Environment & Science

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

Seven Michigan communities are getting help from the federal government to clean up contaminated industrial sites.   Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson says her agency is awarding brownfield cleanup grants to Lansing, Albion, Inkster, Northville and three other Michigan communities.   

The grants total $2.9 million.  

KALAMAZOO, Mich. (AP) - Kalamazoo authorities have developed a partnership to deal with the hazardous waste left behind by illegal methamphetamine production.

The Department of Public Safety says in a statement Monday that it worked with state officials and the city's Public Services Department to develop a methamphetamine remediation program that's modeled after one developed by Kentucky State Police.

Authorities collect the waste and it's transferred to a central location where the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration takes over disposal responsibility.

Kalamazoo says it's the first such Occupational Safety and Health Administration-compliant program in the state.

Backcomp.gif: National Weather Service, Wilmington, NC

This week, state lawmakers will discuss what can be done to better protect people from rip currents on the Great Lakes. It’s estimated that about 30 people drowned in the Great Lakes last year because of rip currents. 

Rip currents form when powerful winds or surges of water press along the shoreline.  The water must eventually flow back out.  When it does the rip current created can prove too strong for even the best swimmer to escape. 

Photo by Sarah Payette

State and federal agencies working to keep Asian carp out of the Great Lakes recently laid out their plans for 2011.

These agencies are focused mainly on the waterways around Chicago, where the fish could get in from the Mississippi River basin to Lake Michigan.

But there’s another route for Asian carp. They’re riding on trucks... that are bringing live carp from fish farms in the South.

Two fish distributors were issued large fines this winter for bringing live Asian carp into Canada. It’s illegal.

Peter Payette has been covering this story.  Rebecca Williams talks with Peter on today's Environment Report:

Rebecca: Peter, you’ve just gotten back from some of these live fish markets in Toronto. What did you see?

Peter: All of these live fish markets were a part of an Asian grocery store and a couple of them had very large sections of the store devoted to fish, and in particular, live fish. I was in one store where they had a catfish that must've been 30 pounds. I saw a common carp that size... I saw an eel that was two or three feet long.

DETROIT (AP) - Two air-conditioned Detroit recreation buildings are open as cooling centers when outside temperatures and humidity are high.

The city says the Joseph Walker Williams Center on Rosa Parks Boulevard is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Mondays through Fridays, while the Coleman A. Young Center on Robert Bradby Drive is open
1-9 p.m. Tuesdays through Fridays and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturdays.

Young children and the elderly are at risk when temperatures rise above 90 degrees. Headaches, dizziness, nausea, heavy sweating, confusion and flushed skin are signs of heat-related illness.

The city says the most vulnerable should stay indoors, if possible, or in a public place with air conditioning.

The federal government says gray wolves in the Great Lakes states are no longer endangered, and they can come off the endangered species list. If that happens, the state would be in charge of managing the wolves.

The Department of Natural Resources is holding a forum in Marquette tomorrow. The DNR’s inviting everyone from the farm bureau to conservation and hunting groups. The agency wants these groups to weigh in on the state’s wolf management plan.

Christopher Hoving is with the DNR. He says the plan would allow officials to shoot problem wolves. For example... if a wolf kills a cow or a sheep.

“It’s not something we like to do or want to do, but we can’t have that behavior of killing sheep be spread throughout the population.”

He says under the state plan, Michigan residents can also kill a wolf that’s attacking their livestock or pets.

Gracey / Morgue File

A Detroit newspaper reported there were 657,000 feral cats in the Detroit area. But that number might not be correct.

Kevin Hatman is with the Michigan Humane Society. He says he’s not sure how accurate that number is. But he says there is a large population of wild cats in the Detroit area:

user anyjazz65 / Flickr

DETROIT (AP) - Officials say a large population of feral cats in the Detroit area is straining animal control and animal welfare groups.

The Detroit Free Press reports Wednesday that one estimate cited by the Petsmart Charities says there are about 657,000 feral cats in the area.

Officials say free-roaming cats often harbor illnesses that spread between cats and sometimes to humans.

