Environment & Science

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Firearm deer season is underway today in Michigan.

The hunt is giving state wildlife officials a chance to expand the search for more cases of chronic wasting disease.

In April, a 6 year old doe tested positive for CWD, a fatal neurological disease. It was the first case of a free ranging deer coming down with the disease. Since then, two more deer have tested positive. All three deer were from Ingham County and were related.    

A pair of Eastern Massasauga rattlesnakes, the only venomous snake native to Michigan.
Steven Parrish / Matthaei Botanical Gardens and Nichols Arboretum, the University of Michigan

The Eastern Massasauga — the sole rattlesnake to inhabit the state of Michigan — is facing rapid population loss that's prompting national concern for Michigan wildlife.

In September 2015, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposed to list the snake as a "threatened species" under the Endangered Species Act, which would qualify the snake for national funds to help preserve the species. 

State urges hunters to help keep deer disease out of UP

Nov 12, 2015
Michigan Department of Natural Resources

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources has launched an education campaign to try to keep chronic wasting disease from spreading to the Upper Peninsula.

The disease affects the central nervous system and is always fatal to white-tailed deer, mule deer, elk, and moose, according to the DNR. And there is no known treatment.  

Tom Kowalczk

The Coast Guard has been responding to a leaky shipwreck on the bottom of western Lake Erie.

The shipwreck is believed to be the Argo. It’s a tank barge that sank in 1937 and it’s considered the biggest pollution threat from a shipwreck in the Great Lakes.

NOAA

Scientists say a toxic bacteria bloom in Lake Erie this past summer was the largest on record, and produced a thick scum so big it could almost cover New York City.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says the outbreak surpassed the record-setting bloom in 2011 that stretched from Toledo to Cleveland.

Sandy Bihn is with Lake Erie Waterkeeper Inc. 

She says states bordering Lake Erie have to dramatically reduce the amount of phosphorus getting into the lake.

Phosphorus is a nutrient that helps cyanobacteria grow.

Susan Ellis, USDA APHIS PPQ / Bugwood.org

It's called a swede midge.

A tiny insect that has the power to cause some big problems for farmers. And now this pest has turned up on several organic farms in Sanilac County.

Zsofia Szendrei is a Michigan State University associate professor who specializes in arthropod farm pests.

She joined us today to talk about the scope of the midge population and what's at stake for Michigan's vegetables. 

DAVID KENYON MICHIGAN DNR

Snowy owls are doing some unusual things again this year.

The last two winters, people in Michigan saw a lot of them. There were big migrations of owls called irruptions – that’s when they fly south from their breeding grounds in the Arctic.

This year, researchers don’t expect those big numbers again, but they are surprised by how early owls are arriving.

Most snowy owls start arriving here in the middle of November into December, but owls started showing up in the Great Lakes region in mid-October this year.

Wikipedia

The US Environmental Protection Agency has pledged almost $20 million dollars to help clean up the Clinton River in southeast Michigan.

The river, which flows largely through Macomb County into Lake Saint Clair, has been designated a Great Lakes Area of Concern for many years.

EPA officials announced Monday that more federal money is coming through the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative.

Pinhole-sized leak plugged on sunken barge in Lake Erie

Nov 7, 2015
Tom Kowalczk

TOLEDO, Ohio (AP) - The U.S. Coast Guard says divers in Lake Erie have found and plugged a pinhole-sized leak on a sunken barge near where an oil-based substance has been spotted in recent weeks.

The Coast Guard says there appeared to be a colorless liquid coming from the tiny leak.

Crews have been monitoring the site near the U.S.-Canadian border since discovering a sheen on the surface late last month.

The substance is believed to be coming from the barge that sank in 1937 and is on a federal registry of the most serious pollution threats to U.S. waters.

wikimedia commons

Wayne County's wastewater treatment plant will soon have to reduce the amount of phosphorus it dumps into the Detroit River.

It's part of the state's plan to lower phosphorus levels in Lake Erie to control cyanobacteria blooms. 

