Environment & Science

Environment
10:51 am
Sun May 22, 2011

Spring lambing in Michigan (video)

Sophie Knorek (right) and friend Leah South bottle feeding a lamb. Jack Knorek says farm life has taught their kids important lessons about life and death.
Jack Knorek Oak Moon Farms

Large flocks of sheep are typically found in the Rocky Mountains, California, and Texas.

But there's a growing number of shepherds in Michigan.

There's solid demand for lamb meat from Michigan's ethnic communities. Lamb prices are good. And the farmland in Michigan not suited for traditional crops makes for good pasture.

I visited Jack and Martha Knorek who showed me around their farm during the height of spring lambing season.

The mama ewes were a little camera shy, so unfortunately I didn't get to see a lamb being born. One was born ten minutes before I arrived, and another was born about an hour after I left.

Environment
2:15 pm
Sat May 21, 2011

20,000 gallons of sewage flows into Kalamazoo River

A blue heron in the Kalamazoo River
Flickr user NHN_2009

Authorities say about 20,000 gallons of raw sewage flowed into the Kalamazoo River following a power outage at a Battle Creek wastewater plant.
    

The Battle Creek Enquirer and the Kalamazoo Gazette report that officials on Friday issued a public health advisory following the overflow. Battle Creek Utilities Director Ken Kohs says an electrical short caused a power outage that lasted for a few hours.
    

Environment
10:53 am
Sat May 21, 2011

Trio of agencies pledge to protect Kirtland's warbler

By 1974, the population of Kirtland's Warbler had plummeted to 167 singing males.
Wikipedia.org

A bird once common to Michigan nearly became extinct. Three agencies say they'll work together to make sure work to save the bird continues. The following information comes from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service:

"The U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Michigan Department of Natural Resources have signed a memorandum of agreement pledging to continue conservation efforts for the endangered Kirtland’s warbler, regardless of the warbler’s status under the Endangered Species Act.  

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Environment
1:54 pm
Thu May 19, 2011

Southwest Detroit residents want health investigation

Many people call Detroit a “post-industrial” city.

But residents in one corner of the city still live alongside a cluster of heavy industry, and they say it’s affecting their health. Now, community members in southwest Detroit want the state to do more to find out just how extensive those health impacts might be.

Southwest Detroit is home to a number of heavy industrial sites. Some effects can be seen with the naked eye: from hazy diesel truck fumes to an eerie metallic dust residents say has rained down on their neighborhood. But others are more subtle. The neighborhood is full of children with asthma. Residents also blame the pollution for cancer and other deadly illnesses, though such a link hasn’t been definitively established.

Now, southwest Detroit residents are pushing hard for the government to launch a thorough investigation into those potential health impacts.

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Environment
1:50 pm
Thu May 19, 2011

More corn in your gas tank?

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says gas stations can now sell gasoline blended with 15% ethanol for all cars built in 2001 or after. Right now, when you fill up in Michigan, your gasoline has 10% ethanol.

The EPA says E15 gasoline will help reduce our need for foreign oil. Ethanol is made from plants like corn. The EPA only tested the effects of E15 on emissions and catalytic converters.

But ethanol is corrosive. Patrick Kelly is with the American Petroleum Institute.

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Environment
5:02 pm
Tue May 17, 2011

Hazardous waste deep injection wells might reopen

The injection wells in Romulus are considered "Class I" wells by the EPA. The wells can "inject hazardous and non-hazardous wastes into deep, isolated rock formations that are thousands of feet below the lowermost underground sources of drinking water."
epa.gov

It's been five years since the deep injection wells in Romulus, Michigan stopped pumping hazardous waste close to a mile underground.

Now those wells might reopen. From the Detroit News:

The two wells located off Citrin Drive have drawn opposition in the Romulus area long before original owner Environmental Disposal Systems (EDS) began accepting waste there in 2005. Operations were halted when the company ran into financial problems and state inspectors discovered leaks in the above ground apparatus. There was no lasting environmental damage, but the findings fueled opposition from local residents...

This week, EPA officials appear ready to grant tentative approval for Environmental Geo-Technologies' underground injection control permit, which would bring the reopening of the site one step closer to reality.

The deep injection wells in Romulus have been a controversial subject for decades.

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Environment
11:03 am
Tue May 17, 2011

Congress to remove Michigan's gray wolves from endangered species list?

Michigan's gray wolf population is estimated to be 687 animals. The recovery goal for the population is between 250-300 wolves.
Tracy Brooks/Mission Wolf/USFWS

At the moment, the federal government manages the gray wolf populations in Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin. But federal officials say the wolves in these states are doing great, and they want to hand management over to the states.

This isn’t the first time federal officials have tried to take wolves off the endangered species list. Wolves were delisted in 2007... but that delisting was challenged in court by some environmental groups. And wolves were put back on the list.