People are working to address the problem in the Detroit area. Southfield has agreed to be the pilot community for a $100,000 county program to catch, sterilize and release feral cats. And a Warren animal welfare group is teaching people how to round up cats.

Photo by Alan Vernon

Black bears are doing well across northern Michigan.  In fact, they're doing so well, people are complaining more about bears getting into bird feeders and bee hives and damaging orchards.

It’s still rare to encounter a bear in the woods. But last year a hunter was attacked near Petoskey. And state wildlife officials say bears become aggressive when people forget they are wild animals.

Sometimes bears just out of hibernation wander into town or into someone’s back yard to rummage for food.

Last spring, hundreds of people in Traverse City flocked to a tree with a bear in it near the airport. State wildlife officials captured the young male and moved it to a distant swamp.

But an incident from last fall near the Bear River in Emmet County continues to raise concerns.

On an October evening, three yearling bears and their mother attacked a bow hunter up a tree in his stand.

DNR wildlife chief Russ Mason says the problem likely had been brewing over the summer.

“There were reports of a sow with three cubs showing up in people’s yards and on their porches and people feeding the bears. They liked looking at them and thought they were amusing. People do things like that. They ought not to.”

In this case, the deer hunter says he kicked and hit a couple of the cubs when they climbed up his stand.

The National Weather Service has issued a heat advisory for parts of Michigan as more severe thunderstorms were in the forecast.

The weather service says that Tuesday temperatures were expected to reach the lower 90s. The heat advisory was to be in effect until Tuesday evening in a number of counties as well as cities including Detroit, Midland, Bay City, Saginaw, Port Huron and Ann Arbor.

The weather service says severe thunderstorms could move across the state Tuesday afternoon and evening, bringing damaging winds or hail.

The forecast comes as power restoration efforts continue following severe thunderstorms on Sunday that spawned three tornadoes in Michigan.

Mosquito Invasion!

May 29, 2011
user trebol-a / Flickr

Mosquitoes are expected to be an even bigger annoyance than usual for Michiganders this summer.  Heavy rains in April and May have set the stage for a big burst of mosquitoes in Michigan this year. 

Yesterday, the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality announced new requirements to address public concern about potential pollution connected with horizontal fracturing (fracking) for natural gas.

From the DEQ news release:

The requirements, issued as New Permitting Instructions by the state Supervisor of Wells, include:

user ladydragonflycc / Flickr

I've heard people talk about the thrill of morel hunting in Michigan, but have never stalked one myself. My neighbor recently gave us a few morels she plucked from her backyard.

So now that we've got some in the house, what to do with them? Eat them, or course, but what's a good way to prepare them?

Here are five moral recipes to try out this season:

Photo courtesy of the State of Michigan

The Enbridge pipeline that broke and spilled into the Kalamazoo River last summer was carrying raw tar sands oil.

Enbridge spokesperson Lorraine Grymala says the company ships both conventional crude, and tar sands oil through its pipelines. She says in recent years they’ve been getting an increasing amount of tar sands oil.

“Because there’s being more produced (sic), and there’s more of a demand for it in the United States.”

This increase in tar sands oil transport worries environmentalists and pipeline safety advocates.

Tom Grundy / Flickr

Update: 5/26/11 6:52 a.m.

DETROIT (AP) - Thunderstorms have dumped more than 4 inches of rain on parts of southern Michigan, causing widespread flooding of streets, expressways and basements. The National Weather Service says 4.15 inches of rain fell in a 12-hour period Wednesday in Detroit, while 3.12 inches fell in Ann Arbor and 3.1 inches in Wayne County's Canton Township. Flood warnings were in effect across several southeastern counties Wednesday night.

You can view photos and video of the storms at these links below:

epa.gov

It's probably the second sticker you look at (the first being the price sticker).

The new fuel economy and environment labels will take effect with model year 2013 cars and trucks. The EPA is calling the new labels "the most dramatic overhaul to fuel economy labels since the program began more than 30 years ago."

