Environment & Science

Environment
2:55 pm
Sun August 14, 2011

Michigan State leading multistate freshwater study

Turtles on the Fort Gratiot Nature Trail, MI
Flickr user mdprovost

A Michigan State University scientist is leading a team of researchers to study how lakes, streams and wetlands are connected to their surroundings.

Associate professor of fisheries and wildlife Patricia Soranno is using a $2.2 million National Science Foundation grant to examine land use and climate change's effect on freshwater ecosystems.

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Environment
2:37 pm
Fri August 12, 2011

Lake Michigan receives 'C' grade on new report card

Kevin Dooley Flickr

Lake Michigan gets an overall ‘C’ grade on a new report card from the Senate Great Lakes Task Force. Beach water quality and lake water levels got ‘D’ grades, scoring lowest on the report card. Superfund cleanup efforts got a ‘B’ and the fight against invasive species like Asian carp got a ‘C.’

Matt Doss is with the Ann Arbor-based Great Lakes Commission. He says the poor grades will help the state.

“It’s going to help hold us all accountable for improving these grades moving forward,” he said. “We can do better and we need to do better.”

The Great Lakes Commission works to improve the health of all five Great Lakes.

- Amelia Carpenter - Michigan Radio Newsroom

Environment
2:07 pm
Fri August 12, 2011

Mosquitos gone wild: It's extra bad out there

Michael Kaufman Michigan State University

It’s not your imagination: The mosquitos are really bad in Michigan right now, and they’re not going away anytime soon.

It’s been a hot summer, with lots of rain, some dry spells in between, then lots more rain.

Perfect, if you’re a mosquito.

Mike Kaufman is a Michigan State University entomologist. He says not only do we have our usual crop of mosquitos, we’ve got psorophora ciliata, a big mosquito with a big bite. It’s native to Michigan, but fairly rare.

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Environment
1:30 pm
Thu August 11, 2011

No Asian carp found in search of Illinois lake

Bighead Asian carp caught in Lake Calumet last year
(courtesy of the Illins Department of Natural Resources)

State and federal wildlife officials say their latest search has turned up no Asian carp swimming in an Illinois lake close to Lake Michigan, though they admit they can’t say there are no carp in the lake. 

“We’re saying if there are fish there…they’re there in very low abundances," says Kevin Irons,  the head of the state of Illinois’ office of Nuisance Aquatic Life.   He says no Asian carp were found during a recent four day search of Lake Calumet.   Carp DNA was found in the lake recently.  

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Environment
10:26 am
Thu August 11, 2011

White House issues first ever fuel economy standards for biggest trucks

Medium and heavy duty trucks built in 2014 through 2018 will have to meet new fuel economy and greenhouse gas standards.
Photo courtesy of EPA

When you’re on the highway, you see all those big 18-wheelers... the cement trucks and trucks hauling logs... the refrigerated trucks heading to the grocery store... pretty soon, all these kinds of trucks will be seeing some changes.

David Friedman is with the Union of Concerned Scientists. He says these trucks are cleaner than they used to be.

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Environment
10:08 am
Tue August 9, 2011

MSU researchers testing beef tracking from pasture to plate

Beef from the cattle on this 350 acre farm on MSU's campus will be served in the cafeterias at MSU in the fall.
Photo by Emily Fox

Local food is the hottest thing on menus this year. That’s according to a survey by the National Restaurant Association. Michigan State University researchers are trying to give consumers more information about locally grown food.

Some say local is the new green. Here's how two characters in the show Portandia portray the local food movement in America:

Waitress: “My name is Dana, I’ll be taking care of you today if you have any questions about the menu, please let me know.”

Woman: “I guess I do have a question about the chicken. If you could just tell us a little more about it.”

Waitress: “Uh, the chicken is a heritage breed, woodland raised chicken that’s been fed a diet of sheep’s milk, soy and hazelnuts. . .”

Man: “This is local?”

Waitress: “Yes. Absolutely.”

Man: “I’m going to ask you one more time. And it’s local?”