Some members of Congress are trying to make sure these kinds of lawsuits don’t happen again.

Candice Miller represents Michigan’s 10th district. It’s in the Thumb. She just introduced a bill that would amend the Endangered Species Act... and remove wolves from the list. Her bill would make it more difficult for anybody to sue over that decision.

“You have a number of anti-hunting groups and they constantly tie these decisions up in court. I think this legislation is a huge tool to be used so the courts don’t have these things happening.”

She says her office has been approached by sportsmen and farmers worried about wolves preying on deer, moose and livestock.

Michigan’s wolf management plan does not call for a hunting season for wolves. The state legislature would have to decide that.

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Environment
10:54 am
Tue May 17, 2011

Consumers Energy to expand solar energy program

Consumers Energy is expanding a very popular solar energy program in Michigan. The program allows people with solar panels on their homes or businesses to sell some of the power they generate to the power company. 

State regulators are directing the utility giant to expand the program.

Consumers Energy will double the amount of power it will pay people for. All utility providers in Michigan are investing in more renewable energy. State law requires them to get at least 10% of their power from renewable sources by 2015.

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Energy
8:42 am
Tue May 17, 2011

Regulator: Fermi 2 nuclear plant operated safely

DTE Energy's Fermi 2 nuclear power station on the shores of Lake Erie in Monroe, Michigan.
nrc.gov

FRENCHTOWN TOWNSHIP, Mich. (AP) - The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission says the Fermi 2 nuclear power plant operated safely last year.

The Monroe Evening News reported Monday that a letter from a branch chief for the commission's reactor projects division says no inspections beyond ones that are routine and previously planned are scheduled for this year at the facility in southeastern Michigan's Monroe County.

The letter was to plant operator DTE Energy Co.

Each year, the federal regulatory agency reviews its inspections at plants during the calendar year and issues an assessment letter. The NRC says the plant met all operational standards in 2010 and is working to address some employee issues from recent years.

The 1,200-megawatt Fermi 2 plant began operating in 1988.

Science
3:40 pm
Mon May 16, 2011

Space Shuttle program winding down this year

The trail left by today's launch of the space shuttle Endeavor.
@TreyRatcliff Twitpic

Thirty years ago, the launch of the space shuttle Columbia was big news.

As NASA put more shuttles in orbit, the focus on the launches became much less intense.

Today, NASA's Space Shuttle program is coming to an end. So, in honor of the next to last launch of a space shuttle, here is video of Endeavor's last lift-off (launch number 134 of an orbiting space shuttle) :

The narrator of the video says the Endeavor weighs 4.5 million pounds on the ground. After one minute of flight time, half that weight is gone as it burns up 11,000 pounds of fuel per second.

Endeavor is captained Mark E. Kelly, the husband of Representative Gabrielle Giffords who was severely wounded by an assassin's bullet last January. Giffords watched the liftoff and reportedly said "Good stuff, good stuff."

The Space Shuttle Atlantis is scheduled to be the last flight for the Space Shuttle program.

It's scheduled to launch this July.

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Energy
2:57 pm
Mon May 16, 2011

Canadian company delays Great Lakes nuke shipment

Turbines in the Bruce A power station on the eastern shore of Lake Huron in Ontario.
user pencefn creative commons

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. (AP) - A Canadian power company is no longer seeking U.S. permission to ship 16 scrapped generators with radioactive contents across three of the Great Lakes, but says it
hasn't abandoned the plan.

Bruce Power Inc. withdrew an application this month for a transport license from the U.S. Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration.

Canada's Nuclear Safety Commission had granted the company permission in February to ship the generators, but U.S. approval was also needed because the vessels would cross into U.S. territory.

The Kincardine, Ontario-based company seeks to send the generators to Sweden for recycling. Environmentalists and other critics say transporting the school bus-sized devices on the Great
Lakes would be risky.

The company says it's delaying the shipment to allow further talks with opponents, including native tribes.

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Environment
3:49 pm
Fri May 13, 2011

The hunt is on for morels in Michigan

The hunt is on for morels in Michigan.
user jdurham morguefile

It’s morel season in Michigan!

May is morel month in Michigan, and people from all over comb the state for the delectable mushrooms.

Phil Tedeschi is president of the Michigan Mushroom Hunters Club. He leads folks on more than 50 mushroom hunts throughout the year in southeast Michigan, starting with the first mushroom of the season: black and white morels.

Tedeschi has this advice if you're on the hunt for morels:

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Environment
3:48 pm
Fri May 13, 2011

Detroit gardeners frustrated by new rules for city lots

Tony Buser flickr

Community gardeners in Detroit are angry about new permit requirements for gardening on city-owned lots.

