Environment & Science

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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Environment
10:44 am
Wed July 27, 2011

Cougar travels through Michigan and winds up in Connecticut

People have claimed to see cougars in the Midwest, but wildlife officials say there are no breeding populations here. The federal government has declared the cougar extinct in the Eastern United States.
Neil McIntosh Flickr

Wildlife officials believe a cougar that was killed in Connecticut traveled through Michigan's Upper Peninsula.

This from Interlochen Public Radio's Linda Stephan:

Just months after the federal government declared the cougar extinct in the Eastern United States – a wild cat has been identified in Connecticut.

DNA evidence links the cat to a South Dakota species.

And officials believe this same cat was spotted in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.

Researchers say they’re pretty confident this very cat was also sighted in Minnesota and Wisconsin.

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Environment
10:27 am
Wed July 27, 2011

Life on the Kalamazoo River: oil & wildlife (part 2)

A volunteer prepares to clean oil from the feathers of a heavily-oiled Canada goose at the Wildlife Rehabilitation Center in Marshall, Michigan in 2010.
Photo courtesy of the EPA

It was the largest inland oil spill in Midwest history... but we still don’t know exactly what it will mean for life around the river.

One year ago, a pipeline owned by Enbridge Energy broke. More than 840,000 gallons of tar sands oil polluted Talmadge Creek and the Kalamazoo River.

People who were there say the river ran black. Turtles, and muskrats and Great Blue Herons were covered in oil. It’s not clear what all this will mean for the river and the wildlife that depends on it.

“It’s really a big unknown. We don’t have much experience with oil spills in freshwater rivers in general.”

Stephen Hamilton is a professor at Michigan State University.

“This new kind of crude, the tar sands crude oil, with its different chemistry, all makes this a learning experience for everybody involved.”

Tar sands oil is very thick, and it has to be diluted in order to move through pipelines. We’ve previously reported that federal officials say the nature of this oil has made the cleanup more difficult. In fact, the cleanup has lasted longer than many people expected. The Environmental Protection Agency says there are still significant amounts of submerged oil along 35 miles of the Kalamazoo River.

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Environment
10:12 am
Tue July 26, 2011

Life on the Kalamazoo River: One year after the spill (part 1)

Last July, a pipeline owned by Enbridge Energy burst, spilling more than 843,000 gallons of oil from the Alberta tar sands into Talmadge Creek and the Kalamazoo River. This photo was taken on July 19, 2011 - oil still remains in the creek and the river.
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

Workers are still trying to clean up thick tar sands oil that’s settled at the bottom of the Kalamazoo River. It’s been one year since more than 840,000 gallons leaked from a broken pipeline owned by Enbridge Energy.  Life for those near the accident site has not returned to normal yet.

“See those clumpies?”

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Environment
3:31 pm
Mon July 25, 2011

Michigan companies sue DuPont for damaged trees

Shelly T. Flickr

UPDATE: 4:15 p.m. July 28, 2011

DuPont says its herbicide called Imprelis is responsible for tree injuries primarily on Norway spruce and white pines. They are addressing problems on a case by case basis.

ORIGINAL POST: 3:31 July 25, 2011

Three Michigan companies are suing DuPont for damages to trees on their property. It’s the first of at least four lawsuits against the chemical company. Damages linked to a DuPont-manufactured herbicide called Imprelis have been linked to dead and dying trees across the country. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) approved the chemical in 2010. Lawn care professionals say they’ve received complaints despite using Imprelis as directed. The EPA and DuPont are investigating claims.

Amy Frankmann is with the Michigan Nursery and Landscape Association. She says not only are trees suffering – so are the reputations of landscapers.

"The Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development has gone out and investigated the claims that we’ve heard about and our members have done nothing wrong. So they’ve applied it according to label and our concern is that the industry is getting a black eye when they didn’t do anything wrong," Frankmann said.

Repairs for damages nationwide are projected to be in the millions of dollars.

