Environment & Science

Environment & Science
9:06 pm
Thu June 28, 2012

State says it’s okay to eat fish from stretch of Kalamazoo River affected by oil spill

A woman catches a bigmouth bass near Hope, Michigan.
LadyDragonFlyCC Creative Commons

It’s another sign things are starting to get back to normal… two years after the spill. Earlier this month the state opened up the river to swimmers and boaters for the first time since the spill.

The Michigan Department of Community Health says it’s now safe to eat fish from a thirty-mile stretch of the Kalamazoo River affected by a massive oil spill.

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energy
2:01 pm
Thu June 28, 2012

Federal agents launch investigation of Entergy; company that operates Palisades Nuclear Power Plant

The water tank in question is located above Palisades' control room, pictured here during a plant tour in April 2012.
Mark Savage Entergy Corporation

The investigation launched this week concerns a leaking water tank. Two weeks ago, Palisades shut down so crews could repair the leaky tank. At that time, Entergy reported they knew about the leak for several weeks. But Nuclear Regulatory Commission inspectors at the plant say they’ve been monitoring the leak for more than a year.

The tank is used in emergencies or planned refueling outages. The plant remains shut down, and the company never shares how long they expect planned outages to last.

The special federal agents are from the NRC’s Office of Investigations.

According to the NRC’s website:

“OI (Office of Investigations) may commence appropriate investigative activity when a matter is brought to the attention of OI indicating that wrongdoing is alleged to have been committed by a person or entity within NRC jurisdiction. Investigations may also be conducted of any matter within NRC jurisdiction that the Commission desires to be investigated.”

The office “assists the NRC staff in pursuing enforcement options and the Department of Justice in prosecution of criminal violations.”

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Environment & Science
9:00 am
Thu June 28, 2012

More tar sands oil in Michigan pipeline?

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

Enbridge Energy is planning to replace an old pipeline that runs through Michigan.

It’s called Line 6B. That’s the same line that broke in Marshall nearly two years ago.  The Environmental Protection Agency says more than one million gallons of tar sands oil spilled into Talmadge Creek and the Kalamazoo River. 

Since the spill, Enbridge has been making repairs on that pipeline.   

Joe Martucci is a spokesperson for Enbridge. He says the new pipeline will cut down on the number of repairs they’ll have to make.

"The purpose and need of it is integrity driven and also to increase the capacity of the line at the same time."

After the Marshall spill, Enbridge was ordered to reduce the pressure in Line 6B.  That means there’s a lot less oil flowing through that pipeline now than there was before the spill.

Martucci says the new pipeline will allow Enbridge to double the amount of oil they can transport, up to 500,000 barrels per day.  There is the potential for the pipeline to move as much as 800,000 barrels per day. But Joe Martucci says they would have to add more equipment to do so, and file a new application with the state of Michigan.

He says oil from Alberta’s tar sands region will be the main product in their new pipeline. 

"The refiners and others are telling us they want more access to this oil and you know, it’s our job to try and provide them with a transportation capacity that makes that available."

Some landowners and environmental groups are worried about the idea of more tar sands oil moving through the Great Lakes region.

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Environment & Science
1:01 am
Thu June 28, 2012

Triple digit temperatures in the forecast for parts of Michigan today

charlesandhudson.com

Electric utilities in Michigan are expecting to see a big spike in demand today, as temperatures are expected to climb to 100 degrees in parts of Michigan.

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Environment & Science
10:52 am
Tue June 26, 2012

Bee Palooza showcases backyard bee habitats

A native bee hotel on display at Bee Palooza. The bee experts from Michigan State University say a bee hotel is easy to build.
Logan Chadde Michigan Radio

Honeybees are responsible for pollinating about one of every three bites of food we eat.

Rufus Isaacs is an entomology professor at Michigan State University. He studies pollination of berry crops.

"Honeybees are, if we’re talking about commercial agriculture, they’re the most important pollinator. We have tens of thousands of those bees that come into Michigan every spring, and they do the lion’s share of the work to get our cherry crop, our blueberry crop, our apple crop, our pickling cucumber crop pollinated."

But since 2006, beekeepers have been reporting major honeybee losses. That’s because of something called Colony Collapse Disorder.

Honeybees are not native to Michigan, but there are 400 native bee species in the state. Isaacs says these native bees also pollinate crops and wild flowers.  But he says the overall health of native bee populations is unclear.

"To be honest, we don't really know anything about long-term trends in their populations because there hasn't been any careful monitoring of them over the years," he said.

