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Environment & Science

Flickr user TIm Ereneta/ Flickr / http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

The Next Idea

I spend a lot of time looking for the future. I never really find it. Humans are too unpredictable. Innovations are like teenagers. They’re never really sure what they want be when they grow up, if they grow up at all. You can only hope they find their rightful place in the world somewhere along the way.

Perpetual Plastic Project

Plastic pollution is all around us, from grocery bags that aren’t properly recycled to islands of plastic floating in the oceans. An industrial designer from the Netherlands is trying to get people to think differently about plastic’s long life cycle.

A cyanobacteria bloom on Lake Erie in 2013.
Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

A lot of people are focused on trying to fix Lake Erie’s toxic bloom problem. The green cyanobacteria blooms are fueled by phosphorus that gets into the lake from farms and sewage treatment plants.

A new report says we need to focus a lot more on cleaning up the streams in Michigan and other states that feed the lake.

Stuart Ludsin is an author of the report and an associate professor at Ohio State University. He says too much sediment, phosphorus and nitrogen can also hurt the fish in streams.

Tens of thousands of water filters have been distributed in Flint.
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

The University of Michigan, Wayne State University and Michigan State University have researchers looking into when Flint residents should replace their home water filters.

The point-of-use filters, which became widely installed amid the Flint water crisis, are known to be effective in removing metals like lead and other contaminants from drinking water.

The universities have been looking into the water filters since news of the water crisis became public.

bat with white nose syndrome
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Headquarters / Flickr / http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

It's hard out here for a bat.

Especially if it's a bat in Michigan, according to Detroit News reporter Charles E. RamirezHe writes that the three biggest threats to bat populations are: "disease-causing fungus, wind turbines and loss of habitat."

steve carmody / Michigan Radio

Flint homeowners are getting new kits to test their tap water from the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality.

For nearly a year, Flint residents have been able to pick up testing kits at water distribution sites.  The state would test the water samples for the presence of lead.

The new testing kits will now contain two bottles. Residents will be instructed to fill the smaller bottle first. State officials say the test will produce three results.   

The intent is to assess if home water faucets are a significant source of lead in the tap water. 

https://www.flickr.com/photos/cogdog/9090732482

The Next Idea

Every year, the United States spends $218 billion growing, transporting, and processing food that no one ever eats. That's billion. The financial, resource, and environmental costs of all the wasted food in the United States is staggering. 

Jason James/flickr / http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

In his article for The Conversation, University of Michigan Professor Andrew Hoffman discusses why academics and scientists are losing relevance in the eyes of the public and how they can - and must - reverse this trend. Hoffman is the Holcim Professor of Sustainable Enterprise at U of M.

user: Soil Science / Flickr

State officials are accepting more feedback on proposed new statewide standards for more than 300 environmental contaminants, including dioxane. 

The last public comment period ended in mid-September.  

This week the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality released revised proposed rules with a new comment deadline of October 18, and an additional public hearing scheduled for October 17 in Lansing. 

A brown marmorated stink bug is shown in Kalamazoo, Mich.
Michigan State University Department of Entomology

If you've seen a small shield-shaped brown insect slowing crawling on the walls inside your home, you might be housing one of Michigan's newest invaders: the brown marmorated stink bug.

This particular stink bug doesn't harm humans. They don't bite or spread disease, but they do eat plants and tree fruit. Since they first hitchiked to the United States about 20 years ago, but weren't seen in Michigan until 2010, they have become a pest to farmers and gardeners alike.  

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

We're coming up on the 50th anniversary of the partial meltdown at the Fermi 1 nuclear power plant next to Lake Erie. The plant, located a few miles northeast of Monroe, inspired the 1975 book We Almost Lost Detroit by reporter John Grant Fuller. 

The owner of the Fermi 1, DTE, published its own account of the meltdown called We Did Not Almost Lose Detroit. DTE says what happened at Fermi 1 has been exaggerated.

Michael Keegan, a member of the Coalition for a Nuclear-Free Great Lakes, joined Stateside to look back at the near-disaster half a century ago, where nuclear technology is at in 2016, and where it's going. 

Ann Arbor water bills might increase. Here's why.

