Environment & Science

Environment
12:00 pm
Sat March 31, 2012

Vets warn: Lilies are toxic to cats

user mike73/morguefile

Lilies are popular home decorations this time of year. But the plants are highly toxic to cats.

Ingesting any part of a lily can cause kidney failure in cats, and can be fatal without emergency treatment.

Symptoms include vomiting, lethargy, and a lack of appetite.

Dr. Jennifer Aschenbrener is a veterinarian with Irwin Avenue Animal Hospital in Albion. She says it’s important to contact your veterinarian immediately if you think your cat has eaten part of a lily.

"They will most likely have you try to get induced emesis, which is vomiting, which also can be done at the vet clinic. Basically the biggest thing is to get the lily out of the system," she says. "Without treatment, and sometimes even with treatment, it can be fatal. So it’s very serious."

That’s not the only harmful Easter tradition. Local animal advocates are warning against giving bunnies, chicks, and ducks as presents. Many of the animals end up in shelters once the novelty wears off. 

-Alex Markel, Michigan Radio Newsroom

Environment
5:12 pm
Fri March 30, 2012

Michigan and 4 other states join feds to push for Great Lakes wind farms

A wind farm off the coast of Sweden
Mariusz Paździora wikimedia commons

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. (AP) - Federal officials say a deal to speed up consideration of proposed offshore wind farms in the Great Lakes should cut red tape and open the way for more clean energy production.

Officials announced the agreement Friday between the federal government and Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, New York and Pennsylvania.

There are no wind turbines in the Great Lakes now. But one project is in the works for Lake Erie.

Nancy Sutley of the White House Council on Environmental Quality said there's "tremendous" potential for wind energy development in the region. She said it's hard to know when other offshore wind proposals may arise, but government agencies should have an efficient system in place to evaluate them.

The Environment Report
7:54 am
Thu March 29, 2012

Michigan Sen. Stabenow: We need to move as quickly as possible to stop the Asian Carp

Michigan Democratic Senator Debbie Stabenow says we need to move quickly to stop the threat of the Asian Carp on the Great Lakes' eco-system
Kate.Gardner Flickr

By now, you’ve probably heard all about the Asian Carp.

The invasive species is making its way up the Mississippi River and there’s concern that if the fish are able to get into the Great Lakes that they could drastically change the waters’ eco-system.

Michigan Democratic Senator Debbie Stabenow and Michigan Republican Congressman Dave Camp introduced the Stop the Asian Carp Act last year. The legislation required the Army Corps of Engineers to create a plan to permanently separate the Mississippi River and Lake Michigan.

Stopping the Carp

I spoke with Senator Stabenow this week and asked her where things stand with the Army Corps of Engineers’ plan. “The Army Corps of Engineers is working on a plan to give us specific recommendations on how to separate the waters… The problem is they say they won’t have this done until 2015. And, so, what we’re trying to do is push them to get this done much quicker,” Stabenow explains.

The Mississippi River: Not the only entry point for the Carp

A lot of attention has been paid to the Mississippi River as the main entry point where the Carp could get into the Great Lakes. But, Stabenow explains, “We also, now, are looking more broadly than just the Illinois River and the Mississippi River going into Lake Michigan. We’ve found that there have been some fish seen going across Indiana – in the Wabash River. At certain times, during the year, it connects to the Maumee River in Ohio and then actually goes into Lake Erie. And, so, this is a real challenge for us. There is, I believe, nineteen different tributaries and ways to get into the Great Lakes – that’s my biggest worry.”

Chicago shipping interests

Recently, we’ve been hearing more about the idea of permanently separating the waterways rather than a temporary solution. “I believe that we ought to be closing the [Chicago] locks until we get to a permanent solution. But, there is a lot of pushback from Illinois and Chicago,” Stabenow says. Those who work in commercial shipping in Chicago are against the idea of closing the locks. They say it would hurt their multi-million dollar business interests. “Personally, I’d say the other side’s interests are – not that we don’t respect them – but they’re small in terms of economic impact compared to what could happen having the fish go into the Great Lakes.

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Environment
1:47 pm
Wed March 28, 2012

Michigan researchers turn to public to help fund wolf research

The wolves of Isle Royale
Photo from petridish.org

Two Northern Michigan scientists are turning to the public for funding help.

Michigan Tech researcher Rolf Peterson studies the wolf population on Isle Royale National Park. Peterson says the National Science Foundation, a federal agency, has helped fund the bulk of the research on the island for the past several decades.