A few days ago, Isaacs and others in MSU’s entomology department put on an event called Bee Palooza.

The bee experts say human development is threatening the habitats that native bees use. So they wanted to show people how to build homes for native bees in their backyards.

Emily May is a graduate student at MSU. She’s standing next to a structure that’s shaped like a house. It’s made out of logs, bamboo and pieces of wood with a lot of holes in them. May calls it a bee hotel.

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Environment & Science
11:56 pm
Mon June 25, 2012

Enbridge Energy holds open house on oil pipeline plans

During an open house in Marshall, a couple looks at a map of the proposed route of a new crude oil pipeline that would travel along a diagonal line across southern Michigan
Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Last night, dozens of people in Marshall had a chance to look at plans for a new oil pipeline that would run through their mid-Michigan community.

The new pipeline would replace an older one that ruptured two years ago, resulting in a massive oil spill.

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Environment & Science
10:33 pm
Mon June 25, 2012

Debate heats up over proposal to increase Michigan's renewable energy standard

Michigan already has a renewable energy  standard on the books. 10 % of the energy utility companies provide has to come from renewable sources by 2015. But the Michigan Energy, Michigan Jobs Coalition wants to bump that number up to 25% by the year 2025. The group is gathering signatures for a ballot proposal to create an amendment to the state constitution.

Stephen Transeth is with the Clean Affordable Renewable Energy for Michigan Coalition. It's a group that is trying to defeat the so called 25-by-25 ballot proposal. He says he supports the current standard but does not think the new proposal is appropriate to put in the state constitution.

"When you put a proposal like this into the constitution, you are effectively limiting your options in the future, the way we generate and use electricity in the next five, 10, 20 years from now, is going
to look so much different than today."

But the organizers behind 25-by-25 say utilities are already ahead of schedule to meet the current standard and it’s been cheaper than expected.

Mark Pischea is with the Michigan Energy, Michigan Jobs Coalition. He says Michigan companies are already sending wind turbine parts to places like Spain and China.

"Michigan has the opportunity to again be the hub to export products made in Michigan to the world, just like what we did 100 years ago with the automobile."

330,000 signatures are needed to put the proposal on the ballot in November.

-Emily Fox, Michigan Radio Newsroom

Environment & Science
1:01 am
Mon June 25, 2012

Enbridge will outline plans for new oil pipeline tonight in Marshall

Marshall's idyllic downtown park
city of Marshall

Enbridge Energy officials will to meet tonight with people in Marshall to lay out their plans for a new oil pipeline.

Two years ago, an Enbridge pipeline ruptured near Marshall, leaking more than 800 thousand gallons of crude oil.   Only last week, state and federal officials announced the reopening of most of the Kalamazoo River, which has been closed to the public so crews could clean up the oil spill.

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Environment & Science
1:50 pm
Sun June 24, 2012

PCB cleanup continues along Kalamazoo River

An artist's rendering of a polychlorinated biphenyls molecule
Foxriverwatch.com

KALAMAZOO, Mich. (AP) - Cleanup of sediments contaminated with PCBs continues along parts of the Kalamazoo River.

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Environment & Science
10:45 am
Sat June 23, 2012

No date set for reopening of Palisades nuclear power plant

COVERT TOWNSHIP, Mich. (AP) - A spokesman says work continues at the Palisades nuclear plant 10 days after the southwestern Michigan facility was shut down to repair a leak in a water tank.

Palisades spokesman Mark Savage said Friday that crews are analyzing and evaluating the tank.

The plant in Van Buren County's Covert Township voluntarily shut down June 12th.

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Environment & Science
11:07 am
Fri June 22, 2012

Changing lights to reduce bird-tower collisions

These birds, labeled by species, were found at the base of an 850-foot television tower near Elmira, NY in the wake of Hurricane Floyd. Ornithologists say communications towers pose the greatest hazard to birds during periods of poor visibility.
Cornell University

Communications towers make all kinds of things possible. Emergency responders, TV stations, and wireless networks need them, and of course, when you listen to stories on the radio, they come to you by way of a tower.

These towers have lights on them at night so pilots can see them and avoid running into them.

But it turns out, some kinds of tower lights can be deadly for migratory birds.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and other groups recently looked at bird-tower collisions in the U.S. and Canada. The study estimated that close to 7 million birds are killed each year. Neotropical songbirds that migrate at night are the most affected.

Joelle Gehring is a senior conservation scientist at the Michigan Natural Features Inventory. It’s part of Michigan State University.

