Environment & Science

The Environment Report
12:40 pm
Thu April 3, 2014

The extensive ice cover could delay fish migrations in the Great Lakes

Male and female steelhead trout.
NOAA

 

The prolonged winter and the ice cover on the Great Lakes could lead to some lasting effects on wildlife.

For one thing, scientists expect that a lot of the fish that people like to catch will be showing up late to the places they usually spawn.

Solomon David is a research scientist at Shedd Aquarium in Chicago.

David basically chases fish around for a living.

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The Environment Report
8:50 am
Thu April 3, 2014

Flu season hangs on in northern and central Michigan

A graphic representation of a generic influenza virus.
Credit CDC

Flu season is usually wrapping up at this time of year, but experts say it’s not quite over yet.

The H1N1 flu virus reared its nasty little head again this year, and made some people very sick.

Dr. Matthew Davis is the Chief Medical Executive with the Michigan Department of Community Health.

“We saw back in December and early January that some relatively healthy younger patients were getting very severe cases of flu which in some cases were requiring life-saving treatment and in some cases caused death,” he says.

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Environment & Science
6:55 am
Wed April 2, 2014

State replies to Army Corps invasive species report

Credit Rebecca Williams / Michigan Radio

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette has filed the state’s response to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' invasive species report. Schuette says his biggest complaint is the report fails to outline an aggressive plan to stop Asian carp from reaching the Great Lakes.              

The report came out in January, and it outlines possibilities without making specific recommendations on what should happen next.

That was a disappointment, says Joy Yearout, Schuette’s communications director.

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The Environment Report
11:04 am
Tue April 1, 2014

Zebra mussel-killing bacteria could help native species in the Great Lakes

Zebra mussels on a Higgins eye mussel
Credit USFWS

You can hear Peter's story above.

A treatment that kills zebra and quagga mussels could soon be available for use in lakes and rivers. It’s very effective and safe.

But it is not likely to undo much of the ecological damage done to Michigan waters by invasive mussels.

It could be good news, though, if you’re a clam.

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Environment & Science
12:44 pm
Mon March 31, 2014

No more oil in latest survey of BP oil spill in Lake Michigan

A shoreline assessment team made up of representatives from the Coast Guard, the Environmental Protection Agency and BP surveys a beach area near the BP Whiting Refinery in Whiting, Ind., March 30, 2014.
Chief Petty Officer Alan Haraf Coast Guard

The Coast Guard says crews didn't find any more oil during the latest search of the Lake Michigan shore following last week's spill at BP's northwestern Indiana refinery.

Last Monday, BP's oil refinery in Whiting, Indiana south of Chicago spilled crude oil into Lake Michigan. The company estimates the spill to be somewhere between 630 and 1,638 gallons. The oil made its way into the lake through a malfunction in the refinery's cooling system. 

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Environment & Science
3:14 pm
Sat March 29, 2014

Developer gets OK for road across Michigan dunes

The view of the McClendon property from the mouth of the Kalamazoo River.
Credit Lindsey Smith/Michigan Radio

SAUGATUCK TOWNSHIP, Mich. (AP) - Construction is expected to begin in the coming months on an access road across part of the Lake Michigan shoreline for 18 home sites.

The Grand Rapids Press reports that Singapore Dunes LLC says it has received permission from the state Department of Environmental Quality to build the two-lane blacktop in Allegan County's Saugatuck Township.

 

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Environment & Science
4:39 pm
Thu March 27, 2014

Oil spills into Lake Michigan from BP refinery in Indiana

Cleanup crews work to deploy a containment boom along the Lake Michigan shoreline near the BP Whiting Refinery in Whiting, Ind., March 25, 2014, to recover crude oil discharged from the refinery.
Petty Officer 3rd Class Parker Wood U.S. Coast Guard

This post was updated as we waited for an estimate on how much oil spilled into Lake Michigan from the BP refinery in Whiting, Indiana. Now that an estimate has been released, we'll continue to follow this story in other posts.