Waitress: “It is.”

Woman: “Is that USDA organic, Oregon organic or Portland organic?”

Waitress: “It’s just all across the board. Organic.”

FOX: Okay, so not every restaurant is like the one featured in this sitcom. But researchers at Michigan State University say people do want more information about their food. They're starting a pilot program to do just that with local beef.

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Environment
10:00 am
Tue August 9, 2011

Company unveils new wind turbine plant

Jeff Kubina / flickr

The head of the Environmental Protection Agency, Lisa Jackson, is in Michigan today. She’s visiting for a ribbon cutting at Ventower Industries in Monroe. It’s a company that will be making towers for wind turbines.

The Monroe facility will serve as Ventower's main U.S. operation.

35 employees will start work this week, and as many as 300 could eventually work there.

Scott Viciana is the company’s vice president. He says the plant is built on the site of a former industrial landfill.  So first, they had to clean up the land.

“We stumbled across less (sic) concerns in the end than we thought potentially we could.”

Ventower got state and federal tax credits to clean up the brownfield site.

EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson says that makes it a double win for the environment.

"What we see here today is a return to use. A return to use for a site that will preserve green space, but also support a clean energy economy."

Ventower officials say the Monroe site is ideal because it can ship parts by road, rail, and a Great Lakes port.

Education
6:00 am
Mon August 8, 2011

Oakland University opens new medical school

Michigan faces a physician shortage by 2020
user clarita morguefile

Classes start today at the new, privately funded Oakland University William Beaumont School of Medicine in southeast Michigan. It's the first of three new medical schools expected to come online in the next few years.

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Environment
2:29 pm
Sun August 7, 2011

Downed trees used to create electricity

Felled trees
Andy Dolman/Creative Commons

Tons of trees felled by a spring storm that swept across Calhoun County will be used to help generate power for residents and businesses in Mid-Michigan.
    

The Battle Creek Enquirer reports that a two-story pile of limbs and branches will be fed into the Genesee Power Station in Flint, which uses wood fuel to create electricity.
    

The debris pile has been growing at the Community Compost Center in Marengo Township, about 110 miles west of Detroit.
    

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Environment
11:00 am
Thu August 4, 2011

Crews looking for Asian carp in Lake Calumet

Kate Gardiner Creative Commons

Crews in Chicago are on the hunt for Asian carp this week. The term Asian carp refers to two species: bighead and silver carp. The crews are looking for the carp in Lake Calumet, which is linked by a river to Lake Michigan. Asian carp have been found in the rivers that feed into Lake Michigan from Illinois.

John Rogner is the assistant director of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. He says they’re looking for live carp after finding carp DNA in Lake Calumet.

He says it could mean there are live Asian carp in the lake.

“But there are some other possibilities. One is that there is DNA that comes upstream from downriver from boat hulls; it might be coming from restaurants in parts of Chicago that come out through the storm sewers.”

Some restaurants in the city serve Asian carp, so waste water could contain DNA from the fish. Rogner says people could also be releasing live carp into the lake, even though that’s illegal.

He says so far this week, they have not found any live bighead or silver carp in Lake Calumet.

Environment
10:41 am
Thu August 4, 2011

Koi herpesvirus shows up in wild Michigan fish

Koi are susceptible to koi herpesvirus, and so are carp and goldfish. Officials want to study whether native Michigan fish, such as minnows, are also at risk.
Photo by Flickr user: eye of einstein

State officials say they’ve discovered a virus for the first time in wild fish in Michigan. It’s called koi herpesvirus.

Gary Whelan is with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources.

He says the virus might have contributed to the death of several hundred common carp in Kent Lake last June. Whelan says the virus is known to affect common carp, goldfish and koi. And it can be fatal.

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Environment
10:25 am
Thu August 4, 2011

EPA asks Enbridge for missing data

The Environmental Protection Agency is asking the company responsible for last year’s oil spill in the Kalamazoo River for information they say is missing. Last summer an Enbridge Energy pipeline ruptured, releasing more than 840,000 gallons of tar sands oil. Cleanup is still underway.

