Environment & Science

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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Changing Gears
3:33 pm
Tue March 13, 2012

Blotting Update: Detroit wants to sell you this lot for $200

Sharon McClinton cares for the vacant land around her house. Detroit is trying to make it easier for residents like her to buy that land, too.
Kate Davidson Changing Gears

Apparently, the phone has been ringing off the hook over at Detroit’s planning department.

It’s all because of a few lines uttered by Mayor Dave Bing in his State of the City address last week. (You’ll find them about 30 minutes in.)

“This week we sent out over 500 letters to property owners in Hubbard Farms, Springwells Village and Southwest Detroit,” he announced, “telling them if they own a home adjacent to a vacant city-owned lot, they can purchase this lot for a mere $200.”

“No coming downtown,” the mayor said.  “No added bureaucracy. The city will mail back the deed.”

Bing’s initiative is a response to the overwhelming problem of abandoned property in Detroit.

It’s a problem we explored in our stories about Detroit “blotters” — which you can see here and here.

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Environment
11:05 am
Tue March 13, 2012

Small wind project in northern Michigan faces hurdles

Steve Smiley, project manager for the Northport turbine, on the ridge where the windmill will be built.
Photo by Bob Allen/Interlochen Public Radio

by Bob Allen for The Environment Report

Big wind farms generate not just power but a lot of controversy. There’s been quite a debate in northern Michigan recently about the effects on safety, health, property values and the landscape. Smaller scale projects called community wind are designed to avoid those criticisms. But there are still roadblocks.

Northport is a picturesque village that sits near the tip of the Leelanau Peninsula. For the past two years, a group of residents there, mostly retirees, has been working to put up one small wind turbine.

Doug McInnis says the opportunity just about fell into their laps.

“There was this unique spot. There was a hill. And it’s near right where you want to put the energy. We’re right near a substation. I mean all these things come together and it just says, hey, this is a natural.”

The village owns the hill that rises just behind its new sewage treatment plant. From the hilltop, the turbine will supply half the electricity for the plant. It will be a fraction of the size of new commercial turbines.

State maps show that Leelanau Township has the best sites for wind energy in the Lower Peninsula.

McInnis says the group wants to do something now that will benefit their community for years to come.

“People are concerned about the future generations. And if we don’t start thinking and moving in other directions I don’t know what’s going to happen. It ain’t gonna be good.”

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Environment
6:27 pm
Mon March 12, 2012

Saugatuck Twp considers new settlement with developer over dune land

Lawyers for Saugatuck Township have reached an agreement to resolve an expensive legal case with a private developer. The case is between the township and a billionaire who owns about 300 acres of property.

The land in dispute includes natural dunes on the Lake Michigan shore. The developer says the township has unfairly restrictive zoning laws for his property. The proposed settlement would reverse to the original zoning that’s less restrictive.

Under the plan, the developer would ask for a zoning variance from the zoning board of appeals. The township’s attorney Ron Bultje says the developer may ask for a variance “to essentially develop the property in the manner that was shown on the development plan last summer.” That plan included a marina and a hotel.

The township will hold a public hearing on the proposed agreement next week.

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Weather
5:12 pm
Mon March 12, 2012

Tornado watch in effect for 31 counties in Michigan

The counties in Michigan under tonight's tornado watch. NWS

The National Weather Service has issued a tornado watch for 31 counties in Michigan until 11 p.m. tonight.

It includes the cities of Alma, Battle Creek, Big Rapids, Charlotte, Clare, Fremont, Grand Rapids, Greenville, Hastings, Holland, Ionia, Jackson, Jenison, Kalamazoo, Lansing, Mount Pleasant, Muskegon, Reed City, South Haven, and St. Johns.

A "watch" means conditions for the formation of tornados are possible.

The following counties are under the watch:

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Changing Gears
2:57 pm
Mon March 12, 2012

It's Monday, here is something beautiful

Here’s what you do: Click on the video, and pop it out to full screen.

As you watch, remind yourself that this is the place they call the Rust Belt.

Remind yourself that this is the place that cannot keep its talented young people, because they say it’s too cold.

Too uninspiring.

Too boring.

Remind yourself that they say those things.

Remind yourself that none of it is true.

Then, get back to work.

Environment
1:32 pm
Mon March 12, 2012

Gas company plans new pipeline under St. Clair River

Bluewater Gas Storage plans to build a pipeline under the St. Clair River
user cseeman Flickr

Plans are underway for a natural gas company to construct a pipeline under the St. Clair River into Canada, stretching some 1,500 feet.

More from the Associated Press:

"A bike path in Marysville will be closed to the public as Bluewater Gas Storage LLC conducts the work. The project is expected to last about a month. The bike path will be used as a staging area, rather than using people's yards or driveways."

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Culture
12:22 pm
Mon March 12, 2012

Memories of Michigan: State's nature and cities create connection

Exploring the shoreline of Lake Michigan's Northport Bay.
Mark Brush Michigan Radio

Over the weekend, we posted this question to the Michigan Radio Facebook community.