"We don’t understand the exact psyche of what’s going on with birds and why they’re attracted into the lights," she said, "but it is not unlike a moth attracted into a porch light."

She says during the spring and fall migration, birds that fly at night can get confused by the steady-burning lights on towers. She says cloudy or foggy nights make it hard for birds to navigate using stars.

"Some people believe that when the stars are obscured from vision of these migratory birds who are using stars and sunrise and sunset for navigation, that that is when they are drawn into the lights of the communication tower, that is when they start circling and circling and potentially hitting a guy wire or becoming simply exhausted," she said.

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Environment & Science
12:40 pm
Thu June 21, 2012

Most of the Kalamazoo River, closed since a 2010 oil spill, is being reopened

Signs like this are coming down along a 34 mile stretch of the Kalamazoo River.
Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Much of the Kalamazoo River, closed to the public since the 2010 Enbridge oil spill, is now reopened.

It’s been nearly two years since a broken pipeline near Marshall leaked more than 800,000 gallons of crude oil that eventually fouled more than 30 miles of the Kalamazoo River.

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Environment & Science
4:56 pm
Wed June 20, 2012

Yesterday's temperatures in Ann Arbor reached 1995 record of 95 degrees

Nickolas Muray flickr Creative Commons

AnnArbor.com reports that the city's 95 degree high yesterday tied with the record-breaking temperature from 17 years ago:

Tuesday’s sweltering heat in Ann Arbor tied the June 19, 1995 high temperature record for 95 degrees, and today has already been declared an ozone action day, said University of Michigan Weather Observer Dennis Kahlbaum.

"Any time we get into the 90s, there’s warnings out for people that may be more susceptible to high temperatures,” Kahlbaum said. “That always goes hand in hand.”

Pollutants are expected to be in the unhealthy range for sensitive groups.

The action day is in effect for the following Michigan counties: Lenawee, Livingston, Macomb, Monroe, Oakland, St Clair, Washtenaw and Wayne.

This is the fifth air quality alert for Washtenaw County so far this year, with other recent ones occurring on Friday and Saturday.

Tuesday’s heat felt a bit hotter than the actual temperature because of the 98 degree heat index.

As the hot weather continues today, here are some tips from the CDC about how to stay safe in extreme heat.

-Elaine Ezekiel, Michigan Radio Newsroom

Environment & Science
1:01 am
Wed June 20, 2012

Illinois officials downplay postive test for Asian Carp DNA near Lake Michigan

A Bighead carp caught in June of 2010 in Lake Calumet, Illinois
Illinois DNR

Illinois officials are downplaying the recent discovery of Asian Carp DNA in a waterway a short distance from Lake Michigan.

Asian Carp are an invasive species that experts fear could devastate fish native to the Great Lakes.

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Environment & Science
3:26 pm
Tue June 19, 2012

Possible signs of Asian carp found near Lake Michigan

Juvenile silver carp, seen here, can grow up to weigh 100 pounds.
user MirkoB Wikimedia Commons

A survey recently conducted by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers showed positive evidence for genetic material from silver carp in southwest Chicago. 

The May 22 test showed 17 positive identifications for the DNA of silver carp in 112 sites sampled in Lake Calumet and Little Calumet River through a process called "eDNA," or environmental DNA testing. The test involves filtering water samples for fragments of DNA shed by target species.

Genetic material left from carp tissue, mucus, feces or urine is not a certain indication of the presence of a live Asian carp; the DNA found in testing could have come from dead fish or water from another source.

Researchers also tested for bighead carp in the area, another species of Asian carp, though all results were negative. 

The AP reports:

Jared Teutsch, water policy advocate for the Alliance for the Great Lakes, said in a statement Monday the findings mean "another year of worry" about Asian carp.

Bighead and silver carp were imported from Asia. They have migrated up the Mississippi River and its tributaries. An electric barrier is meant to block them.

Dozens of water samples taken beyond the barrier in recent years have contained Asian carp DNA, although just one actual carp has been found there.

-Elaine Ezekiel, Michigan Radio Newsroom

Environment & Science
2:00 pm
Tue June 19, 2012

The University of Michigan to lead a $152M NASA satellite project

The program is aimed at improving extreme weather prediction for storms like Hurricane Isabel, seen here.
Mike Trenchard Earth Sciences & Image Analysis Laboratory , Johnson Space Center (Wikimedia Commons)

The University of Michigan has been selected to lead a $152 million NASA satellite project aimed at improving hurricane and extreme weather prediction.

