Environment & Science

Paulette Parker / Michigan Radio

Wayne County Executive Warren Evans is urging the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality to reject permit requests that would allow Marathon Oil and US Ecology to increase emissions and  hazardous waste.

The Marathon Petroleum Refinery in Detroit has been embroiled in controversy over its request to increase sulfur dioxide emissions.

"Our request there is: Before you even contemplate an increase in the permitting, that you show us that you're making some concrete steps in controlling the pollution that's already there," Evans said.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is defending its eGRID system against a critique by an analytics think tank.

Companies all across the U.S. use eGRID to calculate their own indirect carbon emissions based on how much electricity they use. And it's not uncommon to see a company brag about a) their transparency on emissions and b) their progress in reducing their indirect emissions to fight climate change. 

Rebecca Williams / Michigan Radio

It’s been almost four months since Flint went back to buying water from Detroit’s water system.

Here’s the good news: Since January, more than 90 percent of water tests have come back below the federal action level for lead of 15 parts per billion.

But there are still some insanely high lead levels in some homes. Take a look at a map of where those are, and you'll see there’s no pattern.

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

Flint’s ongoing water crisis, and the wider concerns it’s sparked about water quality throughout the state, was the subject of a town hall meeting in Royal Oak this weekend.

Speakers included Sue McCormick, head of the state’s new largest water supplier, southeast Michigan’s Great Lakes Water Authority; Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha, the Flint pediatrician who helped bring the city’s lead-in-water crisis to light; and Jim Nash, Oakland County’s water resources commissioner.

map of michigan
Screencap from Google Maps / Google / Google

The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality is holding public meetings on Tuesday about a proposal to divert water from Lake Michigan.

Waukesha, Wisconsin wants to build a pipeline to the Great Lakes.

It has a radium problem in its groundwater supply. Radium occurs naturally, but it’s a carcinogen.

The city wants to divert 10.1 million gallons a day from Lake Michigan in the beginning, and up to 16.7 million gallons a day by 2050.

wikieditor243 / wikimedia/commons

Updated 2/8/16 at 1:32 pm and 2/10/16 at 2:50 pm

Many companies are making their carbon emissions public, to show they are doing their part to fight climate change.

But new research by Lux Research indicates most companies in the U.S. are either underestimating or overestimating their emissions.

Ory Zik is Vice President of Analytics for Lux Research.  He says estimating one's own carbon emissions is very difficult.  That's because electricity moves from region to region on grids.

A dive team works on Line 5 under the Straits of Mackinac.
Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

Recently released information about the condition of Enbridge’s Line 5 oil pipelines in the Straits of Mackinac shows some signs of corrosion. But company officials continue to say the twin pipelines running under Lake Michigan are safe.

A sewage main for the Detroit sewer and water system.
Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

A new report from the Environmental Protection Agency says communities in the eight Great Lakes states will need close to $80 billion to update and replace wastewater infrastructure in the next 20 years.

The recently released 2012 Clean Watersheds Needs Survey says national waste water management needs total $271 billion. 

That includes general water treatment plant infrastructure, storm water management systems, and aging sewage systems.

Lead pipes
Mitch Barrie / Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

The Flint water crisis has attracted attention and outrage from all over the globe, but unfortunately, the city of Flint isn’t the first to have its population affected by lead.

Due to the age and condition of lead water lines, it’s entirely possible that other cities around the country are currently suffering from elevated lead levels.

The most recent large-scale example of lead poisoning was discovered in 2001 in Washington D.C.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced yesterday afternoon they’ve sent a “public health strike team” to Flint.

HHS says it has sent in more than a dozen officers with the Commissioned Corps. That’s a uniformed service of public health experts.

They’ll be doing follow-up medical visits with kids whose tests have come back with elevated levels of lead in their blood.

Gov. Rick Snyder said in a press release: "Heidi [Grether] has decades of experience in environmental quality issues, and has effectively served during times of crises and recovery."
Michigan Radio

Michigan Governor Rick Snyder will propose $30 million in state funding to help pay the water bills of Flint residents facing an emergency over the city's lead-contaminated water supply.

Snyder will brief city officials and pastors about the proposal Wednesday and outline it to lawmakers next week in his annual budget proposal, according to a statement the governor's office provided to The Associated Press.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Numerous media outlets, including the Detroit Free Press and CNN are reporting a congressional committee has issued Darnell Earley a subpoena to testify about the Flint water crisis. 

Earley is a former Emergency Manager for the city of Flint. He is currently the Emergency Manager for Detroit Public Schools, but announced on Tuesday he would resign from that position on February 29, 2016.

The House Oversight Committee had earlier invited Earley to testify on Wednesday along with several other officials related to the Flint water crisis, but Earley refused.

Flint River and water plant
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

It's still not safe to drink the tap water in Flint.

The Environmental Protection Agency recently announced it's stepping in to test water, along with the state.

Mark Durno is the on-scene coordinator for the EPA. He says the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality is still in charge of testing for lead in water samples from people’s homes. Durno says the EPA is then going into the homes with very high lead levels (greater than 150 ppb) to find out what’s going on.

The DEQ did not require Flint to treat its water to prevent lead from leaching from old pipes and faucets.

Flickr user USFWSmidwest/Flickr / http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

  

An industrial chemical is showing up in trout from the Great Lakes. It’s called perfluoro-1-butane sulfonamide, or FBSA.

Researchers traced this chemical back to several products on the market. Those include detergents and surfactants first used in 2003. Surfactants are materials made to stainproof and waterproof products.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

In Flint today, top scientists from all three University of Michigan campuses met to discuss future research into the city’s drinking water crisis.

U of M is putting up $100,000 in seed money to help get the research started. University President Mark Schlissel is encouraging scientists from Dearborn and Ann Arbor, as well as Flint, to see what kinds of research opportunities might be worth pursuing in the wake of the crisis. 