"What’s a personal memory you have that has some kind of connection to Michigan?"

The answers show how the state's unique character gets into our blood, and why so many people feel at peace and at home in Michigan:

Jennifer - Being 6 years old and digging a tunnel in the snow to get out of the front door of our little house in Carson City during the blizzard of 1978.

John - First time I stood on Deadman's Hill & looked out over the East Jordan River Valley.

Dani - Several years back, I took a nap in a massive willow tree on the bank of the Au Sable River in Lovells. That tree is absolutely amazing, probably my favorite spot to be in the entire world. Once you climb into it, there's a sort of landing in the tree. I was able to stretch out fully and sleep comfortably while listening to the soft sounds of nature around me.

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Cancer & Environment
11:05 am
Mon March 12, 2012

Infographic: Cancer in our lives

Last week, we brought you a series on cancer and the environment.

I put together this visual representation of some of the statistics we learned about cancer and our lives.

Environment
2:37 pm
Sat March 10, 2012

The Great Lakes - On Thin Ice?

DULUTH, Minn. (AP) — A published report says the amount of ice covering the Great Lakes has declined about 71 percent over the past 40 years.

The report published last month by the American Meteorological Society says only about 5 percent of the Great Lakes surface froze over this year.

A Duluth News Tribune report (http://bit.ly/z5DoW8 ) says researchers determined ice coverage by scanning U.S. Coast Guard reports and satellite images taken from 1973 to 2010.

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Environment
11:50 am
Fri March 9, 2012

Live Web Chat: Talking about cancer in our lives

Clockwise from top left: Carol and Loren Schultz, Karrie Martin, Amy Lobsiger with her partner Dan Sicko, Jason Ratliff with his father

Welcome to our live Web chat with the producers of our week-long series "Cancer & Environment: Searching for Answers."

Dr. Arnold Schecter will also join us today at 12:30 p.m.

He's a professor of epidemiology, human genetics and environmental sciences at the University of Texas Dallas, and he's been studying the health effects of toxic substances for over 30 years.

If you have any questions or comments for the producers, simply type them into the chat box below. We will try to address them in the order they are submitted. Or you can just sit back and watch the discussion.

Thanks for participating!

Cancer & Environment
9:00 am
Fri March 9, 2012

Preventing cancer by unlocking the secrets in our cells (Part 5)

Dr. Madhuri Kakarala and Dr. Dean Brenner of the University of Michigan's Comprehensive Cancer Center. They're standing next to an ultra low flow liquid chromatography machine. It analyzes blood samples from people taking part in their studies.
Mark Brush Michigan Radio

There have been breakthroughs in treating cancer, but what about preventing it in the first place?

In 1970, the nation launched a “War on Cancer.” The goal was to cure it in 25 years, but back then, researchers didn’t know what we know now. That cancer is a disease of our genes… “a distorted version of our normal selves” as Nobel Prize winner Dr. Harold Varmus said.

In the final part of our week-long series, I visited some researchers at the University of Michigan's Comprehensive Cancer Center who are looking deep into our cells for answers.

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Environment
7:11 pm
Thu March 8, 2012

An angry, overflow crowd grills oil company execs about drilling in the Irish Hills

West Bay Exploration vice president Tim Baker uses a laser pointer to show the audience how they are drilling for oil in the Irish Hills.
(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

An overflow crowd filled a public meeting last night in Brooklyn, south of Jackson.    Many in the crowd are worried about the environmental impact of a growing oil drilling operation in the Irish Hills.

"There is nothing they can do here to keep from having an accident...It's going to happen," proclaimed one of the people in the audience. 

The crowd at the public meeting demanded answers from a panel of oil industry executives and state officials about drilling going on in the Irish Hills.   The region is becoming one of the leading crude oil production centers in Michigan.  

Tim Baker is a vice president with West Bay Exploration, the company doing much of the drilling.    He admits they need to do a better job explaining how they are trying to drill safely.

“These people have a lot of good questions.  This is a beautiful area.  There’s a lot of beautiful lakes and streams here," Baker said after the meeting, "We wanted to communicate to them that we are trying to develop (the oil) the best way possible.”  

 Many Irish Hills residents are worried oil drilling may end up lowering their property values.

Cancer and Environment
12:00 pm
Wed March 7, 2012

Your Story: A wife shares how she and her husband lived life to the fullest despite his cancer

Amy Scott and her husband Joe

As part of the Environment Report's week-long series, Cancer and Environment: Searching for Answers, we'll be highlighting some powerful stories of hope and loss in the words of those touched by cancer in Michigan. You can read more Michigan cancer stories here. How has cancer affected your life?

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Environment
11:33 pm
Mon March 5, 2012

Saugatuck residents hope for resolution with developer in dunes case

Some people in Saugatuck Township are pushing township officials to review its zoning laws to resolve an expensive legal case with a private developer.

Chesapeake Energy CEO Aubrey McClendon owns more than 300 acres in the township, including coastal dune land along Lake Michigan. McClendon says Saugatuck Township officials adopted unfairly restrictive zoning laws for his property.

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