The school announced today that the Cyclone Global Navigation Satellite System is designed to make accurate measurements of ocean surface winds throughout the life cycle of tropical storms and hurricanes. It's made up of small satellites to be carried into orbit.

Information collected will enable scientists to explore key air-sea interactions that take place near the core of storms.

Principal investigator Christopher Ruf is a professor of atmospheric, oceanic and space sciences, and electrical engineering and computer sciences. The satellite system science team includes Aaron Ridley and Derek Posselt, who are professors of atmospheric, oceanic and space sciences.

Environment & Science
12:31 pm
Tue June 19, 2012

Ladies' trash collecting group goes after garbage as a hobby

(L to R) Moy Garretson, Karen Rooke and Melinda Fons spend some of their free time picking up trash while they're out on walks together. They say it's more fun than working out at the gym.
Rebecca Williams Michigan Radio

When you’re driving around southeast Michigan, you might happen to see three women on the side of the road. They’re all moms, but their kids are grown up. They work part time. They fill their free time by picking up trash... for fun.

"This is a beautiful area, and yet we have piles of garbage there."

Melinda Fons is with her friends Moy Garretson and Karen Rooke in suburban Detroit.

Karen: "Wagons roll!"

They get plastic grabbers and garbage bags out of the trunk. And they head into a little wooded patch next to a busy two-lane road.

Karen Rooke starts on the edges.

"I’ve got some cups, a newspaper and a plastic bag. And a credit card... ooh this is good. I’ll take that to the police."

The three women crawl under trees and into bushes to get the trash. There’s a pile of Styrofoam peanuts, empty rum bottles, a tire... and two more credit cards.

Karen: "I picked up 20 vodka bottles once and Listerine. I think it’s the kids that go drink down there. It’s just a quiet road, and have the Listerine so their parents – they think - don’t know. We were young once too!"

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Environment & Science
12:05 pm
Tue June 19, 2012

Blacklegged tick population booms along west Michigan shoreline

Blacklegged ticks are increasing in Michigan, especially in counties along the western shoreline.
CDC

Blacklegged ticks – formerly known as deer ticks - are historically rare in the Lower Peninsula. But over the past decade, that’s been changing. The tick population is booming along the west Michigan shoreline.

Erik Foster is a medical entomologist with the Michigan Department of Community Health. He’s been studying the tick population as it’s been moving north.

“It’s been so rapid, anecdotal reports say within the last five years of these ticks moving in and just really flourishing. Because of the habitat, and because of the amount of hosts they have to feed on.”

He says the Lake Michigan shoreline is a good habitat for ticks.

Foster says because the winter was so mild, more mice and chipmunks survived. Those animals are hosts for ticks, and that means more ticks made it through the winter too.

He says deer and birds are also hosts for ticks, and they're transporting the insects north.

Foster says blacklegged ticks can transmit Lyme disease. He recommends wearing insect repellant that contains DEET and checking yourself and your pets for ticks after you walk in tall grass or in the woods.

You can learn more about ticks in this document from the state of Michigan: Ticks and Your Health.

Environment & Science
2:09 pm
Mon June 18, 2012

DNR to search lake after illegal carp report

A Michigan DNR group today will search for Grass Carp, seen here.
user Dezidor Wikimedia Commons

Wildlife experts are searching a southern Michigan lake for illegal carp this week after a fisherman submitted a photo of a 3-foot-long grass carp, a species of Asian carp.

A crew traveled today to set up nets in Marrs Lake in Lenawee County, about 20 miles southeast of Jackson. Department of Natural Resources agency biologist Todd Kalish  says the crew plans to pull out the nets on Thursday to inventory what's found.

MDNR Fisheries Specialist Elizabeth Hay-Chmielewski traveled with that group today.  She says the grass carp is capable of disrupting a lake's ecosystem.

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Environment & Science
3:27 pm
Fri June 15, 2012

Romeo dies in an old mine: How three Isle Royale wolves died

"Romeo" was eager to mate with other females. He was one of the wolves that died in the mine shaft last fall. He's seen here following a female wolf in 2010.
Michigan Tech

In the last year, seven wolves on Isle Royale died. The total population is now down to nine wolves.

That's the lowest number recorded by researchers who have been studying the Isle Royale wolf population for the last 54 years. It's the longest continuous predator-prey study in the world.

When Rebecca Williams and I visited Rolf Peterson on Isle Royale last month, we asked him about the die-off.

He told us they didn't know what happened to them, "but we will know," he said.

Well, now they know how three of the seven wolves died. One was a young female wolf.

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