U of M-Flint Chancellor Sue Borrego says now’s the time to coordinate work being conducted on Flint’s lead-tainted tap water.

user braun / Flickr

Political leaders are lining up to blast a Detroit oil refinery’s plan.

Mayor Mike Duggan was just one of the officials speaking out at a public hearing Thursday night.

Duggan threatened to sue the state if the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality approves the Marathon refinery’s plan.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

The state is launching an effort in Flint to recycle the tens of thousands of water bottles and filters pouring into the city. By one estimate, only about 16% of Flint residents routinely recycle.  

The city’s lead-tainted drinking water crisis is creating another problem with what to do with donated water filters and bottles.

State and local officials are teaming up with local companies to give Flint residents more ways to dispose of used water bottles and filters.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Donations of bottled water have been flooding into Flint.

Making sure people have safe drinking water is the top priority in Flint right now. But some people are wondering about one side effect of the water crisis: where all those empty bottles are ending up.

Sarah Hulett / Michigan Radio

The Marathon Petroleum refinery in southwest Detroit is no stranger to controversy. But its request to increase sulfur dioxide emissions has sparked a major backlash. The company has done a huge expansion of its southwest Detroit refinery in the past few years.

A Flint water protest
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

The legal team representing one of the class action lawsuits stemming from the Flint water crisis served subpoenas for records today on Governor Snyder, the Governor's Office and the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ).

The documents will be delivered to class counsel by Tuesday, February 9, 2016 at 11 a.m.

Steven Depolo / Flickr Creative Commons / http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

Water donations flooding into Flint means a lot of empty plastic bottles.

That's why a local environmental company is offering to recycle residents' water bottles, starting today.

Young's Environmental Cleanup, Inc. is an emergency response and environmental remediation provider with offices in Flint and Grand Rapids.

The company will act as a collection point and has partnered with Averill Recycling and Great Lakes Recycling of Flint to recycle the bottles.

The Flint River and the Flint water treatment plant.
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

The Environmental Protection Agency has issued an emergency order under the Safe Drinking Water Act. State and city officials in Flint will now have to take immediate steps to address the Flint water crisis.

The EPA says the state and local responses to the water crisis have been inadequate to protect public health, and the agency says these failures continue.

Here's what the EPA said in a statement Thursday evening:

People in Flint are relying on bottled water while officials try to figure out how to fix the tap water.
Michigan State Police

In his State of the State address this week, Governor Rick Snyder apologized to people in Flint for the water crisis. 

“I’m sorry most of all that I let you down,” he said. “You deserve better. You deserve accountability. You deserve to know that the buck stops here with me. Most of all, you deserve to know the truth, and I have a responsibility to tell the truth.”

The governor said he would release his emails related to Flint. Those emails came out late yesterday afternoon.

In general, the emails didn’t divulge anything big. They pretty much underscored what’s already been revealed. That the state didn't recognize the severity of the problem, and downplayed or dismissed the warning signs.

Credit Flickr user David Salafia/Flickr / http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

Researchers are looking into the possible ripple effects of lead exposure. 

After the city of Flint switched to the Flint River for its drinking water, experts found the number of kids with elevated levels of lead in their blood doubled.

Even low levels of lead can cause kids to lose IQ points and end up with behavior problems.

Ann Arbor removes 10 parks from deer cull list

Jan 14, 2016
Deer
Noel Zia Lee/Flickr

Ten Ann Arbor parks are open to the public again, following the city's decision to remove them from a list of sites where sharpshooters with the U.S. Department of Agriculture will shoot deer.

That leaves 14 parks closed to the public from 4 p.m. until 7 a.m. on weekdays until the deer cull ends on March 1.

According to a press release from the City of Ann Arbor, the decision to reopen the parks was "a result of recent operational assessments related to the cull."

The riverfront in Traverse City
Iulia Ascanius / Public Domain

The Next Idea

Most anyone would agree that Traverse City is one of Michigan’s crown jewels. It’s a beautiful location and a great place to live, visit and retire.

But one thing Traverse City has lacked is a strong central point for the area’s tech industry.

Russell Schindler is a Traverse City geologist and entrepreneur. He basically got sick and tired of driving nearly four hours to Ann Arbor for tech meet-ups, so he started a new group, called TC New Tech.

Pollution from the former site of Mount Clemens Metal Products has been spreading across Antrim County for decades, contaminating trillions of gallons of groundwater with trichloroethylene, a cancer-causing chemical.
DEQ

Michigan has more than 280 contaminated sites that are “orphans.” That means the company that made the mess no longer exists and the state has to deal with it.

But Michigan is running out of money to tackle these environmental problems. That was not good news for Antrim County, home to one of the largest contaminated sites in the country. State management of an underground plume of trichlorethylene (TCE) has been crucial here for years and will be needed in the future.

The committee heard from Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha, who helped bring attention to the elevated blood lead levels in the children in Flint.
Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

There's a new initiative being launched to help the victims of the decision to switch water sources in Flint.

Those victims are the children.

The number of Flint children with elevated levels of lead in their blood has doubled since the water switch was made nearly two years ago.

Now we learn that Hurley Children's Hospital in Flint is joining with Michigan State University to help these children.

A Flint water protest
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder has activated the National Guard to help distribute bottled water and filters in a city that is confronting a drinking water crisis.

His executive order issued late this evening is intended to bolster outreach to Flint residents. The crisis comes after state health authorities confirmed elevated blood-lead levels in children.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Researchers from Virginia Tech announced yesterday they are ending their investigation into Flint’s lead tainted water.

Virginia Tech sounded the alarm last summer when their tests turned up high lead levels in Flint drinking water.

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