Oct 4, 2016
water faucet
Laura Nawrocik / Flickr http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

Ann Arbor residents might see an increase in their water bills over the next few years to fund a project that will help continue disinfecting and filtering water. 

In conjunction with Ann Arbor's capital improvement plan, the city will recommend replacing pre-treatment basins, which help disinfect, filter and soften drinking water.

The eastern massasauga rattlesnake.
USFWS

The eastern massasauga rattlesnake is now listed as a threatened species.

Scott Hicks is a field supervisor in Michigan with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. He says the massasauga’s new status is due to the loss of its wetland habitats.

Terry Kreeger / Wyoming Game and Fish Department/CWD Alliance

Archery season for deer started over the weekend, and that means state officials are gearing up to test more deer for chronic wasting disease

The disease is contagious, and it’s always fatal for the animals. It creates tiny holes in their brains, and deer get very skinny and start acting strange.

Since it was first found in wild deer in Michigan last year, seven deer have tested positive, with an 8th case suspected.

Lindsey Scullen / Michigan Radio

If there’s an unwanted thicket in your backyard, you know getting rid of it isn’t easy.

Bushes, shrubs and invasive species can be in hard-to-reach places. And beating down the weeds once, with bobcats or brushcutters, doesn’t mean they won’t sprout up again later.

That’s why father-son duo Mike and Doug Mourer of Twin Willow Ranch have been working their way around southeast Michigan with goats in tow.

They call their service “all-natural brush clearing.”

Enbridge's Line 5 runs from Superior, Wisconsin to Sarnia, Ontario.
Enbridge

UPDATED 10/4/16 at 12:50 pm

The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality says Enbridge Energy can install four additional anchor supports on the Line 5 pipeline that runs beneath the Straits of Mackinac.

The MDEQ issued a permit for the four supports to maintain the integrity and safety of the pipeline.

Enbridge still needs a permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

People drop off recycling at Recycle Here! in Detroit.
screen grab from YouTube / Model D TV

A couple weeks ago, Jay from Detroit submitted this question to our MI Curious project:

Why doesn’t Detroit have a public recycling system?

There is a recycling program in the city, so I reached out to Jay in order to understand what, exactly, he was asking. (Jay has asked to be referred to only by his first name, for reasons that will become clear.)

steve carmody / Michigan Radio

State officials confirm a Berrien County deer has died from a disease that killed more than 12,000 Michigan deer in 2012.

Epizootic Hemorrhagic Disease, or EHD, is spread by flies. The disease causes extensive internal bleeding.

There have been no cases reported in Michigan during the past few years.

But four years ago, Michigan experienced its largest EHD outbreak ever, which devastated some deer herds.

Ken Lund / FLICKR, CREATIVE COMMONS HTTP://MICHRAD.IO/1LXRDJM

DTE Energy's coal-fired power plant in Monroe has been named one of the nation's "super polluters" in a report by the Center for Public Integrity, a non-partisan, non-profit investigative news organization.

The report said the Monroe plant ranks 11th in the country for the most greenhouse gases emitted into the air and 140th for the most toxic air releases. That's out of 20 thousand power plants, factories and other industrial sites reporting to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Sea lamprey
USFWS Midwest / Flickr


We spend a lot of money to control sea lampreys. The U.S. and Canada spend $21 million dollars a year to keep them in check.

 

The invasive fish drills holes into big fish like trout and salmon, and drinks their blood and body fluids. A single lamprey can kill 40 pounds of fish.

 

Managers are always looking for new ways to control the blood suckers and keep tabs on where they are in the Great Lakes system.

 

Now, scientists are testing the idea of using environmental DNA – or eDNA. It’s a tool that’s been used a lot to see if Asian carp are in a river or lake; it detects genetic material from the fish.

 

Courtesy Joel Tonyan / Flickr http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

225 million years.

That's the amount of time it takes Earth -- and our Solar System -- to travel around the Milky Way Galaxy's galactic center.

We may not definitely will not live to see an entire orbit. But today we're celebrating progress. Specifically, we're celebrating "National Galactic Tick Day."

What's a galactic tick?

It's one centi-arcsecond of a rotation around the Milky Way's galactic center.

