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Environment & Science

Gerdes likened finding DeeDee and objects like it to looking for a really small needle in a very, very large haystack.
flickr user Eurpoean Southern Observatory / http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

 


We're learning a lot about our tiny corner of the cosmos these days. That's thanks to improving technology and the increasing number of probes we're sending into the solar system.

But as much as we learned so far, there’s still a lot about space that we don't know.

Recently, researchers have been trying to track down a theoretical Planet Nine. (That's the title formerly held by Pluto. Sorry, Pluto.)

University of Michigan astronomers recently came across a planetary surprise that might get us closer to that discovery. And it turns out Pluto might have a friend out there after all.

Eric Bronson, Michigan Photography

Animals, get your best pose ready. 

The University of Michigan is snapping pictures of wild animals in an effort to document how populations of meat-eating animals vary across terrain, according to a press release.

Photographs are being taken in three areas: The U-M Biological Station, the upper peninsula and a wildlife refuge near Saginaw.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

New test results show lead levels in Kalamazoo’s water system have dropped.

The federal limit for lead in water is 15 parts per billion. Last time the city tested, in 2014, Kalamazoo’s lead level was 13 parts per billion. Now it's down to 4 ppb.

13 ppb was close enough to worry Shannan Deater, Kalamazoo’s Environmental Services Programs Manager. She says some of the higher lead results in 2014 weren’t really a good, representative sample. 

Animal bones found in the Saints Rest privy.
Courtesy of Autumn Byers

Archeology is not just about digging into prehistory, coming up with arrowheads, pottery shards and mastodon bones.

It can also give us a window into the not-too-distant past.

Say, the campus of Michigan State University in the mid-1800s.

That’s what Autumn Beyer is doing in her work with the MSU Campus Archeology Program. She’s studying what students and professors ate in the early days at Michigan State and how they got that food.

Power plant
Courtesy of Duke Energy

President-elect Donald Trump has called global warming "a very expensive hoax," despite agreement among the vast majority of climate scientists that climate change is happening now and is mainly human-caused. Trump has also put climate change skeptic Myron Ebell in charge of his EPA transition team.

Ferland told us he's planning on setting up a few more tents for protestors at Standing Rock.
Courtesy of Michigan Host Tent at Standing Rock / http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

 

Several Native American tribes and Canadian First Nation tribes are joining members of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe opposing the Dakota Access Pipeline in North Dakota.

Members of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe say the pipeline will contaminate water and other resources and damage land that is sacred to the Sioux.

It’s a major pipeline for Energy Transfer Partners. According to an NPR report, it’s a $3.8 billion project that would pump 500,000 barrels of oil a day.

Regis Ferland lives in Mount Pleasant. He and his cousin Amos Cloud have set up a 16-foot by 32-foot army surplus tent near the protests at Standing Rock.

Their plan is to make it a place to stay for people from Michigan who join the protest.

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

Governor Rick Snyder and state environmental officials have declared western Lake Erie is an “impaired” waterway that needs to be cleaned up.       

The problem is algae blooms that threaten plants and wildlife. The blooms are caused largely by phosphorous runoff from agricultural fertilizers. Two years ago, the algae blooms forced Toledo to declare a drinking water emergency.

Mike Alexander is with the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality. He says Michigan and other states and Canadian provinces that border western Lake Erie are already working on the problem.

Consumers Energy / Flickr/user

The state Senate has adopted an overhaul of Michigan’s energy policy. It’s designed to ensure reliability as the state’s big utilities replace aging coal-fired plants that have to shut down.

The plan is supported by utilities, but opposed by smaller suppliers that compete with utilities for customers like large factories and school districts. 

State Senator Mike Nofs (R-Battle Creek) is the plan’s primary architect. He says it requires the smaller suppliers to answer some questions if they want to compete:

What hungry deer mean for Michigan's northern forests

Nov 10, 2016
Flickr user Mike Bell / http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

With the start of firearm season next Tuesday, hunters will spread out across Michigan in search of white-tailed deer. Long, cold winters in the recent past have not helped deer thrive up north, particularly in the Upper Peninsula.

