Environment & Science

The Environment Report
9:05 am
Tue January 14, 2014

What should we do about the trace chemicals found in drinking water?

Lack of funds threaten to shut down a monitoring system for southeast Michigan's drinking water.
user william_warby Flickr

The radio version of this story.

Before I talk about the small bits of chemicals often found in drinking water, I want to direct some attention to the national water contamination story going on now because I think it reveals something.

The water is bad in West Virginia

The nation has its eyes on a nine-county area in West Virginia that’s under a state of emergency. A coal-processing chemical leaked into a river and poisoned the drinking water there. Cleanup is ongoing. As they attempt to flush the chemical out of their drinking water systems, officials are trying to determine what level of the chemical is safe.

Ken Ward Jr. of the West Virgina Gazette reports that local and federal officials are saying that "1 part per million" of  crude 4-methylcyclohexanemethanol (the coal processing chemical) is safe for people to drink.

But Ward is having a tough time finding out what they based that number on:

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Environment & Science
1:18 pm
Sun January 12, 2014

University of Michigan faces proposed fine from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission

www.oseh.umich.edu/radiation

ANN ARBOR, Mich. (AP) - The Nuclear Regulatory Commission is proposing a $3,500 fine against the University of Michigan Radiation Safety Service after a routine materials inspection turned up security-related violations.

The federal agency says the inspection conducted between last June and September looked at the use of licensed materials for medical applications, research and development.

Violations were found on the school's Ann Arbor campus.

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Stateside
8:46 pm
Thu January 9, 2014

What will Gov. Snyder say about the environment in his State of the State address?

Lisa Wozniak
http://www.michiganlcv.org/

Gov. Snyder delivers his State of the State address a week from today. He'll likely talk about new policy initiatives and proposals and issues concerning everything from transportation and infrastructure to education. Lisa Wozniak, however, will be listening intently to what the Governor has to say about one specific topic: the environment.

Lisa Wozniak is the Executive Director of the Michigan League for Conservation Voters, and she joined us today.

Listen to the full interview above.

Stateside
8:41 pm
Thu January 9, 2014

China becomes the world leader in wind power

user vaxomatic flickr

In China, more and more cities are seeing their streets filled with smog as cars and power stations pollute the air. One response by the Chinese government is to launch a major push for cleaner renewable energy. China is now the world's leading producer of wind power and it has plans to install thousands of turbines every year, especially in the remote regions in the country's far west.

That's where the BBC's science editor David Shukman is, and he sent us this report.

Listen to the full audio above.

Environment & Science
2:06 pm
Thu January 9, 2014

Reporter's Notebook: Take Sierra Club’s bad report card on Gov. Snyder with a grain of salt

Lindsey Smith

Sometimes people don’t tell the truth. More often, they don’t tell the whole truth. Sometimes they do it on purpose to make their argument appear stronger. Other times they make honest mistakes. Sorting it out is my job as a reporter. Yesterday, the Sierra Club dumped a fair amount of work on my lap when it released an error laden press release giving Governor Snyder a failing grade on energy and environmental actions.

Here’s what I found that I think you should know.

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Environment & Science
1:38 pm
Thu January 9, 2014

Wolf researchers keeping an eye on a potential ice bridge to Isle Royale

The ice forming north of Isle Royale on Jan. 1, 2014.
MODIS NASA

Update: Friday, February 7, 2014

The ice bridge to Isle Royale has formed. See our post here.

Original post: January 9, 2014

Wolves first came to Isle Royale in Lake Superior by crossing an ice bridge in the late 1940s, but these ice bridges have not been forming as often in recent years and the wolf population on Isle Royale has been suffering as a result.

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Environment & Science
11:27 am
Thu January 9, 2014

Will plans to stop Asian carp invasion take too long?

A silver carp. Great Lakes advocates are disappointed the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers did not recommend a plan of action when it released a study outlining eight scenarios to stop Asian carp from invading the Great Lakes.
Dan O'Keefe Michigan Sea Grant

This week, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers issued a study about what might be done to keep those invasive Asian carp out of the Great Lakes.

It took seven years and that was a rush job after some members of Congress accused the Corps of dragging its feet.

The study outlines eight scenarios.

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The Environment Report
9:32 am
Thu January 9, 2014

Food industry asks to label genetically engineered ingredients as 'natural'

March Against Monsanto, Vancouver, Canada
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The food industry wants the government to give the okay for calling products using genetically engineered ingredients “natural” foods.

I went to my local grocery store looking for the term “natural” or “naturally” and I didn’t have to go very far.

In the cereal aisle I found products labeled “naturally flavored,” “100% natural,” and an “all natural pancake mix.” A couple aisles over, looking at the chips there were “all natural” pretzels, “naturally sweet” popcorn, and then there was a drink with a label that read “naturally flavored beverage with other natural flavors blended with vitamins.”

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Environment & Science
8:00 am
Wed January 8, 2014

State regulators to issue permit for controversial development in duneland, with conditions

The DEQ will require a land easement to minimize impacts to the unique interdunal wetland ecosystems on the property. This is the property just south of the proposed development.
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

A controversial development that’s proposed on 300 acres of critical duneland in Saugatuck is likely to get the state permit it needs to get the project rolling. The parcel has been at the center of a years-long legal battle.

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Stateside
5:28 pm
Tue January 7, 2014

A closer look at the future of ethanol and our renewable energy future

A cornfield in northern Ohio.
Mark Brush Michigan Radio

It’s been seven years since America hit the accelerator on corn-based ethanol fuels. Homegrown corn became the centerpiece of a push to find an alternative to foreign oil.

President Bush signed this expansion of the Renewable Fuel Standard in 2007, promising it would make us “stronger, cleaner and more secure.”