Double-crested cormorant
USFWS

There’s now more evidence that manmade chemicals can spread far and wide.

 

Researchers have found a chemical called PFPIA in cormorants, northern pike and bottlenose dolphins. The chemical has been used in pesticides, and it belongs to a group of chemicals called perfluorinated acids. They’re used to make cookware non-stick and make carpets stain resistant.

 

Amila DeSilva is a research scientist at Environment and Climate Change Canada.

Part of Flint's  hand-written records showing drinking water lines last updated in 1984.
Image courtesty of Jacob Abernethy / U of M

New research suggests there may be many more lead service lines in Flint that need to be replaced than previously thought.

A team of University of Michigan researchers examined 171 drinking water service lines removed as part of Flint’s “Fast Start” program. The pipes had connected homes to city water mains.

Based on the city's records, they expected around 40% of them would contain lead, but they found 96% did.

More from a summary of findings by the U of M researchers:

Jerry Linenger with ham radio equipment in the Russian Mir Space Station Base Block module.
NASA

Imagine you’re 14 years old, camping in Ontario with your family.

It’s July 20, 1969, and you’re watching on a small TV as Neil Armstrong becomes the first man to set foot on the moon.

You decide: I want to go to space.

And so you grow up to become an astronaut. You go into space on the shuttles Discovery and Atlantis. You spend five months on the Russian space station Mir.

You ultimately rack up 143 days and 52 minutes in space, over 2,177 orbits of the earth, and you fly 54.5 million miles through space.

And after all that, you come home to Michigan to settle down in Suttons Bay.

That’s just a brief look at what retired Navy Captain and astronaut Jerry Linenger has done.

Flickr user NASA Goddard Space Flight Center/Flickr / http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

In this all-too-fast-paced era we live in, it's comforting to see something that's managed to stick around for 225 years – the Old Farmer’s Almanac.

What Massachusetts schoolteacher and bookseller Robert B. Thomas started in 1792 is still with us. The 2017 edition is now out.

New phase announced in Dow dioxin cleanup near Midland

Sep 27, 2016
User mgreason / wikimedia commons

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, has proposed a new phase in its multi-year plan to clean up dioxin contamination from Dow Chemical's Midland plant. 

Discharges from the plant in the last century boosted levels of dioxins in the Tittabawassee and Saginaw rivers and their floodplains.

Dioxins are toxic chemicals that may cause cancer and other serious health problems.

The latest phase targets six miles of a contaminated 21-mile section of the Tittabawassee River and its floodplain. 

Honey bees in a GVSU hive.
Rebecca Williams / Michigan Radio

You can thank a honey bee for pollinating about one of every three bites of food we eat. But as you’ve likely heard, bees are in trouble.

They’re getting hit hard by pesticides and diseases and pests, and they’re losing habitat.

Two Grand Valley State University professors are using technology to track the health of hives in a new way.

Average surface temperatures for 2015. NOAA
NOAA

Michigan could benefit from cleaner energy. That was the message of a report released Monday on model scenarios about Michigan’s energy future.

The Michigan Agency for Energy’s report details what could happen in Michigan under the Clean Power Plan – and without it.

Flickr user Andy Rogers/Flickr / http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

When you think about water pollution, you might think about massive sewer overflows, factory pollution or agricultural runoff. But there’s another source of water pollution that might be in your backyard: septic systems that have failed.

They pollute lakes and streams around the state – and in fact, around the country.

Sean Hammond, deputy policy director for the Michigan Environmental Council, is calling for better rules for septic systems and inspections.

“We are the only state in the country to not have a statewide septic code,” Hammond said.

Reviving Michigan's coastal marshes

Sep 22, 2016
Allison Smart, a biologist with the Little River Band of Ottawa Indians, examines wild rice in Arcadia Marsh.
Peter Payette

 

Most visitors to northern Michigan are looking for sugar sand beaches on the Great Lakes. But if you’re a spawning fish or a migratory bird, you might be looking for a coastal marsh.

The Great Lakes used to be lined with coastal marshes that were full of native plants and wildlife. But in lower Michigan, many of these places been drained, plowed, polluted and, more recently, overrun by exotic plants from other parts of the world.

 

Some conservation groups are working to restore and protect the marshes we have left.

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