Bill Creal is with the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality.  He says the new permit for Wayne County will be the same as the permit given to Detroit Water and Sewerage last year, which was more successful at reducing phosphorus than anyone envisioned.

The office of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau

Michigan’s two United States Senators have sent a letter to Canada’s new prime minister to kill plans for a nuclear waste dump along Lake Huron.

The plans call for nuclear waste storage facility less than a mile from the shore of Lake Huron.

The former Conservative prime minister’s government was supportive of the plan. But the Conservatives lost a recent election to the Liberal Party. 

Jason Jenkins-Asian Carp Regional Coordinating Committee / flickr creative commons http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

Members of Congress want faster government action to stop Asian carp from reaching the Great Lakes through Chicago-area waterways.

US Senator Debbie Stabenow and a bi-partisan group of Great Lakes legislators met Wednesday with representatives of key federal agencies.

"We have to keep the Army Corps of Engineers, who has the primary responsibility now, laser focused on doing everything they can to stop these carp," said Stabenow.

Tap water in a Flint hospital on Oct. 16, 2015.
Joyce Zhu / Flintwaterstudy.org

The Environmental Protection Agency says it’s conducting a full review of what happened in Flint.

For more than a year, state officials assured city residents their water was safe. Those assurances turned out to be wrong.

And it wasn’t until some residents got outside experts involved -- who not only found elevated lead levels in the drinking water, but that blood lead levels were also rising in Flint kids – that the state admitted there was a problem.

Tom Kowalczk

The Coast Guard says it has not found any active oil leaks from a 78-year-old shipwreck at the bottom of Lake Erie. The wreck site is 12 miles northeast of Sandusky.

The tank barge is believed to be the Argo. Records show it was carrying about 100,000 gallons of crude oil when it sank. No one knows what's still on board, but the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration considers the Argo to be the biggest pollution threat from a shipwreck in the Great Lakes.

Sportsman Tracker / Facebook

The app Sportsman Tracker was developed in Grand Rapids by Jeff Courter, the company's CEO.

"A lot of times you just want to know what’s going on in your area," he says. "If it’s fishing, you want to know what’s biting, what’s going on, what are people catching around you.”

Gord Cole

A report on fish farming in the Great Lakes suggests Michigan should move carefully if it allows the industry to start up.

State officials asked a panel of scientists to study the issue. There have been two proposals from companies that want to start raising rainbow trout in net pens in the Great Lakes.

Canadians raise millions of trout in Lake Huron every year and some people want Michigan to do the same.

Michigan would have many more of these under a 100% renewable plan proposed by a Stanford University professor.
Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

A study by Stanford University professor Marc Jacobson says every state in the U.S. could get 100% of its energy from renewable sources by the year 2050 – and save money in the process.

In Michigan, most of that power would come from the state's most abundant renewable resource: wind. Forty percent of the state's electric needs could be met with on-shore wind power, according to Jacobson's analysis, and 31% from off-shore wind power.

Tom Kowalczk

TOLEDO, Ohio (AP) - A dive team is searching for the source of what appears to be an oil-based substance leaking from a barge that sank in Lake Erie during the 1930s.

  The recently discovered barge is one of nearly 90 shipwrecks on a federal registry created two years ago to identify the most serious pollution threats to U.S. waters.

  Most of those wrecks are along the Atlantic seaboard and were sunk by German submarines during World War II.

Staples

Big businesses often oppose increased regulations. But not always: take the Clean Power Plan. The Environmental Protection Agency’s new rule requires states to reduce carbon emissions from power plants.

The coal industry and some states, including Michigan (Attorney General Bill Schuette joined the lawsuit), are fighting the rule. But, hundreds of businesses have stepped forward to support it.

Rebecca Williams / Michigan Radio

The Coast Guard is investigating a leak from a 78-year-old tank barge in western Lake Erie that's believed to be the Argo.

It sank in a storm in 1937.

Side sonar scan of the sunken barge believed to be the "Argo."
Tom Kowalczk, CLUE

Update - Monday, October 26, 10:10 a.m.:

The Coast Guard is sending out a crew from Station Marblehead in Ohio along with members of the Atlantic Strike Team from New Jersey to the wreck site this morning. They'll start doing air monitoring at the site. 

