Environment & Science

SS Badger
wikimedia commons

The Lake Michigan car ferry SS Badger is set to return to service this week.

This comes after more than $2 million in upgrades as part of a deal between Lake Michigan Car Ferry and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

The herring gulls of Bellow Island played a large role in the US government's decision to ban the use of DDT.
user Steve Voght / flickr


If there's one pesticide most everyone can name, it's DDT.

When the U.S. government banned DDT in 1972, it was seen as a great victory for the environment.

But you might be surprised to learn that tiny Bellow Island (colloquially known as Gull Island, off the shore of Northport in Leelanau County) played a huge role in convincing the government to ban DDT.

On the Kalamazoo River just downstream from the confluence of Talmadge Creek. Around 1 million gallons of tar sands oil spilled into the river in 2010.
Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

Today, the state of Michigan announced a settlement with Enbridge Energy over the largest inland oil spill in American history.

The state’s $75 million consent judgment with Enbridge won’t be coming as a huge cash payment. Most of the money has already gone to, or will be going to river restoration or recreation projects along the Kalamazoo River.

Reid Frazier / Alleghany Front

A study released by a team of Penn State scientists found evidence that groundwater near a shale gas well in Bradford County, Pennsylvania was tainted by chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing and drilling for natural gas. The study suggests the chemicals traveled through sideways cracks in the ground. 

Aerial photo of the Bruce Nuclear Generating Station near Kincardine Ontario.
Chuck Szmurlo / Wikimedia Commons

A Canadian advisory panel has recommended approval of a permanent, underground nuclear waste repository within a mile of Lake Huron in Ontario.

The panel made its recommendation this week in a report to Canada's environment minister, who is expected to make a decision within four months. 

Illustration courtesy of U.S. Global Change Research Program


Our climate is changing and people are working out ways to adapt.

A new report takes a look at how climate change is affecting weather in the U.S. and what people are doing to try to get ready for more changes in the future.

farming equiptment
Helen Hanley / creative commons

The U.S. Department of Agriculture is teaming up with three states –  Michigan, Ohio, and Indiana –  and 40 groups to jointly tackle cyanobacteria, that scourge of Lake Erie that briefly shut down Toledo's water supply last summer.

Cyanobacteria thrives on phosphorus and other nutrients in runoff from farms. The hope is to deprive cyanobacteria of some of the food it needs to reproduce in massive quantities.

Purple Loosestrife is an invasive plant found in wetlands and on roadsides throughout much of North America.
user liz west / Flickr

Amos Ziegler has developed a smartphone app that could make it a lot tougher for invasive plants and critters to sneak into our state and get a foothold before they're detected.

Aerial photo of the Bruce Nuclear Generating Station near Kincardine Ontario.
Chuck Szmurlo / Wikimedia Commons

The Bruce Nuclear site sits across Lake Huron from Michigan’s Thumb region.

Ontario Power Generation wants to bury some of its nuclear waste on the site in Kincardine, Ontario. All of the company’s low and intermediate level waste would be buried there forever, far underground.

Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

Large animal farms will no longer be allowed to give or sell excess manure to smaller farms between the months of January and March.

Brad Wurfel is with the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality.  He says the larger farms know not to do this, but sometimes the smaller farms will spread the manure on frozen, snow-covered fields. 

Tracy Samilton / Michigan Radio

Researchers say there would be beneficial side effects from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's proposed Clean Power Plan. 

The plan is intended to lower carbon dioxide emissions from power plants by 30% by the year 2030.  CO2 is a large factor in climate change.

Consumers Energy / Flickr/user

The fight is on over how to make sure Michigan's electric grid remains reliable.

The state's two largest utilities, Consumers Energy and DTE Energy, will close nine coal-burning electric power plants by next April to comply with regulations on mercury emissions.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

The quality of Michigan’s air continues to improve. 

That’s the finding of a new report out today.

The American Lung Association’s annual State of the Air report looks at a variety of issues, from 24-hour to year-long particle pollution to ozone levels.

Tracy Samilton / Michigan Radio

Michigan is saying goodbye to nine of its smaller and older coal-burning power plants.

DTE Energy is closing two facilities. Consumers Energy will shutter seven more, which are nicknamed the "Classic Seven." I recently toured one of these aging workhorses of electricity, B.C. Cobb in Muskegon.

John Eisenschenk / Creative Commons

A new effort led by the private sector in Grand Rapids will try to cut water, energy use and transportation emissions in half over the next 15 years.

More than a dozen businesses, including Spectrum Health, Consumers Energy, Rockford Construction and SMG, which manages DeVos Place and Van Andel Arena, have agreed to the general concept. A new committee will draft details of the plan this year.