Last spring after the snow and ice melted, cleanup efforts on the Kalamazoo River really ramped up. The EPA came up with a plan to monitor air quality. The agency directed Enbridge to collect air samples to look for contaminants that could have been stirred up during the spring cleaning. Enbridge also was supposed to collect weather data so the EPA knew the conditions when the samples were taken.

Ralph Dollhopf heads EPA’s Incident Command for the Enbridge spill. He says some of that weather data is missing.

“It’s not necessarily a bad thing but we want to make sure that we understand the complete situation.”

Dollhopf says they’re asking Enbridge to supply the missing data or explain why it’s missing.

Marshall resident Susan Connolly says she’s disappointed, but not surprised the data Enbridge is responsible for gathering could be missing.

“That would be just like letting a pedophile babysit a child. I mean why would you let the person that caused the pipeline to spill to be the ones to monitor?"

The EPA oversees the cleanup.

An Enbridge spokesman says the company has not received the EPA’s notice yet so he declined to comment for now.

Environment
4:51 pm
Wed August 3, 2011

AP: Virus may have contributed to Kent Lake fish kill

Michigan officials say a virus may have contributed to a June Kent Lake fish kill
User jamieca Flickr

Michigan officials say a fish virus may have contributed to a June fish kill of 300 to 500 common carp in
Kent Lake.

The state Department of Natural Resources announced Wednesday that samples taken from the lake in Livingston and Oakland counties detected the presence of koi herpesvirus.

State officials say it's the first time the virus has been found in wild fish samples in Michigan. It was detected in a private koi pond near Grand Rapids in 2003.

The DNR says the virus has been seen before in large-scale common carp die-offs in Ontario, Canada, in 2007 and 2008.

The virus affects common carp, goldfish and koi. The state says there are no human health effects.

Environment
10:49 am
Tue August 2, 2011

Sea lampreys gaining the upper hand

The mouth of a lamprey. It uses suction, teeth, and a razor sharp tongue to attach itself to its prey... and then it starts drinking blood.
Photo courtesy of USFWS

For fifty years Canada and the U.S. have been battling an eel-like creature across the Great Lakes. Sea lampreys are parasites that drill holes in fish to feed on blood and body fluids. They often kill the fish. The sea lamprey was one of the first invasive species to arrive in the lakes, and it’s the only invasive to be successfully controlled by humans.

But in recent years, the lamprey has been getting the upper hand in the struggle. As Peter Payette reports there might be more setbacks in the near future:

If you’re on a lamprey control team you get to see all the prettiest streams and rivers in the Great Lakes. That’s because lampreys like clean water.

“Part of our problems recently have been some of the streams that were too dirty to harbor lampreys have been cleaned up and now we have lampreys in parts of the Saginaw River. We never had lampreys in that up until 15 or 20 years ago.”

Ellie Koon supervises one of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife treatment teams. They spend the warm months killing young lampreys by the thousands.

They treat rivers using a chemical called lampricide. It’s a poison that rarely hurts other fish. In fact, during a treatment the fish get a feast they normally wouldn’t. Young lampreys look a bit like worms at this stage and stay in the mud. But when they’re poisoned they swim out where fish can grab them.

Ellie Koon and one of her team members, Hank Cupp, say fish and other animals in the river pig out.

“You can almost hear the fish burping the day after we treat. You can see them swimming around with lampreys hanging out of their mouths that they can’t swallow.”

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Environment
12:29 am
Tue August 2, 2011

Third-party groups hope to weigh in on possible Saugatuck deal involving coastal dunes

Dunes near Saugatuck
Norm Hoekstra Creative Commons

Three non-profit organizations are asking a federal judge to let them weigh in on a proposed settlement between a private developer and Saugatuck Township.  Both parties have agreed to the deal, but a federal judge must approve it. The agreement would resolve a longstanding land-use case.