Reit Schumack heads an organization on the city’s west side called Neighbors Building Brightmoor, which puts in gardens, wildflower stands and pocket parks on dozens of city lots. Schumack says the new rules include a ban on bringing in new soil or compost, unless the city grants lot-by-lot permission:

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Environment
8:39 am
Fri May 13, 2011

St. Clair Co. officials expand look into cancers

MARINE CITY, Mich. (AP) - Public health officials in St. Clair County are expanding their investigation into whether environmental or other factors could be responsible for a rare form of kidney cancer diagnosed in children in the Marine City area.

The investigation started this year looking into five cases of Wilms' tumor since 2007 in southeastern St. Clair County. The Times Herald of Port Huron reported Thursday that eight cases now are included, including two in the Port Huron area and one in Richmond.

Officials say another case in the St. Clair Shores area isn't being considered because it's too far away.

Marine City, which is located about 40 miles northeast of Detroit, has industrial plants and is about 10 miles from petrochemical plants in Sarnia, Ontario. But health officials say there's no established link.

Environment
7:07 am
Fri May 13, 2011

Enbridge: Replacing 75 miles of Ind., Mich. pipe

Enbridge Inc. says it will spend $286 million to replace 75 miles of pipeline in Indiana and Michigan after a 2010 break that spilled at least 800,000 gallons of oil into the Kalamazoo River system.

The Houston-based company said Thursday the work is planned next year on the pipeline, which runs from Griffin, Ind., to Sarnia, Ontario.

The company says it's already replaced 14 segments covering 1.7 miles in southeastern Michigan and has installed a new line under the St. Clair River.

The new work includes five miles of pipeline downstream from each of two pump stations in Indiana and three in Michigan, as well as 50 miles of pipeline downstream from the Stockbridge station and terminal, about 55 miles west of Detroit.

Environment
4:22 pm
Thu May 12, 2011

Environmental groups take state to court for allowing Holland coal plant expansion

The DeYoung power plant sits on the shore of Lake Macatawa in the City of Holland.
Holland Board of Public Works.

The legal battle over a proposed expansion of a coal-fired power plant in Holland is not over yet. The State of Michigan granted the city the necessary air quality permit in February, following years of delays. But now a number of environmental groups are teaming up and bringing the issue back to court.

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Environment
10:53 am
Thu May 12, 2011

A majority of Michigan's schools are in areas with high air pollution levels

A new University of Michigan study in the journal Health Affairs finds 62% of public schools in the state are located in places with high levels of air pollution from industries.

Paul Mohai is one of the study’s authors.

“Often schools are located in more polluted parts of their respective school districts.”

He says schools need a lot of land... and land is expensive but money is tight.

“There’s probably quite an economic pressure to put schools where land values are low, and those may be near highways or industrial facilities or that otherwise are polluted.”

Mohai says Michigan has no formal policy that requires school boards to consider the environmental quality of an area for a new school.

William Mayes is the executive director of the Michigan Association of School Administrators. He says school boards do consider pollution when they’re finding new sites for schools.

“You know, intelligent people are thinking about this. The bottom line is you look at where your community is expanding, where your community is growing, and you seek the most economical and safe property you can to build a school.”

Mayes says people are drawn to where the jobs are, and that’s often near industries, and industries pollute.

Environment
10:41 am
Thu May 12, 2011

Farmers want to take land out of conservation to grow more corn

As part of the Conservation Reserve Program, farmers are paid to put in grassy strips to act as buffer zones along waterways. (Photo by Lester Graham)

Leaders in Michigan’s farm community are urging Senator Debbie Stabenow and the U.S. Department of Agriculture to change the rules for a land conservation program on farms. They say the current program could lead to higher food prices.

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Environment
12:49 pm
Tue May 10, 2011

Grand Rapids teams up with Red Cross to help flooding, tornado victims in the South

CEO of The American Red Cross of Greater Grand Rapids Cheryl Bremer joins Mayor George Heartwell in asking residents to support relief efforts.
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

The city of Grand Rapids is joining efforts to help victims of major flooding and deadly tornados in the Southern United States.

Mayor George Heartwell urged people to give whatever they’re able to afford.

 “I feel so strongly that the suffering of any people anywhere needs to be our suffering. As long as there are people in need and we have the ability and the capacity to help address that need, it’s critical for us to do that.”

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Environment
1:51 pm
Mon May 9, 2011

Detroiters talk land use and the environment

Greening of Detroit

Detroiters who want a say in how the city manages its land gathered for an environmental summit last week.

Activists and community leaders organized the summit so citizens could provide input on environmental aspects of the Detroit Works Project, an ongoing project to deal with the city’s huge swaths of vacant land.

Jackie Victor lives and owns a small business in Detroit.

She says city planners need to look at Detroit’s land and natural resources as assets rather than liabilities.

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