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Environment & Science

An emerald ash borer
User: USDAgov / flickr

The emerald ash borer is spreading westward again in Michigan. One of the insects was discovered in a trap set by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The USDA placed 122 traps in Upper Peninsula counties that had not yet been invaded by the ash borer. 

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Grand Rapids officials say the city's drinking water is still well within federal standards for the presence of lead. Such testing is getting increased attention amid Flint's crisis with lead-tainted water.

The city posted the results on its website Friday after they were certified by state regulators; information that typically waits until the Consumer Confidence Report is mailed out.

David Lobbig / Courtesy of Jenny Chipault

In the last few weeks, roughly 600 birds have died along the shore of Lake Michigan. They washed up on the beaches within the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, with more dead birds reported on beaches in the Upper Peninsula.

Joe Connolly / Cornell University

There’s a new creature in the Great Lakes and it has “cyclops” in its name.

It’s called Thermocyclops crassus. It’s a kind of zooplankton.

Elizabeth Hinchey Molloy is with the EPA’s Great Lakes Program Office. She says it's extremely small.

“It’s less than one millimeter, so smaller than the dot a pencil makes,” she says.

the plume, 1,4 dioxane
http://www.ewashtenaw.org/government/departments/environmental_health/card / Washtenaw County

The Ann Arbor City Council wants to intervene in a lawsuit over groundwater contamination in and around the city. The Council unanimously passed a resolution at a special meeting Tuesday night to direct city officials to seek permission from the court to intervene in the case.

Rebecca Williams / Michigan Radio

It’s the busy time of year for commercial fishing on the Great Lakes. But the price of whitefish is about half what it was three years ago, because of problems with international trade.

DWSD

Detroit found more lead in drinking water samples this summer than it has in recent years, and there’s a few reasons to account for the uptick.  

Unofficial results posted this month by the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department show Detroit’s water is safe to drink by federal standards.

Back in March, boxes containing testing kits filled a room in the Bethel United Methodist Church in Flint.
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Researchers from Virginia Tech University will be back in Flint this week to test the city’s drinking water.

This is the fourth and possibly final time Virginia Tech researchers will be in town collecting water samples and testing them for lead.

The first round of tests conducted a year and a half ago revealed much higher than acceptable levels of lead in the tap water. Those test results helped spur the decision to switch Flint back to Detroit water, after the city spent 18 months getting its drinking water from the Flint River. 

Cregg told us that cold nights give trees the cue to start changing colors.
flickr user Bailiwick Studios / http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

 

Even if you’re not a fan of the colder weather and shorter days, it’s hard not to admire the bursts of red and yellow that spread through our trees as summer gives way to fall.

But it seems we’ve had to wait a little longer to see the colors change this year.

According to Bert Cregg, a professor in Michigan State University's Department of Forestry, we have September and October’s atypically warm weather to thank.

the plume, 1,4 dioxane
http://www.ewashtenaw.org/government/departments/environmental_health/card / Washtenaw County

The state Department of Environmental Quality has issued an emergency rule establishing a stricter cleanup criteria for 1,4 dioxane, a highly carcinogenic chemical that has polluted Ann Arbor's groundwater for decades.

The plume of contaminated water has been slowly moving in all directions, including towards the Huron River.  It's feared that eventually the contamination could reach Barton Pond, the source of the city's drinking water.

Scio Residents for Safe Water

After waiting three years for the state to issue a stricter cleanup standard for the carcinogen 1,4 dioxane, Ann Arbor Township and Scio Township are done.

The two townships, along with the Sierra Club of Huron Valley, will jointly file a petition next month requesting the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to conduct a preliminary assessment for a plume of contaminated groundwater to become a federal Superfund site.

Oscoda residents talk with government officials about the PFC plumes contaminating their wells.
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Residents of a northern Michigan town are getting briefed today on a threat to their drinking water.

For decades, fire crews trained at Wurtsmith Air Force Base not far from Lake Huron. But while the base closed more than 20 years ago, the chemicals used to extinguish the flames continue to seep into nearby wells and streams.

The plumes of perfluorinated chemicals (PFCs) have been migrating from the former air force base into surrounding neighborhoods and the Au Sable River. PFCs have also been detected in fish in Lake Huron.

Grand Rapids
Steven Depolo / Flickr

Grand Rapids and Flint are both in the spotlight in a new report on the sustainability of cities.

Researchers with the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine looked at nine cities, including New York and Vancouver. All of them have sustainability plans in place.

Linda Katehi chairs the committee that wrote the report.

Sam Corden / Interlochen Public Radio

Researchers who work in wetlands in Michigan are taking a new approach to invasive plants. They’re harvesting them for fertilizer and fuel. 

U of M hopes to crack down on opioid addiction

Oct 25, 2016
Courtesy frankieleon / Creative Commons -- http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

With a $1.4 million per year grant from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Service, the University of Michigan launched a five-year project called the Michigan Opioid Prescribing Engagement Network (Michigan-OPEN).

Wind turbine near Mt. Pleasant, MI.
Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

The Michigan Senate is back on break until after the election, but when they get back they have made a major piece of legislation a top priority. An overhaul to Michigan’s energy policy will be one of the first items up for vote when the Senate meets again.  