Update: Thursday, March 27, 4:39 p.m.

BP has revised its estimate of how much oil spilled Monday. It now says 15-39 barrels leaked from the Whiting Refinery. That's about 630-1,638 gallons.

Petty Officer Jeremy Thomas is with the U.S. Coast Guard’s Marine Safety unit in Chicago.

He says a small crew has been removing the oil manually. He says the cleanup efforts are going well.

“That involves either a gloved hand or a shovel or rake or some sort of hand powered tool to remove the oil from the shoreline,” Thomas said.

Thomas says federal agencies are waiting for weather conditions to improve before assessing if there’s any heavy tar sands oil on the lake bottom.

“There’s nothing that leads us to believe that there’s any down there but we want to rule it out because of course we want to make sure the environment’s safe and healthy and clean,” Thomas said.

It’s not clear what exactly caused the spill or how long cleanup will take.

Update: Tuesday, March 26, 7:21 p.m.

BP released a statement about an hour ago saying they are still estimating the amount of oil that was spilled and assessing whether more work will need to be done. From their statement:

Crews have recovered the vast majority of oil that had been visible on the surface of a cove-like area of Lake Michigan and on the shoreline between the refinery and a nearby steel mill. They have used vacuum trucks and absorbent boom to contain and clean up the surface oil. Responders also manually collected oil that had reached the shore.

Monitoring continues in coordination with the U.S. Coast Guard, EPA and the Indiana Department of Environmental Management. 

Update: Tuesday, March 26, 4:37 p.m.

Michigan Radio's Cynthia Canty spoke with Chicago Tribune environmental reporter Michael Hawthorne this afternoon about the spill. You can listen to the full interview here.

Hawthorne told us about the history of the Whiting refinery. It's one of the oldest refineries in the country.

"We don't know yet just how much oil was released from the refinery into Lake Michigan a couple of days ago. Some people were suggesting, at least off the record from the company, were suggesting that it was about 10 barrels - 12 barrels, not a lot in relative terms," said Hawthorne.

"And given the amount of pollution that's already going into the lake from that part of northwest Indiana, how much affect it had on the lake, at least in the eyes of environmental regulators is fairly minimal."

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Stateside
4:31 pm
Thu March 27, 2014

University of Michigan student-led group encourages young girls to pursue math and science

FEMMES volunteers.
umich.edu/~femmesum/

We recently had a discussion on Stateside that explored the question: Why are there not more women in the STEM and Computer Science programs?

After that program, we got an eye-catching email from University of Michigan student Carrie Johnson. She's in the Chemical Biology Ph.D. program, and she is a part of a student-led group called FEMMES, which stands for Females Excelling More in Math, Engineering and Science.

When we heard how these students are reaching out to encourage and inspire other women, including holding free Saturday and after-school programs for girls in 4th through 6th grade, we knew we wanted to share their story with you.

Carrie Johnson and Abigail Garrity, a Ph.D. candidate in the Neuroscience Program at Michigan and co-president of FEMMES, joined us today.

Listen to the full interview above.

Environment & Science
4:16 pm
Thu March 27, 2014

Study planned on adapting to changing water levels

NOAA

ANN ARBOR, Mich. (AP) - The University of Michigan is planning a wide-ranging study of how people in the Great Lakes region can adapt to changing water levels.

Don Scavia of the university's Graham Sustainability Institute announced the study Thursday in Ann Arbor at the conclusion of a seminar on the topic for scientists, policymakers and advocates.

It will be modeled after a broad analysis that university experts conducted last year on the natural gas extraction process known as "fracking."

Great Lakes levels fluctuate with the seasons and over longer periods. They've risen substantially in the past year after a sustained low period, but it's uncertain how long the comeback will continue.

Scavia says that shoreline property owners, communities and businesses need to accept that lake levels will not remain stable and make necessary adjustments.

