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Environment & Science

Menominee River
Wikimedia Commons

Michigan’s first potential new gold mine since the late 1800s now has three of four permits it needs to open.

The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality issued a surface water permit for the Back Forty Project this month.

That proposal is an open-pit sulfide mine located along the Menominee River in the Upper Peninsula. A group of investors, led by the Canadian mining company Aquila, plans to mine the site for gold, copper and zinc.

Stateside 4.7.2017

Apr 7, 2017

Today on Stateside, we learn what's at stake if Republicans cut regulation on concealed weapons and vaccinations. And, we're joined by creators and stars of Comedy Central's Detroiters. They explain how local favorites like fowling and Mel Farr Superstar made their way into the show.

Smokestacks spewing pollution
mdprovost ~ Prosper in 2011 / Flickr http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

Detroit suffers from unhealthy levels of air pollution nearly half the year.

That’s according to new EPA data, and a national report from the group Environment America, including its Michigan chapter.

The report found that Detroit had 161 “dirty air days” in 2015, “increasing the risk of premature death, asthma attacks and other adverse health impacts.”

young woman at Science Gallery Lab
Courtesy of Jeff Grabill

The Next Idea

Science Gallery has been described as a place where science and art collide. The result? Creative ways to tackle some of the world's biggest problems.

The first Science Gallery Lab is in Dublin. Now, Michigan State University is launching Science Gallery Lab Detroit.

Courtesy of Nature and Nurture Seeds

As we ease our way into spring, gardeners might want to consider planting heirloom seeds.

That's Erica Kempter's advice to growers this year. She's co-owner of an organic seed farm called Nature and Nurture.

The result could be a chance to taste surprising and often forgotten foods that belong here in the Great Lakes region. 

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

Some government websites are changing what they say about the environment, and a group of researchers is keeping track. Researchers in the U.S. and Canada are continuing to back up scientific data from federal agencies in the U.S.

They’re also keeping a close eye on how information is changing on federal websites like the EPA, the State Department and the Department of Energy, along with other federal agency sites, and they've been finding changes are happening.

nasakennedy / FLICKR - HTTP://J.MP/1SPGCL0

Two words can mean the difference between life and death when rockets blast into space: combustion instability.

That’s what makes rocket engines blow up.

Ckay / Creative Commons

President Trump's proposed budget cuts to Great Lakes restoration has some Michigan lawmakers and small business owners concerned.

Natural gas power plant in California
David Monniaux / Wikimedia Commons

Consumers Energy wants to buy a power plant fired by natural gas to help replace the energy produced by the Palisades nuclear plant.

Consumers hopes the state will approve an agreement it has with Entergy, which owns Palisades, to close the nuclear plant near South Haven in 2018. Michigan’s Public Service Commission has until August to make that call.

Consumers says it’ll save customers money by closing Palisades. But it has to figure out how to replace all that energy.

Consumers spokesman Brian Wheeler says natural gas could be a big part of the plan.

A salmon fishing boat.
Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

Fish consumption advisories usually focus on one chemical at a time – like mercury – and these advisories tell you how much of each kind of fish you should eat, and what to avoid. But they don’t often tell you much about mixtures of different chemicals in the environment that could be in fish.

Wind turbine
Ken Whytock / Flickr

Two birding groups have filed suit to block the Ohio National Guard from building a commercial-scale wind turbine along the shore of western Lake Erie.

The American Bird Conservancy and the Black Swamp Bird Observatory of Ohio filed suit in U.S. District Court in Washington. They say the Ohio Air National Guard’s wind turbine project at Camp Perry, less than a mile from the Lake Erie shoreline, has already violated the Endangered Species Act and other environmental regulations.

Cattle grazing in a field.
F Delventhal / FLICKR - HTTP://J.MP/1SPGCL0

The Next Idea

Everyone from author Michael Pollan to climate change experts have suggested raising cattle for beef is hard on the environment.

The amount of resources that go into producing a pound of beef are a lot greater than what it takes to produce a pound of chicken, for instance. Plus, in some cases, transporting beef further adds to its carbon footprint.

Most of us don't think about how much electricity costs at different times of the day. But the state's two largest utilities are planning to change that.

When it's really, really hot and humid out, what do lots of people do when they get home? They turn on, or turn up, the air conditioning.

There are big spikes in electricity demand on the hottest summer days, between 2:00 in the afternoon to 7:00 in the evening.

Catherine Techtmann, University of Wisconsin-Extension

The changing climate the Earth is experiencing is changing the forests in Michigan. Warmer and shorter winters affect trees, pests and the diseases that damage trees.

Ann Arbor District Library newspaper archive

It began in March, 1966 , with a sighting over a farm in Dexter.

Lights were seen hovering and then zipping across the sky. Reports came in from all over the area. One Washtenaw County sheriff deputy was quoted as calling the objects, whatever they were, “the weirdest things I’ve ever seen.”

The official explanation — flares caused by the burning of gases bubbling up from the area’s swamps — was unsatisfactory to many of those involved. Then-congressman Gerald Ford called for a congressional investigation. It never happened.

A cyanobacteria bloom on Lake Erie in 2013.
Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

The buildup of nutrients in western Lake Erie can trigger algae growth – and contaminate drinking water in nearby cities. That happened as recently as 2014, when Toledo residents could not drink their water for two days.