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Energy
4:13 pm
Tue March 27, 2012

DTE Energy Fermi 2 nuclear reactor shutdown for a month

The Fermi 2 nuclear reactor near Monroe, Michigan began shutting down last Sunday night. It's expected to be offline for a month.
NRC

DTE Energy has shutdown its Fermi 2 nuclear power plant for refueling and maintenance work.

The Monroe News reports the shutdown is expected to last more than a month.

The company began reducing reactor power Sunday night and the plant stopped producing electricity early Monday morning, officials said.

Besides replacing about a third of the fuel in the reactor, the work will include upgrading the cables that connect the emergency diesel generators to the plant and upgrading the piping that supplies cooling water to the generators. The four big generators are designed to kick on to supply electricity to operator controls when there’s a power outage at the plant.

New equipment also will be installed at the transmission switchyard to improve grid reliability.

DTE spokesman Guy Cerullo told the Associated Press more than 1,500 supplemental workers are in town for the work.It's the 15th refueling and maintenance shutdown at the plant since it began commercial operation in 1988.

Environment
9:00 am
Tue March 27, 2012

A salmon balancing act for Lake Michigan fishery managers

The Desperado heads out at sunrise to go after Pacific salmon in Lake Michigan.
Photo by Lester Graham/Michigan Radio

by Peter Payette for The Environment Report

The people who manage salmon in Lake Michigan will have to decide soon how many fish to put into the lake.  The salmon fishery is a manmade industry in the Great Lakes.  It’s produced by planting millions and millions of fish in the lakes.  But keeping the salmon population in balance with the food supply is a challenge these days.  And some scientists are raising new questions about the salmon’s demise in Lake Huron and whether that can be stopped in Lake Michigan.  

Salmon were brought in from the Pacific Ocean.

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Environment
3:25 pm
Mon March 26, 2012

Health officials release draft assessment of polluted site in mid-Michigan

The "former burn area" circled in part of the Gratiot County Golf Course.

The Michigan Department of Community Health (MDCH) released a draft assessment today of an area in Gratiot County once used to burn waste. The contaminated area is near St. Loius, Michigan.

From the MDCH:

Of the results from the Public Health Assessment, soil from the former burn area and from a nearby neighborhood did not have levels of chemicals over health-based screening levels. There are ash piles in the former burn area that do have levels of arsenic and lead over health-based screening levels. However, people are not expected to be harmed by those chemicals, as people will have little to no contact with the ash piles.

Further, shallow groundwater under the former burn area had higher levels of chemicals than groundwater from deeper underground. This could potentially mean that chemicals in the soil or ash piles at the former burn area could be moving into the groundwater. People have little, if any, contact with the shallow groundwater under the former burn area, and nearby private drinking water wells did not have chemical levels above health-based screening levels.

The MDCH officials are inviting comments from the public on their health assessment. Comments are being accepted through May 7.

The Environmental Protection Agency has been developing a cleanup plan for the site and the Velsicol chemical plant site.

Environment
2:45 pm
Fri March 23, 2012

Massive Lake Huron water pipeline moving forward

Lake huron from the air
user Brucegirl wikimedia commons

There's a plan for the third biggest Great Lake, Huron, to be tapped by a 72 to 78 inch pipeline.

The Karegnondi Water Authority (KWA) is planning to start construction on a pipeline that will carry Lake Huron water to areas around the I-69 corridor of Michigan's Thumb area.

(Karengnondi is a old Petan Indian word meaning "lake.")

The KWA is made up of officials from Flint, Lapeer, Genesee County, Lapeer County, and Sanilac County.

The Flint Journal reports that Genesee County Drain Commissioner Jeff Wright said the county has started designing the "massive intake to draw water from Lake Huron," and that ground should be broken on the new water pipeline project by fall.

"We are starting the design of the intake," which will allow for construction on that piece of the $600 million pipeline project, Wright said.

The drain commissioner said the intake itself, which is expected to cost about $30 million, will take longer to finish than any other part of the project, and "the design requirements are the same whether any community drops out (of the project) or not."

The City of Flint, initially a partner in the project, might be forced to step aside because of its financial situation.

On it's website, the KWA says the pipeline is being built to "avoid increased water rates from the City of Detroit, which could increase by up to 15% per year."

Environment
4:53 pm
Thu March 22, 2012

Sneezing, coughing, itching? Thank Michigan's early spring

Jusben MorgueFile

Doctors’ offices in Michigan are filled with people suffering from acute allergies, thanks to the early bloom of trees and shrubs.

Some types of pollen are three to four times higher than normal for this time of year.