The Environment Report
9:05 am
Thu March 27, 2014

Wilderness Proposals Increasingly Divisive On Capitol Hill

Good Harbor Bay is one of five zones of the national lakeshore that are now officially federally protected wilderness areas.
Linda Stephan

Originally published on Wed March 26, 2014 5:40 pm

Fifty years ago, Congress set out to guarantee future generations would always have access to America’s great outdoors in its most natural state. But several recent requests for wilderness protections have been languishing on Capitol Hill.  

In the past five years, just one new wilderness bill made it to law. This new law guarantees 35 miles of northern Lake Michigan shoreline will be forever left wild.

Good Harbor Bay

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Stateside
2:29 pm
Wed March 26, 2014

An update on Lake Michigan oil spill

The cleanup on Lake Michigan.
Screenshot from The Chicago Tribune The Chicago Tribune

An interview with Michael Hawthorne, a reporter with The Chicago Tribune.

An oil spill from a BP refinery in Whiting, Ind., this week has raised new worries about the stepped-up processing of Canadian tar sands – and threats to Lake Michigan.

Considering that seven million people in Chicagoland depend on Lake Michigan for drinking water, even a little spill might be cause for concern.

Exactly what was spilled? How far did it spread? And has BP contained the leak?

We're joined now by Michael Hawthorne, a reporter with The Chicago Tribune.

Listen to the full interview above.

The Environment Report
11:43 am
Tue March 25, 2014

Environmental groups split over proposed tax break for oil recovery

morguefile

Jake Neher talks about the proposed tax break for oil recovery.

The Michigan Legislature recently approved a package of bills that’s causing a split between environmental groups.

The legislation would lower a tax on a certain kind of oil recovery.

Jake Neher is the capitol reporter for the Michigan Public Radio Network and he’s been following this story. I spoke with him about these bills for today's Environment Report.

“The main bill in the package would cut the state severance tax from 6.6% to 4% for companies using what’s called enhanced production or enhanced recovery methods to essentially clean out low-producing oil wells. So basically, they pump a bunch of carbon dioxide into the wells to help get relatively little amounts of oil out of them. In other words, companies would pay a lower tax rate on the oil they take out of the ground using that process.”

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Environment & Science
11:07 am
Tue March 25, 2014

Tests planned for workers after mercury spill in East Lansing

600,000 gallons of raw sewage spilled into wetlands near Kalamazoo
user greg l wikimedia commons

EAST LANSING, Mich. (AP) - East Lansing has arranged for wastewater treatment plant employees to be tested for mercury poisoning after a November spill was disclosed last week.

The Lansing State Journal reports the city is investigating how the spill occurred and why it wasn't immediately reported. Public Works Director Todd Sneathen says he interviewed workers Monday and arranged for tests for as many as 16.

The state says a call to a pollution tip line reported at least 1.5 pounds of mercury spilled.

Sneathen says the city learned of the spill on Thursday when a group of plant workers came forward and requested a meeting.

Sneathen says workers used a vacuum to clean up the spill.

Jim Wilson, Ingham County's environmental health director, says officials found high levels of mercury inside the vacuum.

Environment & Science
5:38 am
Mon March 24, 2014

Poll: Public less supportive of state efforts to combat climate change

The University of Michigan’s Center for Local, State and Urban Policy asked people whether their state governments should adopt policies to deal with climate change, for example reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
Steve Carmody Michigan Radio

A new poll shows less support for states, including Michigan, to take steps to combat climate change.

The University of Michigan’s Center for Local, State and Urban Policy asked people whether their state governments should adopt policies to deal with climate change, for example reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

In 2008, U of M researchers found strong support. In 2013, the support for state action had eroded.

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Environment & Science
6:00 am
Fri March 21, 2014

Dearborn steel mill wants state to loosen emission limits, neighbors worry

A Dearborn steel plant wants the state to let it legally emit more air pollution, a prospect that doesn’t sit well with many of the people who live nearby.

