroit Free Press reporter Keith Matheny joined Cynthia Canty on Stateside to understand why this spill still matters today.

flickr user mtsn/Flickr / http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

There are some new questions bubbling up concerning a decades-old oil spill in the Upper Peninsula.

Around 1980, Canadian oil transport company Enbridge discovered its Line 5 oil pipeline had sprung a leak and spilled an estimated five barrels of oil in the Hiawatha National Forest.

Yes, that’s the same Line 5 whose twin pipelines run under the Straits of Mackinac.

Lansing Board of Water and Light facility
Steve Carmody / MIchigan Radio

Lansing utility officials are weighing a plan that could greatly increase their reliance on alternative energy.

The Lansing Board of Water & Light will soon have to shut down three coal-fired power plants. The plant produce about 80% of the utility’s electricity. 

A panel is recommending BWL replace the electricity from three soon-to-close coal plants with power from wind, solar and natural gas.

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