Two energy bills have been waiting for a vote since July of 2015. They finally got out of committee in May. Now, the press secretary for the Senate Republican majority, Amber McCann, says the Senate is finally ready to vote.

Almost.

the plume, 1,4 dioxane
http://www.ewashtenaw.org/government/departments/environmental_health/card / Washtenaw County

A frustrated Ann Arbor City Council wants to force a faster cleanup of a plume of groundwater contaminated with 1,4 dioxane.

That's after the chemical was found in surface water near Slauson Middle School.
The contaminated water is slowly spreading under the city of Ann Arbor as well as Ann Arbor Township and Scio Township.  

City leaders say the polluter, Pall Gelman, needs to do a lot more to clean it up.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

U.S. EPA announced Friday it will consolidate and cap one-and-a-half-million cubic yards of old industrial waste in Kalamazoo. It’s been dubbed a compromise plan after residents and city leaders urged the EPA to choose a plan that would remove the waste entirely from the Allied Site.

“I’m reluctant to use terms like compromise because protectiveness is something the EPA can’t compromise on,” EPA Remedial Project Manager Michael Berkoff said.

West Midlands Police / https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

MSU scientists proved that you can trick commercial fingerprint scanners with a 3D-printed fake hand.

The finding was incidental to their goal of testing the accuracy of a set of fingerprint scanners like those commonly used in airports, banks, and police stations.

What caused the Flint water crisis? Rick Sadler from Michigan State University argues the true cause of Flint's water disaster goes back decades.
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

UPDATED at 10:28 on 10/21/16

Two bills to help Flint recover from the water crisis are making their way through the legislature. Both bills passed through the Senate Thursday with a near-unanimous vote.

tEdGuY49 / Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

With thousands of tons of trash burned every day, Detroit has the largest urban incinerator in the country.

Now its long and controversial history has a new chapter. The Great Lakes Environmental Law Center has filed a letter serving notice that it intends to sue Detroit Renewable Power, the operator of the incinerator.

Nick Schroeck, the executive director of the Great Lakes Environmental Law Center, joined Stateside to talk about the lawsuit and why they are filing it.

EPA Emergency response vehicle in Flint.
EPA

The EPA’s Inspector General says the agency should have issued an emergency order in Flint, Michigan seven months before it did.

The Inspector General’s investigation into the Flint water crisis found EPA Region 5 had enough information and the authority to issue an emergency order to protect Flint residents from lead-contaminated water as early as June 2015.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

The hunt is on for lead pipes in Detroit.

Flint officials still don’t know where all the city’s lead service lines are. That’s because the building records were in horrible shape.

Flint Water Study / Facebook

The Legislature is going to work on toughening standards for lead in drinking water, although finishing the job may have to wait until next year.

State Senator Jim Ananich (D-Flint) has sponsored a bill to reduce the allowable levels of lead in drinking water. His bill would take the standard from the current 15 parts per billion (ppb) to 10 parts, and then to five pbb. He says the eventual goal is zero exposure to lead.

He says Michigan should adopt the toughest lead rules in the country following the Flint water crisis.                                     

A radar image of bird migration.
BirdCast

2016 has been on a record-breaking warm streak, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. 

So what does this unseasonably warm fall mean for birds that need to start packing up and heading south?

Andrew Farnsworth is a research associate with the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, and he runs BirdCast – it’s a tool the lab created to forecast what’s happening with bird migration each week. 

$340 billion dollars: a new study estimates that’s how much it costs Americans every year for daily low-level exposure to chemicals that mess with our hormonal systems. The figure includes health care costs and lost earnings. 

Dr. Leonardo Trasande is an associate professor of pediatrics, environmental medicine and population health at NYU School of Medicine.

A Flint resident holds a jug of tainted Flint water.
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

It was late September 2015 when the lid blew off of the Flint water disaster.

At the time, much of the attention and credit went to Virginia Tech water scientist Marc Edwards and to Flint pediatrician Dr Mona Hanna-Attisha.

Edwards had been issuing a steady flood of warnings based on his tests of water from Flint homes while Dr. Hanna-Attisha's study of blood lead levels in Flint's children finally convinced state officials that a public health catastrophe had occurred.

But there's another player in all of this and his analysis of Dr. Hanna-Attisha's medical findings destroyed the state's contention that Flint's water problem was being overblown.

Courtesy of Sue Nichols

 

Jack Liu of Michigan State University has spent some two decades studying pandas and people in a remote corner of China. His work has yielded powerful lessons in sustainability.

Liu is a human-environment scientist and a sustainability scholar at MSU, where he directs the Center for Systems Integration and Sustainability.

He joined us today to talk about his panda research and what it means for people outside of the remote Wolong Nature Reserve.

Scientists in Michigan have found a new dwarf planet in our solar system.

It's about 330 miles across and some 8.5 billion miles from the sun. It takes 1,100 years to complete one orbit.

But one of the most interesting things about the new object, known for the time being as 2014 UZ224, is the way astronomers found it.

Flickr user TIm Ereneta/ Flickr / http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

The Next Idea

I spend a lot of time looking for the future. I never really find it. Humans are too unpredictable. Innovations are like teenagers. They’re never really sure what they want be when they grow up, if they grow up at all. You can only hope they find their rightful place in the world somewhere along the way.

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