The massive, 350-acre Severstal steel complex sits in a heavily industrial area along the Dearborn-Detroit border. It’s been cited 37 times for violating its current state air quality permit.

But Severstal thinks that permit was too strict. In its new permit application, the company wants the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality to raise the emissions cap for a number of pollutants, including lead and carbon monoxide.

That angers many south Dearborn residents, like Norieah Ahmed. Speaking at a packed public hearing on the proposed new rules this week, Ahmed said her community already suffers from too much pollution.

“We cannot allow for an increase in permitted levels simply because Severstal once again can’t meet those standards,” Ahmed said.

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Environment & Science
1:16 pm
Wed March 19, 2014

Senators want faster action on stopping Asian carp

DNR

TRAVERSE CITY – A group of U.S. senators wants the federal government to move faster on preventing Asian carp from reaching the Great Lakes through waterways in the Chicago area.

Eleven senators from states in the region sent a letter Tuesday to the assistant secretary of the Army, whose office oversees the Army Corps of Engineers. The letter asks a series of questions about when the Corps might begin tasks such as adding barriers at the southernmost lock in the Chicago Area Waterway System.

It also asks what authorization the Corps needs from Congress to move more quickly toward short- and long-term solutions.

The Corps issued a report in January with options for blocking the invasive carp's path to Lake Michigan, but says Congress and regional stakeholders must choose the final plan.

Environment & Science
7:43 pm
Tue March 18, 2014

Clean up begins of fuel oil leak in Kalamazoo River

The Kalamazoo River downstream of Comstock Township, near Plainwell. Officials are unlear how much of the fuel oil escaped downstream but haven't seen any significant impact yet.
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

Efforts are under way to clean up a fuel oil spill in Kalamazoo County.

It's estimated as much as 115 gallons of the fuel oil leaked from an above-ground storage tank at Klooster's Greenhouse, in Comstock Township. Authorities believe the leak was the result of an attempt to steal fuel. They say fuel oil has seeped into the soil near the tank, and some of it made its way into a storm drain, which carried it into the Kalamazoo River.

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Environment & Science
3:31 pm
Mon March 17, 2014

How are robins faring this winter?

Should we be worried about robins this winter?
Wikipedia.org

If you grew up in Michigan, chances are when you thought of the very first signs of spring you thought of crocuses and robins. 

But have you noticed that in recent years, something has changed– that robins are pretty much with us all through the winter?

Why has this happened, and do we have any reason to worry about robins in this exceptionally harsh winter?

Julie Craves, director of the Rouge River Bird Observatory in Dearborn, joined us. 

Listen to the full interview above.

Environment & Science
12:21 pm
Mon March 17, 2014

MSU breaks ground on advanced nuclear science project

Numerous dignitaries, including U.S. Senators Carl Levin and Debbie Stabenow, symbolically broke ground for the Facility for Rare Isotope Beams on the MSU campus.
Steve Carmody Michigan Radio

Using one of the lowest-tech tools – shovels – officials broke ground today on what will someday be one of the most advanced centers for scientific research in the world. 

Members of Michigan’s congressional delegation joined Michigan State University officials and others in breaking near-frozen ground for what will be the Facility of Rare Isotope Beams.

The facility, known as FRIB, will allow scientists to experiment with nuclear elements that do not normally exist on Earth.

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Environment & Science
4:30 pm
Sun March 16, 2014

Federal agency wants you to help improve honeybees’ diet

The USDA is trying to improve the honeybees' diets.
cygnus921 Creative Commons

The U.S. Department of Agriculture is trying to give honeybees more and better-quality food in the Midwest.

Dan Zay is a biologist with the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service in Michigan. He says the agency hopes a better variety of high-quality flowering plants will help honeybees rebound from major population losses over the last eight years.

“It’s said that one in three mouthfuls of food and drink that we consume involves the efforts of honeybees,” Zay said.

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