Coast Guard spokesman Petty Officer 3rd Class Christopher M. Yaw says the team will work to get a "good, clean sample" of the unknown substance that appears to be leaking from the barge so they can identify it.

Open Data is the idea that some data should be freely available to the public. But can we put that data to good use if we can't really connect with it?
flickr user jwyg / http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

It’s easy to feel sometimes like we’re awash in lots of numbers in the news.

There are all kinds of data about foreclosures, costs of health, poverty, you name it.

But it’s all just numbers. It can be hard to look through the data to see the real people beneath. Numbers don’t tell you about moms struggling, hungry kids, or people who sleep on concrete at night.

Alex B. Hill has been thinking a lot about the separation of big numbers and real people.

Cluster of pawpaw fruit
flickr user Wendell Smith / http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

There is a fruit native to North America that is plentiful and was for a long time quite popular.

But chances are, you’ve never tasted it.

Keith Grasman, Calvin College. / From USFWS Field Notes site

Researchers are finding flame retardants and stain repellent chemicals in herring gull eggs in the Great Lakes region.

These chemicals are used in a lot of consumer products, but they can last a long time in the environment and some of them can build up in the food web.

Two recent studies on perfluorinated chemicals and flame retardants found some newer forms of these chemicals in the birds’ eggs that we don’t know a lot about.

A small sample of the thick, bacteria-ridden algae spreading across Lake Erie
Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

Half a million Toledo residents lost their drinking water in the summer of 2014 thanks to thick carpets of bacteria-laden algae on Lake Erie.

It hammered home a warning that scientists have been trying to sell for years: Lake Erie is in serious trouble.

Andy Stuart, president of the Toledo Rotary Club, wants to make sure no one forgets. The club is hosting a Lake Erie crisis conference this weekend.

Rogerio Fernandes

Coloring books are more popular than ever. Adults are encouraged to use them as stress relievers and an easy outlet for creativity.

Kathryn Curtis, a University of Michigan School of Public Policy graduate, is hoping to use coloring books to raise awareness of the problem of water security in Brazil and the U.S.

After spending a year in Brazil and seeing firsthand how the drought has affected farmers there, she decided to create a "plantable" coloring book that she hopes will get people talking about the negative effects of drought.

USGS GLSC Dive Team, Michigan Sea Grant

There are 12 toxic hot spots in Michigan called Areas of Concern.

These are places in the Great Lakes basin where pollution and development have damaged the ecosystems.

The Detroit River is on this list. Before the Clean Water Act, industries on the river treated it as a dumping ground – think waste in the billions of gallons.

The front of a "Dutch Boy White Lead" paint can. Dust from old paint is still one of the major ways kids get exposed to lead.
user Thester11 / Wikimedia Commons

What’s happening in Flint has some people wondering about what’s happening in their homes.

The Flint water crisis is highlighting the problem of lead exposure in kids.

Lead can permanently lower IQ and cause behavior problems. Researchers have even linked children with elevated lead levels with a higher propensity toward crime later in life.

Now, state officials are urging schools around the state to test their water for lead.

But it’s also important to know what’s going on at home.

Flickr user Kenneth Lu / Flickr - http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

Michigan lawmakers are talking about banning tiny balls of plastic in products sold in Michigan.

A lot of us use products with microbeads in them. They’re tiny, perfectly round plastic beads that companies add to face and body scrubs and toothpaste.

We wash them down the drain, but they’re so small that wastewater treatment plants can’t filter them out.

gonzales2010 / Creative Commons http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

Today is the last day for the public to weigh in on plans to expand a toxic waste facility in an east Detroit neighborhood.

US Ecology wants permission to expand its capacity to treat and store hazardous materials to 10 times what it handles now.

That includes byproducts from oil and gas fracking.

Concerns from local officials and residents who live near the facility prompted the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality to extend the public comment period twice.

Richard Conforti with MDEQ said so far, the state has received around 450 comments.

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