The new labels show more information about fuel economy, such as predicted annual fuel costs (based on $3.70 per gallon), and how much in fuel you would save compared to an average car (an "average" car's mpg is set at 22 mpg). The labels also give a greenhouse gas rating, and a smog rating.

And it wouldn't be an updated label without a way to load it into your smarty-pants phone. Here's a video from the EPA on how that works:

NOAA

UPDATE 9:51 pm: Officials in Joplin, Missouri now report at least 122 people have been confirmed dead as a result of the tornado.

 

In Joplin, Missouri, at least 117 people were killed by an F4 tornado and more than 1,000 are unaccounted for, according to the New York Times.

It's the worst tornado to hit the United States in 64 years (181 people were killed by a tornado in Woodward, Oklahoma in 1947), and it surpasses the death toll of Michigan's worst tornado which struck in 1953.

The 1953 Flint-Beecher Tornado killed 116 people in a community just north of Flint. The F5 tornado is listed as the country's 10th deadliest tornado by NOAA's Storm Prediction Center.

The tornado had winds in excess of 200 miles per hour, was 800 yards wide, and traveled on a path for 27 miles. From NOAA:

So great a number were killed by the monstrous tornado that the National Guard Armory building, along with other shelters, was turned into a temporary morgue. The scene of bodies pouring into the Armory (as an intermittent light rain poured outside) was incredibly bleak and horrifying, especially for the families and friends of the victims. At least 100 people waited outside into the rainy night before they could move inside to try and identify the bodies.

User: Ozarks Red Cross / Flickr

The Red Cross of Washtenaw County is prepared to send volunteers to Joplin, Mo. where a tornado killed at least 117 people. The Red Cross chapter in Ann Arbor is already deploying one of its 150 volunteers to the disaster area.

Ashley Cieslinski is the Emergency Services Director of Washtenaw County’s Red Cross. She says Red Cross chapters across Michigan are prepared to help with relief efforts. 

Photo by Suzy Vuljevic

The pipeline break that spilled more than 840,000 gallons of oil into the Kalamazoo River last summer is still being cleaned up. It has left some Michigan residents with questions about the safety of sending heavy crude oil through those lines.

Dick Denuyl is a retired school teacher in Marysville. When he bought his home along the St. Clair River, he loved the beautiful setting. And he wasn’t worried about the pipelines running under the water.

flickr Kate Gardiner

Federal and state officials have a new plan for dealing with the threat of Asian Carp invading Lake Michigan.    There are fears that the carp may destroy the Great Lakes fishing industry. 

The plan includes stepping up tracking of the invasive fish species and contracting with Illinois fishermen to catch the carp before they can reach Lake Michigan.

kakisky / morgue file

A new study from researchers at Wayne State University will track coyotes in southeast Michigan. The study is meant to fill a gap on information about coyotes that live in highly populated areas.

Bill Dodge is the graduate student in charge of the project. He says reports of coyotes attacking pets are rare:

asiancap.org

 TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. (AP) - Federal and state officials are beginning a series of projects to pinpoint how close Asian carp are to the Great Lakes and reduce their numbers in Chicago-area waterways near Lake Michigan.

The Asian Carp Regional Coordinating Committee released a $7 million monitoring and sampling plan Monday.

It uses a variety of techniques to determine how many of the invasive fish are in the Chicago waters, remove as many as possible, and detect any flaws in an electric barrier designed to block their path to Lake Michigan.

In addition to netting and electrofishing, officials say they'll add new tools, including an underwater camera that can help determine whether fish are getting through the barrier.

Biologists say if Asian carp become established in the Great Lakes, they could starve out other species.

Jack Knorek / Oak Moon Farms

Large flocks of sheep are typically found in the Rocky Mountains, California, and Texas.

But there's a growing number of shepherds in Michigan.

There's solid demand for lamb meat from Michigan's ethnic communities. Lamb prices are good. And the farmland in Michigan not suited for traditional crops makes for good pasture.

I visited Jack and Martha Knorek who showed me around their farm during the height of spring lambing season.

