Environment & Science

Weather
7:10 am
Thu May 26, 2011

Thunderstorms bring roadway flooding to Michigan

Flood warnings are being posted in southern Michigan.
Tom Grundy Flickr

Update: 5/26/11 6:52 a.m.

DETROIT (AP) - Thunderstorms have dumped more than 4 inches of rain on parts of southern Michigan, causing widespread flooding of streets, expressways and basements. The National Weather Service says 4.15 inches of rain fell in a 12-hour period Wednesday in Detroit, while 3.12 inches fell in Ann Arbor and 3.1 inches in Wayne County's Canton Township. Flood warnings were in effect across several southeastern counties Wednesday night.

You can view photos and video of the storms at these links below:

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Environment
11:44 am
Wed May 25, 2011

Government unveils new fuel economy labels for cars and trucks

The new EPA label will have more information about fuel economy, and will rate cars and trucks on smog and greenhouse gas emissions. The labels will be on model year 2013 vehicles.
epa.gov

It's probably the second sticker you look at (the first being the price sticker).

The new fuel economy and environment labels will take effect with model year 2013 cars and trucks. The EPA is calling the new labels "the most dramatic overhaul to fuel economy labels since the program began more than 30 years ago."

The new labels show more information about fuel economy, such as predicted annual fuel costs (based on $3.70 per gallon), and how much in fuel you would save compared to an average car (an "average" car's mpg is set at 22 mpg). The labels also give a greenhouse gas rating, and a smog rating.

And it wouldn't be an updated label without a way to load it into your smarty-pants phone. Here's a video from the EPA on how that works:

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Weather
5:18 pm
Tue May 24, 2011

Joplin tornado surpasses death toll of Michigan's worst tornado

An F4 intensity tornado moves through Erie, Michigan on June 8, 1953. That same day there were eight tornadoes in Michigan, including Michigan's deadliest - the F5 Beecher tornado killed 116 people as it touched down north of Flint.
NOAA

UPDATE 9:51 pm: Officials in Joplin, Missouri now report at least 122 people have been confirmed dead as a result of the tornado.

 

In Joplin, Missouri, at least 117 people were killed by an F4 tornado and more than 1,000 are unaccounted for, according to the New York Times.

It's the worst tornado to hit the United States in 64 years (181 people were killed by a tornado in Woodward, Oklahoma in 1947), and it surpasses the death toll of Michigan's worst tornado which struck in 1953.

The 1953 Flint-Beecher Tornado killed 116 people in a community just north of Flint. The F5 tornado is listed as the country's 10th deadliest tornado by NOAA's Storm Prediction Center.

The tornado had winds in excess of 200 miles per hour, was 800 yards wide, and traveled on a path for 27 miles. From NOAA:

So great a number were killed by the monstrous tornado that the National Guard Armory building, along with other shelters, was turned into a temporary morgue. The scene of bodies pouring into the Armory (as an intermittent light rain poured outside) was incredibly bleak and horrifying, especially for the families and friends of the victims. At least 100 people waited outside into the rainy night before they could move inside to try and identify the bodies.

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Environment
1:26 pm
Tue May 24, 2011

Michigan's Red Cross prepared to send volunteers to Joplin

Red Cross responds to a tornado that hit Joplin in 2008. This year's tornado is the deadliest in more than 60 years.
User: Ozarks Red Cross Flickr

The Red Cross of Washtenaw County is prepared to send volunteers to Joplin, Mo. where a tornado killed at least 117 people. The Red Cross chapter in Ann Arbor is already deploying one of its 150 volunteers to the disaster area.

Ashley Cieslinski is the Emergency Services Director of Washtenaw County’s Red Cross. She says Red Cross chapters across Michigan are prepared to help with relief efforts. 

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Environment
10:39 am
Tue May 24, 2011

Who's inspecting pipelines in Michigan? (Part 1)

Dick Denuyl and his neighbor, Tom Philp, live along the St. Clair River. Philp is a pipeline inspector.
Photo by Suzy Vuljevic

The pipeline break that spilled more than 840,000 gallons of oil into the Kalamazoo River last summer is still being cleaned up. It has left some Michigan residents with questions about the safety of sending heavy crude oil through those lines.

Dick Denuyl is a retired school teacher in Marysville. When he bought his home along the St. Clair River, he loved the beautiful setting. And he wasn’t worried about the pipelines running under the water.

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Environment
4:11 pm
Mon May 23, 2011

Stepping up the fight against Asian Carp

Asian carp at the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago
flickr Kate Gardiner

Federal and state officials have a new plan for dealing with the threat of Asian Carp invading Lake Michigan.    There are fears that the carp may destroy the Great Lakes fishing industry. 

The plan includes stepping up tracking of the invasive fish species and contracting with Illinois fishermen to catch the carp before they can reach Lake Michigan.

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Environment
2:46 pm
Mon May 23, 2011

Wayne State University to track coyotes in southeast Michigan

Evidence of coyotes have been found throughout southeastern Michigan, including Detroit and Dearborn.
kakisky morgue file

A new study from researchers at Wayne State University will track coyotes in southeast Michigan. The study is meant to fill a gap on information about coyotes that live in highly populated areas.

Bill Dodge is the graduate student in charge of the project. He says reports of coyotes attacking pets are rare:

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Environment
2:42 pm
Mon May 23, 2011

Officials plan monitoring to keep carp from lakes

A boat load of Asian Carp. Asian Carp can make up a significant portion of the biota found in some river systems.
asiancap.org

 TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. (AP) - Federal and state officials are beginning a series of projects to pinpoint how close Asian carp are to the Great Lakes and reduce their numbers in Chicago-area waterways near Lake Michigan.

The Asian Carp Regional Coordinating Committee released a $7 million monitoring and sampling plan Monday.

It uses a variety of techniques to determine how many of the invasive fish are in the Chicago waters, remove as many as possible, and detect any flaws in an electric barrier designed to block their path to Lake Michigan.

In addition to netting and electrofishing, officials say they'll add new tools, including an underwater camera that can help determine whether fish are getting through the barrier.

Biologists say if Asian carp become established in the Great Lakes, they could starve out other species.

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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