Stateside 3.27.2017

Mar 27, 2017

"Alternative facts" exist amidst scientific research. Today on Stateside, we learn how to figure out what's true. We also hear why local governments and school districts are wrestling with unfunded pension liabilities.

The existence of alternative facts in science has also caused confusion in the realm of climate change, where a large portion of the population are skeptical about it, despite overwhelming scientific evidence to support it.
Curran Kelleher / Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

It was a verbal tug-of-war that thrust the term "alternative facts" into our vocabulary.

NBC's Chuck Todd grilled White House counselor Kellyanne Conway over the Trump administration's insistence on inflating the crowd size at the president's inauguration.

But pushing out "alternative facts" is not new. It's been happening in the scientific arena for decades.

Jeff Reutter / Ohio State University

The Michigan Agri-Business Association, a trade group representing agricultural interests, is launching a campaign to educate farmers about best practices to keep chemical fertilizers and manure from flowing into streams and rivers that lead into Lake Erie.

The fertilizers and manure contain nutrients that encourage the growth of toxic cyanobacteria. 

Steve Burt / Flickr, http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

Here’s one way to react to a warming planet: get smaller.

We know mammals literally shrank, during a massive global warming event 56 million years ago. Imagine an early horse ancestor the size of a cat.

Now back then, the earth was 46 degrees hotter on average than it is right now.

So researchers wanted to know: do mammals still experience shrinking - a.k.a. dwarfing - during other, less intense periods of warming?

ellenm1 / Flickr, http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

You know how in old Disney cartoons and movies, spring arrives and all the birds and woodland creatures just wake up all at once?

That’s kind of how nature works, too.

But new research suggests that what we typically think of as spring: flowers blooming, ice melting... is starting to change.

What caused the Flint water crisis?
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Federal money to upgrade water systems is on a fast track toward Flint. The state House has agreed to spend $100 million dollars from the EPA and kick in another $20 million from the state.

This is unusually fast action. The federal government approved the money just last week.

“People have been thirsty for action inside the city of Flint,” said state Representative Sheldon Neeley (D-Flint). He says it’s true the city’s water now meets federal safe drinking water standards, but people don’t trust the water is safe.

Photo courtesy of Birmingham Public Schools

The state has proposed an agreement to fix some ongoing problems at Detroit’s wastewater treatment plant.

The consent order from the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality cites the Great Lakes Water Authority, which runs the plant, for a number of environmental violations over the past year.

The plant was supposed to stop operating five outdated sewage sludge incinerators in March, 2016. But the GLWA kept using them after a fire seriously damaged new, cleaner replacement equipment that same month.

Potter Park Zoo

Potter Park, Michigan's oldest public zoo, is working to preserve one of the world's most critically endangered species. Now it's waiting on approval to transport an eastern black rhino male from Texas, in hopes that it may breed with of the zoo's female rhinos.

The Ingham county board of commissioners must approve the cost of the move before the zoo can proceed.

Dog plays in Lake Michigan
tmannis / Creative Commons http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

President Donald Trump wants to eliminate federal support of a program that addresses the Great Lakes' most pressing environmental threats.

Samples of various drinking water pipes.
Rebecca Williams / Michigan Radio

Some state lawmakers got an early peek at Governor Rick Snyder’s new lead rules that are supposed to be rolled out this week.l A top state environmental official shared some details in testimony before a state House budget subcommittee.

 

chumlee10 / Flickr Creative Commons http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

A large Toronto-based mining company has started expanding one of its projects near Marquette. But it will need approval from the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality if it wants to finish the tunnel it started building in July. 

Lundin Mining is asking the state agency to change its current permit to allow for the completion of the tunnel, which would connect its Eagle Mine site to a mineral deposit nearby. The deposit has large amounts of nickel and copper ore, but Lundin is still unsure whether the area would be profitable to mine.

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

It was standing room only at a relatively obscure state board meeting today.

The Michigan Pipeline Safety Advisory Board heard a presentation from the oil and gas company that owns Line 5 – an oil and gas pipeline that runs along the bottom of Lake Michigan near the Mackinac Bridge.

“This pipeline is in as good a condition as it was the day it was installed. Our corrosion prevention system is doing its job," Kurt Baraniecki, director for Integrity Programs for Enbridge, told the board. "Our monitoring efforts are effective.”

New rules forbid chocolate as bear bait in Michigan

Mar 10, 2017
Ken Thomas / wikimedia commons

Hunters won't be allowed to bait bears with chocolate for the 2017 hunting season.

The DNR's Natural Resources Commission passed new regulations that apply to bear hunting, including a ban on bait containing chocolate or cocoa products. 

Chocolate is popular with hunters as a bait for the same reasons it's attractive to humans -- it's sweet and high in calories. But chocolate contains a chemical called theobromine that is toxic to many animals, including dogs, bears, and many species of wildlife such as wolves and coyotes.

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

Detroit’s incinerator is in hot water with state regulators again, but many people think the proposed punishment lets it off the hook too easily.

The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality cited the state’s largest incinerator for a number of violations in 2015 and 2016. The “waste-to-energy” facility provides power to sections of the city’s core.

Those violations included violating emissions limits for sulfur dioxide, carbon dioxide, and particulate matter. The agency says the incinerator also failed to monitor emissions properly.

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