Mark Zacharek  is an associate professor of otolaryngology -- ear, nose and throat disorders -- at University of Michigan Hospital.

He says tree pollen and outdoor mold counts are making people miserable.  For people who already have respiratory problems, that can be dangerous.

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Environment
1:47 am
Thu March 22, 2012

Saugatuck Twp accepts proposed settlement with billionaire

A federal judge will consider another proposed settlement in a legal case between Saugatuck Township and a private developer. The township approved the proposed settlement Wednesday night.

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Environment
2:54 pm
Wed March 21, 2012

Arctic fox captured near Lansing

A wild arctic fox in northern Manitoba
Ansgar Walk wikimedia commons

It may feel like it's already summer outside but that didn't stop a little piece of the arctic from visiting central Michigan.

After several days of sightings in and around  the town of Portland, just northwest of Lansing,  local authorities captured a loose arctic fox as he woke from a nap on a baseball diamond.

The fox's origin is unclear but aside from being about 1,000 miles south of its natural habitat, local law enforcement believes it must have been  a domesticated pet based on its friendly demeanor, the Lansing State Journal writes.

From the LSJ's Tom Thelen:

“We were receiving calls about it for about a week,” said Portland police chief Bob Bauer. “People were seeing at in various parts of the city...We believe that it either escaped or was turned loose,” said Bauer. “It was not afraid of anyone. In fact, it would coming running out to people and some of them were scared by the way it ran up to them.”

Thelen reports that authorities found an owner of another arctic fox in nearby Lake Odessa who agreed to care for the captured animal.

-John Klein Wilson, Michigan Radio Newsroom

Environment
12:45 pm
Wed March 21, 2012

Michigan fruit crops threatened by prolonged warm weather

The unseasonably warm weather could jeopardize Michigan’s fruit crops.

While it's not unusual to have warm spells in early spring, it is unusual is for temperatures to average 40 degrees higher than normal for several weeks.

Matthew Grieshop  is an assistant professor at Michigan State University’s Department of Entomology.

He says this heat wave, along with a bumper crop of insects that didn’t die over the winter and an eventual freeze, pose a triple threat to the state's fruit farmers.

"This is pretty much unprecedented," Grieshop says. "It was back in the early 40s that we last had weather like this, and based on our experience, it looks pretty grim for the fruit growers."

Grieshop says fruit trees are blooming almost a month early, but without cool nights, the fruit won’t mature.

Fruit farmers closer to the Great Lakes, Grieshop says, are typically somewhat insulated from the threat of a heavy freeze because the thermal mass of the water moderates the temperature shifts.

Weather
3:22 pm
Tue March 20, 2012

Spring is here, feels like summer

user: q8 /flickr

The vernal equinox, or spring equinox marks the end of winter today, and the beginning of spring.  But don't rule out the possibility of another snow fall - after all this is Michigan.

Record highs across the state are expected to continue through the rest of the week in Michigan.

The Associated Press reports:

The weather service office in suburban Detroit says there's been six consecutive days of 70 degree temperatures that started March 14 and continued through Monday. It says the last time there was such a stretch of warm weather in the area around this time of year it was April 16-24, 1886.

The weather service forecasts several more days of 70 degree temperatures. In southeast and mid-Michigan temperatures are expected to reach 85 tomorrow.

According to the Associated Press, the weather service in Grand Rapids says record high temperatures in West Michigan were broken on five consecutive days from March 14 through Sunday. In the northern Lower Peninsula, forecasters say high temperatures are coming in about 25 to as much as 40 degrees above average.

Environment
2:46 pm
Tue March 20, 2012

UM study finds increase in global warming belief

wikimedia commons

The number of Americans who believe in global warming is once again on the rise, moving from 58 percent in 2010 to 62 percent last year.

That's according to survey results released last month by U of M's Ford School of Public Policy. The survey, conducted in conjunction with the Muhlenberg College Institute of Public Opinion and published by the Brookings Institute, shows that a higher percentage of Americans accepted the science of climate change in 2011 than anytime since the fall of 2009.

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Environment
1:22 pm
Tue March 20, 2012

Tittabawassee River cleanup far from finished

SAGINAW, Mich. (AP) — Federal officials say they're a couple of years away from settling on a plan for cleaning up a 24-mile section of the Tittabawassee River polluted with dioxin from a Dow Chemical Co. plant.

The Environmental Protection Agency provided an update on the cleanup Monday during a community advisory group meeting at Saginaw Valley State University.