- Amelia Carpenter - Michigan Radio Newsroom

Environment
1:46 am
Sat July 23, 2011

Saugatuck Township accepts settlement over dune land

The Saugatuck Township board voted 5-0 in favor of the proposed settlement. There were more than a dozen police officers at Saugatuck High School. Police went through bags on the way in.
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

Saugatuck Township officials have agreed to settle a land-use case with a billionaire who’s trying develop property along Lake Michigan. Saugatuck Township voted Friday night to accept a legal settlement with Chesapeake Energy CEO Aubrey McClendon. The proposal settles a land-use dispute between the two.

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Great Lakes
5:55 pm
Thu July 21, 2011

Asian carp evidence renews calls for action

The electric barrier is located on the Chicago Ship and Sanitary Canal in Illinois. The barrier is supposed to keep asian carp out, but is it working?
USACOE

There is new evidence that Asian carp may have slipped past electric barriers in Chicago-area waterways. The barriers are meant to keep the fish from reaching the Great Lakes.

The news has launched a new wave of arguments over the threat posed by the invasive species.

The Army Corps of Engineers turned up nine positive tests for Asian carp DNA out of hundreds taken from Chicago-area waterways.

Federal officials say that’s not proof the invasive species is getting closer to Lake Michigan, or that it poses an imminent threat of infesting the Great Lakes.

The state of Michigan is suing the federal government to get the shipping locks shut down as an emergency precaution.

John Sellek is with the Michigan Attorney General’s office. He says there is a growing body of evidence that the threat exists.

“How many more warnings do we need at this point that that impending tragedy is coming? The time for studying is over. It’s time to take action.”

The state is appealing a judge’s refusal to close the Chicago shipping locks while the Army studies ways to permanently ensure Asian carp don’t become a Great Lakes problem.

Weather
4:43 pm
Thu July 21, 2011

Crest of heat wave passing through Michigan, power conservation urged

Temperatures soar as the heat wave continues.
Rich Mondky NWS

Much of the state is under excessive heat warnings and air pollution alerts today as the peak of the Midwest heat wave passes over the state. The heat index (a measure of air temperature and relative humidity) has reached 110 in some areas.

According to Jeff Masters at wunderground.com, 22 deaths in the Midwest have been blamed on the heat wave and Detroit is expected to reach 100 degrees for the first time in sixteen years.

One death in Oakland County is being blamed on the heat and power companies are asking customers to cut back on their electricity usage.

The Midwest Independent Transmission System Operator (MISO), issued an energy conservation alert today because of high customer demand.

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Environment
3:51 pm
Thu July 21, 2011

Michigan among worst for toxic air pollution from power plants

mdprovost ~ Prosper in 2011 Flickr

Michigan ranks seventh worst in air pollution on a list the Natural Resources Defense Council calls the “Toxic 20.” The NRDC study found almost half of all toxic air pollution comes from coal and oil-fired power plants. Detroit Edison’s Monroe Power Plant ranks fourth among power plant polluters in the country. Ohio took first before Pennsylvania, Florida and Kentucky.

Hugh McDiarmid is with the Michigan Environmental Council. He says Michigan is on its way to less toxic energy usage.

"We’re on sort of the verge of a new era where we’re going to use as much renewables as we possibly can, we’re going to look at efficiency because that provides power to about one tenth the cost of a new coal plant and we’re going to maximize those two efforts," McDiarmid said.

McDiarmid says Michigan’s rank on the “Toxic 20” is an opportunity to work toward less harmful energy use in the future.

The "Toxic 20" are:

  1. Ohio
  2. Pennsylvania
  3. Florida
  4. Kentucky
  5. Maryland
  6. Indiana
  7. Michigan
  8. West Virginia
  9. Georgia
  10. North Carolina
  11. South Carolina
  12. Alabama
  13. Texas
  14. Virginia
  15. Tennessee
  16. Missouri
  17. Illinois
  18. Wisconsin
  19. New Hampshire
  20. Iowa 

- Amelia Carpenter - Michigan Radio Newsroom

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