But foresters and conservation groups say there are still far too many deer in northern Michigan, and they are creating severe problems for forests.

Lauren Luci / Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

Americans love their bottled water.

Statistics from the Beverage Marketing Corporation tell us that while sales of soft drinks, fruit drinks, sports drinks – even milk – have dropped over the past 15 years, sales of bottled water are booming.

In 2015, Americans guzzled nearly 12 billion gallons of bottle water. That’s a big jump from the 4.5 billion gallons we drank in 2000.

All that demand means Swiss corporation Nestle wants to pump more water out of the ground in West Michigan. It wants to increase pumping from 250 to 400 gallons a minute at one of its wells near Evart in Osceola County.

And the public nearly missed its chance to comment on the proposal.

Wilson Hui / Flickr

Nestle owns a water bottling plant in Stanwood, Michigan, north of Grand Rapids. It bottles spring water for its Ice Mountain and Pure Life brands.

The company wants to increase the amount of water it pulls out of the ground at one of its wells. The well is about 35 miles north of Stanwood in Evart, Michigan. To do that, it needs a permit from the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, and the public is supposed to weigh in on whether the company should get that permit.

But a lot of people didn’t hear about it – until it was almost too late.

An emerald ash borer
User: USDAgov / flickr

The emerald ash borer is spreading westward again in Michigan. One of the insects was discovered in a trap set by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The USDA placed 122 traps in Upper Peninsula counties that had not yet been invaded by the ash borer. 

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Grand Rapids officials say the city's drinking water is still well within federal standards for the presence of lead. Such testing is getting increased attention amid Flint's crisis with lead-tainted water.

The city posted the results on its website Friday after they were certified by state regulators; information that typically waits until the Consumer Confidence Report is mailed out.

David Lobbig / Courtesy of Jenny Chipault

In the last few weeks, roughly 600 birds have died along the shore of Lake Michigan. They washed up on the beaches within the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, with more dead birds reported on beaches in the Upper Peninsula.

Joe Connolly / Cornell University

There’s a new creature in the Great Lakes and it has “cyclops” in its name.

It’s called Thermocyclops crassus. It’s a kind of zooplankton.

Elizabeth Hinchey Molloy is with the EPA’s Great Lakes Program Office. She says it's extremely small.

“It’s less than one millimeter, so smaller than the dot a pencil makes,” she says.

the plume, 1,4 dioxane
http://www.ewashtenaw.org/government/departments/environmental_health/card / Washtenaw County

The Ann Arbor City Council wants to intervene in a lawsuit over groundwater contamination in and around the city. The Council unanimously passed a resolution at a special meeting Tuesday night to direct city officials to seek permission from the court to intervene in the case.

Rebecca Williams / Michigan Radio

It’s the busy time of year for commercial fishing on the Great Lakes. But the price of whitefish is about half what it was three years ago, because of problems with international trade.

DWSD

Detroit found more lead in drinking water samples this summer than it has in recent years, and there’s a few reasons to account for the uptick.  

Unofficial results posted this month by the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department show Detroit’s water is safe to drink by federal standards.

Back in March, boxes containing testing kits filled a room in the Bethel United Methodist Church in Flint.
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Researchers from Virginia Tech University will be back in Flint this week to test the city’s drinking water.

This is the fourth and possibly final time Virginia Tech researchers will be in town collecting water samples and testing them for lead.

The first round of tests conducted a year and a half ago revealed much higher than acceptable levels of lead in the tap water. Those test results helped spur the decision to switch Flint back to Detroit water, after the city spent 18 months getting its drinking water from the Flint River. 

Cregg told us that cold nights give trees the cue to start changing colors.
flickr user Bailiwick Studios / http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

 

Even if you’re not a fan of the colder weather and shorter days, it’s hard not to admire the bursts of red and yellow that spread through our trees as summer gives way to fall.