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Dexter Tornado
1:13 pm
Tue March 20, 2012

Dept. of Corrections crews help in tornado cleanup

Mercedes Mejia / Michigan Radio

DEXTER, Mich. (AP) - Michigan Department of Corrections work crews are helping cleanup efforts following last week's tornado that hit Washtenaw County.

The department says crews from its Special Alternative Incarceration Program in Chelsea, a prison boot camp, will be in the Dexter area at least through Wednesday.

The department says the crews will work longer if requested.

Also Tuesday, the Washtenaw County Building Inspection Division announced that it will give priority to permit applications that are submitted as a result of Thursday's tornado damage.

Dexter Tornado
2:21 pm
Fri March 16, 2012

In Dexter, they're repairing the damage of Thursday's tornado (PHOTOS)

Repairing homes damaged by an F3 tornado in Dexter, Michigan.
Steve Carmody Michigan Radio

Update 2:21 p.m.

Cleanup work is underway in Dexter after Thursday’s tornado. Much of the repair work is being done by Southfield-based Statewide Disaster Restoration

Raymond Eddy, the company’s executive director, said his crews started arriving last night, and they’re been busy securing homes pummeled by the tornado.

“In the case of the home were working on right here, the side wall is blown out. We’re putting a temporary wall in,” said Eddy. “We’re basically in March.  It could snow tomorrow. You never know in the state of Michigan.”

There’s no snow, but rain is in the forecast this weekend. 

Eddy said they’re focusing on securing homes missing walls and roofs.

“These homes are these people’s castles,” said Eddy. “So without some of the disaster restoration contractors here to help them out, these people don’t have a beginning …you know…see the light at the end of the tunnel.”

More than a dozen homes in Dexter were destroyed in Thursday’s tornado. Repair work to more than a hundred others may take weeks or months to complete.

10:18 a.m.

Repair work is getting under way a day after a tornado damaged and demolished homes in Dexter.

The sound of power saws cutting through wood that just yesterday had been the walls of homes fills the air today in this Dexter subdivision.

Thursday’s tornado destroyed more than a dozen homes.   More than a hundred others suffered damage.

No death or serious injuries have been linked to the strong that ripped through Washtenaw County late in the afternoon.

There’s no estimated cost so far of the damaged caused by the unusual March twister.

Dexter Tornado
12:28 pm
Fri March 16, 2012

Healing from a tornado, one hot dog at a time

People in Dexter are pulling together after Thursday’s tornado that destroyed or damaged more than a hundred homes and businesses

 “Help yourselves…there’s chips….” Supermarket manager Gary Winters told a woman who rode out Thursday's tornado in her Dexter home.    Winter spent his morning delivering water and snacks to emergency workers and construction contractors.   By midday, he was turning hot dogs on the barbeque grill as people from the tornado ravaged subdivision next door line up.

He says giving away free food and water is the least they could do for their neighbors..

 “Once you walk down there and see what actually happened last night," Winters pauses, "I don’t think…the pictures on the news really showed the amount of devastation down there.”  

 Everyone here says they are just grateful no one was seriously hurt or killed in the tornado.

Dexter Tornado
10:42 am
Fri March 16, 2012

Hudson Mills Metropark golf course severely damaged in storm

An F3 tornado strikes Dexter. This is a screenshot from footage taken at Hudson Mills Metropark.
Matthew Altruda YouTube

Staff at the Hudson Mills Metropark say their golf course near Dexter suffered significant damage from last night's F3 tornado that touched down around 5:30 p.m. From a Huron-Clinton Metroparks press release:

“According to neighbors, the funnel touched down on hole nine and stayed a while,” said Jerry Cyr, park operations manager for Hudson Mills Metropark. “We are grateful that no one was injured.”

The course is closed until further notice.

The main park is open, but without electricity or running water.

Although park personnel have not been able to completely assess the destruction, preliminary reports are that several areas of the course have suffered substantial damage.  Trees and household debris are scattered throughout the course. 

The park is the site where dramatic video footage of the tornado was captured by visitors.

Park staff say maple sugar programs scheduled for Saturday, and Sunday will be held if the power to the park is restored.

Environment
6:36 pm
Wed March 14, 2012

Environmentalists not happy with Michigan's proposed "environmental leader" program

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

A state senate committee will consider legislation Thursday to recognize Michigan businesses that are “environmental leaders.”

But environmentalists say the bill actually makes it easier for companies to do the least required to meet environmental standards.

James Cliff is with the Michigan Environmental Council.    He says the "environmental leaders program" will reward companies by giving them access to state contracts with less regulation and an early warning for inspections, without really requiring them to do very much in return.

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