But, as is so often the case, something that offers great promise on one hand, takes its toll on the other hand. So the view of corn-based ethanol very much depends upon which side of the fence you’re standing on.

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Environment & Science
1:56 pm
Tue January 7, 2014

Could the extreme cold weather be tied to a warming climate?

Purple signifies the extreme cold in the U.S.
Credit NWS

The temperatures certainly are extreme. Last night, it was colder in Michigan than it was at the South Pole.

Parts of the state saw temperatures reach 16 below zero with wind chills exceeding 40 below zero.

The "polar vortex" has brought air to the Midwest that normally stays way up in the arctic.

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Environment & Science
9:25 am
Tue January 7, 2014

Keeping carp out of Great Lakes could take years and cost billions

A bighead carp at the Shedd Aquarium (perhaps a face only its mother could love).
Rebecca Williams Michigan Radio

A new report says a permanent solution to the Asian carp threat to the Great Lakes could take years to build and cost billions of dollars.

The report says it’s very possible for the invasive species to slip from the Mississippi River system into the Great Lakes. And that it’s possible for the species to live in the lakes and grow in population.

The report was prepared by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for Congress.

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Environment & Science
9:00 am
Tue January 7, 2014

You could choose your own power company under new legislation

The Frankenmuth Bavarian Inn, right, and its competitor, Zehnder's of Frankenmuth, compete for the same customers. One of the businesses is allowed to buy power from the market while the other must buy from a Michigan power company. There's a 10% cap on buying power from out-of-state providers.
Credit Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

Michigan could deregulate the electricity market, allowing people to choose where they buy electricity.

In downtown Frankenmuth there are two very popular restaurants: the Frankenmuth Bavarian Inn and right across the street, Zehnder’s of Frankenmuth. Both are famous for their chicken dinners. And the owners are cousins -- both of them are Zehnders.

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Environment & Science
8:31 am
Mon January 6, 2014

Schools and offices closed with more snow and frigid temperatures today

A winter storm brought up to 10 inches of snow to some parts of the state
Sami Flickr

Snow has covered the state.

Up to 16 inches of snow was on the ground in Flint last night.

Even more snow is expected today in addition to extreme wind chills.

The wind chill could drop to 15 below to 30 degrees below zero today.

On top of that, more snow is in the forecast today for the region.

In West Michigan, 6 to 8 inches of snow could fall by tomorrow morning.  

Classes have been canceled at Michigan State University, Western Michigan University, Eastern Michigan University and Wayne State University.

Hundreds of schools and many state offices are closed today.

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Environment & Science
9:42 am
Sat January 4, 2014

This weekend's weather: snow, shovel, repeat

If you like what we've been having, you're going to love the weather forecast.

Temperatures will be more tolerable than the single-digit temperatures we've had for the past several days, with highs in the low 30s  today (Saturday). But the reprieve will be short lived: A winter weather advisory will be in effect for West Michigan from 4 p.m. today until early Monday morning. Snow totals could range from 3 to 6 inches.

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Environment & Science
9:00 am
Thu January 2, 2014

Why airports look like home to snowy owls

Credit Hundreds of snowy owls have descended on the Great Lakes and Northeast as part of this year's "irruption." / toddraden

Every year, some snowy owls make their way south from their Arctic homeland in search of food, and some of us here in the Great Lakes region have been lucky enough to spot these magnificent birds on tree branches, or poles, or … near airports.

Airports have wide open treeless spaces, and can look a lot like home to snowy owls. And for wildlife specialists who work at airports from the Great Lakes to the Northeast, this has been a busy winter.

Eight owls trapped in one week at DTW

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Environment & Science
9:12 pm
Sun December 29, 2013

Power back for Consumers Energy, DTE customers, but some LBWL customers still wait

Finally. 

The lights are back on, and the heat is warming the house, for the roughly 670,000 Consumers Energy and DTE customers who lost electricity from a severe ice storm.

"It was one of the worst storms in our history," says Debra Dodd of Consumers Energy.

Heavy ice brought down hundreds of lines, and in some cases, pulled the poles down with it.

Dodd says customers were patient, understanding and grateful to the line crews, who worked 16-hour days to repair the damage.

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Ice storm
3:46 pm
Thu December 26, 2013

As new ice storm worries loom, customers find ways to cope

This was Christmas dinner at the Putnam house
Judy Putnam

There are times when warm weather is not a good thing, and this is one such time.

Brian Wheeler is with Consumers Energy.  He says the severe ice storm that struck a big portion of the state early Sunday left extremely heavy ice on the trees.

"The ice has been pushing trees and tree limbs into different positions," says Wheeler.  "A rapid melt could cause them to snap back into a different position pretty quickly too, and as they move suddenly, they could interfere with power lines yet again."

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Environment & Science
1:46 pm
Wed December 25, 2013

Weather, altered behavior could be reasons few wolves killed in state hunt

The federal government wants to turn management of gray wolves in the western Great Lakes over to the states.
USFWS

The state Department of Natural Resources says hunters are unlikely to bag the limit of 43 wolves before the season ends on December 31. In fact, it’s been two and a half weeks since the last wolf was taken on December 5.        

State wildlife officials say an extreme cold snap in the Upper Peninsula may be responsible. They say it’s also possible wolves have learned to avoid hunters.

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Ice storm
5:51 pm
Tue December 24, 2013

Ice storm followed by high winds could mean more bad news

Power lines
Christoper Sessums Flickr

High winds are forecast for Wednesday.

And that could slow down the work to restore power to thousands of people after the weekend's severe ice storm.

The storm's path went through Lansing, Owosso and Flint.

Mary Palkovich is with Consumers Energy.

"This is the worst storm that Consumers Energy has had during Christmas week in its 120 year history," says Palkovich.  "It's unprecedented."

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