Photo by USFWS; Joel Trick

This time of year, the DNR plants some 2 million pine trees in Northern Michigan in an effort to save what it calls the rarest song bird in North America.

There are some 4,000 Kirtland's warblers in existence, according to the Associate Press, and nearly all of them live in Michigan.

Photo courtesy of Central Michigan Life

The two reasons: 1) the process of moving water that far, and that high, wouldn't make economic sense; 2) Great Lakes water is locked down politically.

The ongoing drought in California has hit its fourth year. 

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

The nation’s top agriculture official will be in East Lansing later today to unveil a new plan for dealing with climate change.

U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack will be on the Michigan State University campus. 

NPS Climate Change Response on Flickr / Flickr

When we talk about climate change and what it's doing to our world, we often talk about melting ice at the polar cap and rising sea levels.

But there is something else happening as well: The permafrost is melting. And as it does, it is releasing even more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.

John Vucetich and Rolf Peterson / Isle Royale Wolf-Moose study

The ongoing study of wolves and moose on Isle Royale in Lake Superior has hit a critical juncture. Researchers in charge of the longest continuous study of a predator-prey system anywhere in the world released their annual report today. 

You can read the full report here.

Joshua Doubek / Creative Commons

The campaign to ban the drilling process known as “fracking” plans to launch a petition drive next month. This will be the third time the anti-fracking campaign has tried to get lawmakers or voters to adopt a ban.

Earlier efforts fell short, but LuAnn Kozma of the Committee to Ban Fracking in Michigan says the ongoing controversy about drilling has helped the cause.

Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

Michigan has 883 operating wind turbines.

There’s been a big push for wind farms since 2008. That was when lawmakers decided a certain amount of our electricity must come from renewable resources, and utilities built wind turbines to comply.

Kenna Lehmann

Think about the sound of a wolf howling or a dog’s howl – maybe even the giggle of a spotted hyena.

These animals cry out for a reason.

Kenna Lehmann, a zoology graduate student at Michigan State University, is currently studying these hyena sounds in Kenya, at the Masai Mara National Reserve. She’s studying how hyenas, being social hunters, find and catch their prey by way of communicating with each other.

Tracy Samilton / Michigan Radio

Michigan's experiment with partially deregulating its electricity market could be over.

Bills to rescind the law which allows 10% of DTE Energy and Consumers Energy customers to leave for an alternate (i.e., cheaper) supplier are moving through the State House.

They're sponsored by the Chairman of the Energy Policy Committee, Republican Aric Nesbitt of the 66th District.

Couches will flame retardants in them will still burn.
Mark H. Anbinder / Flickr

This week, we’re bringing you a series of stories about firefighters and cancer. Firefighters say they’re worried about getting exposed to certain kinds of toxic flame retardant chemicals. These chemicals are everywhere. They’re called polybrominated diphenyl ethers or PBDEs. Firefighters are exposed to these chemicals in the line of duty, but they aren’t the only ones exposed.

For decades, these chemicals have been added to the foam in our couches, our chairs, and the padding underneath our carpets.

But they don’t stay put.

MSU's power plant to stop burning coal

Apr 8, 2015
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Michigan State University will no longer use coal to power its campus after 2016. 

That's according to an announcement today by MSU President Lou Anna K. Simon. 

flickr user The National Guard / http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

Firefighters have dangerous jobs. We all know that.

But a growing body of research suggests those dangers don’t go away once the flames are put out: several studies say firefighters have a significantly higher cancer risk, even when they’re young.

A Blood Moon visible during a total lunar eclipse.

Early tomorrow morning, a total lunar eclipse, or "blood moon," will grace the skies of much of Michigan. The eclipse itself will span several hours, though total lunar coverage, in which the moon takes on a reddish hue, will last only about five minutes. 

Lunar eclipses occur when the earth slides between the sun and moon, obstructing the light that normally illuminates our moon.  For those viewing from Michigan, the eclipse will start at 5:00 am, with peak lunar coverage occurring at around 7:00 am. 

Brian Wybenga

Back in December, there was a toxic spill in Detroit.

In my kitchen.

It was a Sunday morning. My kids were watching a cartoon. I was reading the paper. And my husband, who does some small-time antiques dealing in his spare time, was monkeying around with one of his treasures in the kitchen.

Urine Collection Event
Hayley Hershman

It looked like an April Fools' Day joke.

A pair of Porta-potties set up near a busy campus bus stop, student and faculty volunteers in T-shirts with "Pee Maize 4 Blue" written on the back, and a #peecycler Twitter campaign.