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Environment
1:00 pm
Fri July 29, 2011

Your Story: Seeing the oil along the Kalamazoo River

Sasha Acker shares a story about her trip down to the banks of Kalamazoo River. She's an activist, social worker, and grad student living in Kalamazoo.
Sasha Acker

It happened a year ago. An oil pipeline owned by Enbridge Energy spilled more than 840,000 gallons of tar-sands oil into Talmadge Creek which flows into the Kalamazoo River.

People were evacuated, the Red Cross set up shelter, and officials were wondering if the spill might reach Lake Michigan (it never did).

Sasha Acker is a social worker, grad student, and activist living in Kalamazoo, Michigan.

She sits on the board of the Kalamazoo Peace Center. We asked people to share their experiences with the Enbridge oil spill on our Facebook page.

Acker wrote:

I was skeptical when Enbridge put out a press release that said that the oil was all cleaned up, so I went to a spot along the river near Battle Creek. I went with a group that picked up gobs and gobs of oil and video taped it.

The news story Acker saw was published in August of last year. She told us that her chance to visit the river came this past spring when activists from the Yes Men  contacted her about a planned media hoax to draw more attention to the Enbridge oil spill.

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Weather
6:49 am
Fri July 29, 2011

Storms bring threat of more flooding to Michigan

Another round of thunderstorms packing heavy rains has prompted flash flood warnings in Michigan's Lower
Peninsula.

The National Weather Service on Friday morning had flash flood warnings in effect in Barry, Eaton, Ingham and Allegan counties. Flood watches or advisories were in effect in other parts of southern Michigan.

The latest rains followed storms that moved through the state Thursday, bringing several inches of rain in places. Those storms left roadways under water and forced families from their homes.

The Lansing area was among those hard hit by Thursday's storms, with flooding prompting rescues and damaging homes.

Environment
10:20 am
Thu July 28, 2011

Life on the Kalamazoo River: suing & settling with Enbridge (part 3)

Wayne and Sue Groth used to live near Talmadge Creek, where the oil spill occurred last summer. They eventually sold their home to the energy company, Enbridge.
Photo by Steve Carmody

A year ago... a ruptured pipeline spewed more than 840,000 gallons of tar sands oil into the Kalamazoo River.

The crude oil had a big environmental impact. It also affected the lives of thousands of people living in the spill zone. The pipeline’s owners have spent the past year reimbursing many of them for their losses.

Wayne Groth says the odor of the oil was overpowering the first night. Talmadge Creek runs right past the home he and his wife Sue lived in for 22 years. The oil flowed down Talmadge Creek into the Kalamazoo River.

Groth says it wasn’t long after the spill that clipboard carrying employees of Enbridge started walking through his neighborhood, promising to clean up oil. He says they made another promise too...

“They said if you’re still not happy with the job... you could sell your property to them. They would buy it from us.”

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Weather
6:28 am
Thu July 28, 2011

Storms bring heavy rains, flooding

Thunderstorms packing heavy rains left some roadways under water, prompted flash flood warnings across much of southern Michigan and knocked out power to more than 21,000 homes and businesses.

The National Weather Service on Thursday morning had flash flood warnings, flash flood watches or flood advisories in effect. The weather service says storms brought 2 to 4 inches of rain in places within a few hours, and up to 5 inches was forecast in places.

The Grand Rapids Press reported numerous instances of cars stuck in water on streets throughout Grand Rapids and surrounding Kent County.

WWJ-AM reports officials in Washtenaw County reported heavy rains prompted flooding that blocked a number of roadways.

DTE Energy Co. reports about 15,000 outages. CMS Energy Corp. tells WOOD-TV it has about 6,500 outages.

Environment
10:11 pm
Wed July 27, 2011

Zoning questions linger in dunes land-use settlement in Saugatuck

The Saugatuck Township Board voted Friday to accept the proposed settlement with Singapore Dunes LLC.
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

A federal judge still has to approve a settlement between a private developer and Saugatuck Township to resolve a long-standing land-use case. But there is already talk of a new lawsuit at the state level if the federal judge approves the agreement.

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