But it seems we’ve had to wait a little longer to see the colors change this year.

According to Bert Cregg, a professor in Michigan State University's Department of Forestry, we have September and October’s atypically warm weather to thank.

the plume, 1,4 dioxane
http://www.ewashtenaw.org/government/departments/environmental_health/card / Washtenaw County

The state Department of Environmental Quality has issued an emergency rule establishing a stricter cleanup criteria for 1,4 dioxane, a highly carcinogenic chemical that has polluted Ann Arbor's groundwater for decades.

The plume of contaminated water has been slowly moving in all directions, including towards the Huron River.  It's feared that eventually the contamination could reach Barton Pond, the source of the city's drinking water.

Scio Residents for Safe Water

After waiting three years for the state to issue a stricter cleanup standard for the carcinogen 1,4 dioxane, Ann Arbor Township and Scio Township are done.

The two townships, along with the Sierra Club of Huron Valley, will jointly file a petition next month requesting the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to conduct a preliminary assessment for a plume of contaminated groundwater to become a federal Superfund site.

Oscoda residents talk with government officials about the PFC plumes contaminating their wells.
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Residents of a northern Michigan town are getting briefed today on a threat to their drinking water.

For decades, fire crews trained at Wurtsmith Air Force Base not far from Lake Huron. But while the base closed more than 20 years ago, the chemicals used to extinguish the flames continue to seep into nearby wells and streams.

The plumes of perfluorinated chemicals (PFCs) have been migrating from the former air force base into surrounding neighborhoods and the Au Sable River. PFCs have also been detected in fish in Lake Huron.

Grand Rapids
Steven Depolo / Flickr

Grand Rapids and Flint are both in the spotlight in a new report on the sustainability of cities.

Researchers with the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine looked at nine cities, including New York and Vancouver. All of them have sustainability plans in place.

Linda Katehi chairs the committee that wrote the report.

Sam Corden / Interlochen Public Radio

Researchers who work in wetlands in Michigan are taking a new approach to invasive plants. They’re harvesting them for fertilizer and fuel. 

U of M hopes to crack down on opioid addiction

Oct 25, 2016
Courtesy frankieleon / Creative Commons -- http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

With a $1.4 million per year grant from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Service, the University of Michigan launched a five-year project called the Michigan Opioid Prescribing Engagement Network (Michigan-OPEN).

Wind turbine near Mt. Pleasant, MI.
Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

The Michigan Senate is back on break until after the election, but when they get back they have made a major piece of legislation a top priority. An overhaul to Michigan’s energy policy will be one of the first items up for vote when the Senate meets again.  

Two energy bills have been waiting for a vote since July of 2015. They finally got out of committee in May. Now, the press secretary for the Senate Republican majority, Amber McCann, says the Senate is finally ready to vote.

Almost.

the plume, 1,4 dioxane
http://www.ewashtenaw.org/government/departments/environmental_health/card / Washtenaw County

A frustrated Ann Arbor City Council wants to force a faster cleanup of a plume of groundwater contaminated with 1,4 dioxane.

That's after the chemical was found in surface water near Slauson Middle School.
The contaminated water is slowly spreading under the city of Ann Arbor as well as Ann Arbor Township and Scio Township.  

City leaders say the polluter, Pall Gelman, needs to do a lot more to clean it up.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

U.S. EPA announced Friday it will consolidate and cap one-and-a-half-million cubic yards of old industrial waste in Kalamazoo. It’s been dubbed a compromise plan after residents and city leaders urged the EPA to choose a plan that would remove the waste entirely from the Allied Site.

“I’m reluctant to use terms like compromise because protectiveness is something the EPA can’t compromise on,” EPA Remedial Project Manager Michael Berkoff said.

West Midlands Police / https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

MSU scientists proved that you can trick commercial fingerprint scanners with a 3D-printed fake hand.

The finding was incidental to their goal of testing the accuracy of a set of fingerprint scanners like those commonly used in airports, banks, and police stations.

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