The mama ewes were a little camera shy, so unfortunately I didn't get to see a lamb being born. One was born ten minutes before I arrived, and another was born about an hour after I left.

Flickr user NHN_2009

Authorities say about 20,000 gallons of raw sewage flowed into the Kalamazoo River following a power outage at a Battle Creek wastewater plant.
    

The Battle Creek Enquirer and the Kalamazoo Gazette report that officials on Friday issued a public health advisory following the overflow. Battle Creek Utilities Director Ken Kohs says an electrical short caused a power outage that lasted for a few hours.
    

Wikipedia.org

A bird once common to Michigan nearly became extinct. Three agencies say they'll work together to make sure work to save the bird continues. The following information comes from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service:

"The U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Michigan Department of Natural Resources have signed a memorandum of agreement pledging to continue conservation efforts for the endangered Kirtland’s warbler, regardless of the warbler’s status under the Endangered Species Act.  

Many people call Detroit a “post-industrial” city.

But residents in one corner of the city still live alongside a cluster of heavy industry, and they say it’s affecting their health. Now, community members in southwest Detroit want the state to do more to find out just how extensive those health impacts might be.

Southwest Detroit is home to a number of heavy industrial sites. Some effects can be seen with the naked eye: from hazy diesel truck fumes to an eerie metallic dust residents say has rained down on their neighborhood. But others are more subtle. The neighborhood is full of children with asthma. Residents also blame the pollution for cancer and other deadly illnesses, though such a link hasn’t been definitively established.

Now, southwest Detroit residents are pushing hard for the government to launch a thorough investigation into those potential health impacts.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says gas stations can now sell gasoline blended with 15% ethanol for all cars built in 2001 or after. Right now, when you fill up in Michigan, your gasoline has 10% ethanol.

The EPA says E15 gasoline will help reduce our need for foreign oil. Ethanol is made from plants like corn. The EPA only tested the effects of E15 on emissions and catalytic converters.

But ethanol is corrosive. Patrick Kelly is with the American Petroleum Institute.

epa.gov

It's been five years since the deep injection wells in Romulus, Michigan stopped pumping hazardous waste close to a mile underground.

Now those wells might reopen. From the Detroit News:

The two wells located off Citrin Drive have drawn opposition in the Romulus area long before original owner Environmental Disposal Systems (EDS) began accepting waste there in 2005. Operations were halted when the company ran into financial problems and state inspectors discovered leaks in the above ground apparatus. There was no lasting environmental damage, but the findings fueled opposition from local residents...

This week, EPA officials appear ready to grant tentative approval for Environmental Geo-Technologies' underground injection control permit, which would bring the reopening of the site one step closer to reality.

The deep injection wells in Romulus have been a controversial subject for decades.

Tracy Brooks/Mission Wolf/USFWS

At the moment, the federal government manages the gray wolf populations in Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin. But federal officials say the wolves in these states are doing great, and they want to hand management over to the states.

This isn’t the first time federal officials have tried to take wolves off the endangered species list. Wolves were delisted in 2007... but that delisting was challenged in court by some environmental groups. And wolves were put back on the list.

Some members of Congress are trying to make sure these kinds of lawsuits don’t happen again.

Candice Miller represents Michigan’s 10th district. It’s in the Thumb. She just introduced a bill that would amend the Endangered Species Act... and remove wolves from the list. Her bill would make it more difficult for anybody to sue over that decision.

“You have a number of anti-hunting groups and they constantly tie these decisions up in court. I think this legislation is a huge tool to be used so the courts don’t have these things happening.”

She says her office has been approached by sportsmen and farmers worried about wolves preying on deer, moose and livestock.

Michigan’s wolf management plan does not call for a hunting season for wolves. The state legislature would have to decide that.

Consumers Energy is expanding a very popular solar energy program in Michigan. The program allows people with solar panels on their homes or businesses to sell some of the power they generate to the power company. 

State regulators are directing the utility giant to expand the program.

Consumers Energy will double the amount of power it will pay people for. All utility providers in Michigan are investing in more renewable energy. State law requires them to get at least 10% of their power from renewable sources by 2015.

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