lake michigan

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

We excrete these drugs or dump them down the drain, and they find their way into our water.

Pharmaceuticals and personal care products (PPCPs) in rivers and lakes have been documented before, but this research finds levels in Lake Michigan that could have deleterious effects on the ecosystem.

Thirty-two different drugs were found - 14 of them were found at levels "of medium or high ecological risk."

The study was published in the journal Chemosphere:

The environmental risk of PPCPs in large lake systems, such as the Great Lakes, has been questioned due to high dilution; however, the concentrations found in this study, and their corresponding risk quotient, indicate a significant threat by PPCPs to the health of the Great Lakes, particularly near shore organisms.

Brian Bienkowski wrote about the study for Environmental Health News. Of the 14 chemicals found in concentrations of concern, Bienkowski writes triclosan has been studied the most. has proven acutely toxic to algae and can act as a hormone disruptor in fish.

“You’re not going to see fish die-offs [from pharmaceuticals] but subtle changes in how the fish eat and socialize that can have a big impact down the road,” said Kolpin, who did not participate in the study. “With behavior changes and endocrine disruption, reproduction and survival problems may not rear their ugly head for generations.”

The four most commonly found drugs were:

NOAA Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory / Flickr

Lake Michigan’s Green Bay is developing dead zones similar to those found in Lake Erie and the Gulf of Mexico. In these zones, the oxygen content in the water is so low, virtually no fish, insects, or worms can survive.

According to a report by the Associated Press, in a public webinar on Thursday scientists said the dead zone may cover as much as 40% of the Bay. Tracy Valenta, a water resources specialist for the Green Bay Metropolitan Sewerage District, said that the zone starts approximately eight miles northeast of the city and may extend more than 30 miles.


If you live in the city or the suburbs and you travel to the country, the first thing that often strikes you after the sun goes down is the incredible show in the night skies.

The difference between what city-dwellers see each night, and the same sky when you're on the shore of Lake Michigan in Emmett County is unbelievable.

That's the magic behind the Headlands International Dark Sky Park, a 600 acre park along the shore of Lake Michigan near Mackinaw City.

It's one of only 10 designated dark sky parks in the world.

Mary Stewart Adams, the program director at the Headlands International Dark Sky Park, joined us from Emmett County.

Want to know more about what the masses think of your region? A Google search could reveal predominant stereotypes of your area.

If you're not already familiar with it, Google’s autocomplete function makes search suggestions as you type in a search term.

Paddleboarding Across Lake Michigan / Facebook

Three college students crossed Lake Michigan by way of a paddle board on Monday.

The three paddlers were Ginny Melby, Trent Masselink and Craig Masselink. They reached the shores of Muskegon after embarking barely 24 hours before on their 80-mile journey.

They raised money for an organization called Restore International. The group fights for boys who are child soldiers and girls who are forced into prostitution in Uganda.

You can find out more on their Facebook page.

It was 63 years ago when Northwest Flight 2501 took off from La Guardia in New York on a non-stop flight to Minneapolis.

Flight 2501 never made it to its destination. The DC-4 prop liner vanished in a storm over Lake Michigan off the coast of South Haven. The 55 passengers and crew of three were lost.

That crash has become one of the great mysteries of the Great Lakes.

Shipwreck explorer and author Valerie van Heest has joined forces with popular author Clive Cussler, trying to figure out what happened to Flight 2501. Her new book "Fatal Crossing" is out from In-Depth Editions.

In northern Lake Michigan today explorers are stepping up their effort to find a ship that sank in 1679.

French and American archeologists are on the Lake looking for a ship sailed by the French explorer Robert de La Salle, the Griffin.

So far, the top marine archeologist from France says he thinks they are close to the hull of a ship in northern Lake Michigan. Michel L’Hour says the beam of wood now exposed is likely a bowsprit.

The team excavating the site says the beam is at least 20 feet long and the construction details are typical of colonial ships.


ON LAKE MICHIGAN NEAR POVERTY ISLAND, Mich. (AP) - In a remote part of northern Lake Michigan, divers have started looking at an underwater pit, hoping to find the resting place of the Griffin, a ship commanded by the 17th century French explorer La Salle.

User: Brother O'Mara / flickr

Michigan Rep. Mike Rogers candidate for FBI director

A group representing FBI agents and retirees says it wants Michigan Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Brighton) to be the next FBI director. Rogers worked as an FBI agent before being elected to the Michigan Senate. He was later elected to Congress.

Seventy-nine gallons of radioactive water in Lake Michigan

The Palisades Nuclear Plant shut down yesterday after a release of slightly radioactive water into Lake Michigan.  Seventy-nine gallons drained into Lake Michigan near South Haven on Saturday.

"The agency does not know exactly how radioactive the water was, but based on general knowledge of where the water came from there is no risk to public safety," reports Michigan Radio's Lindsey Smith.

U.S. Education Secretary finds promise in Detroit

Yesterday U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan and Governor Rick Snyder visited public schools in Detroit and a school in the state’s Education Achievement Authority. The EAA is a controversial entity meant to turn around some of the state’s worst public schools.

"US Education Secretary Arne Duncan says he’s “very encouraged” by improvements he’s seen in Detroit schools."  reports Michigan Radio's Jake Neher.

Some environmental groups aren't on board with the SS Badger

May 1, 2013
user Wigwam Jones / Flickr

The SS Badger has been making the four-hour run from Ludington to Manitowoc, Wisconsin since 1953. It's the last coal-fired ferry in the United States and annually attracts some 100,000 passengers.

The ferry is an important aspect of life in Ludington. It brings tourists, which means jobs and income for the small town.

However, there are growing concerns among environmental groups. Now, the Badger can potentially dump up to four tons of coal ash slurry directly into Lake Michigan on its route. This is legal due to an EPA permit that allows the Badger to continue this practice, but that permit is now under review. If the permit is cut, the Badger's days are coming to an end.


The International Joint Commission (IJC) recommends that the U.S. and Canadian governments investigate the option of placing man-made structures in the St. Clair River to raise water levels in Lakes Michigan and Huron.

The IJC is a binational organization that develops recommendations and resolves disputes over waters between the U.S. and Canada.

More from Jon Flesher of the Associated Press:

User: Brother O'Mara / Flickr

The race for the Democratic chair

"Michigan's Democratic congressional delegation wants to replace the long-time chairman of the state Democratic Party. Sens. Carl Levin, Debbie Stabenow and five members of the U.S. House wrote an open letter to Democrats Tuesday backing Lon Johnson over incumbent Mark Brewer," the Associated Press reports.

Detroit moves to turn on its lights

"The Detroit City Council on Tuesday approved articles of incorporation for a public lighting authority in the city. The state legislature passed bills in December enabling the lighting authority. Detroit has chronic problems keeping many of its streetlights on, though no one can say for sure how many aren't working at any given time," Sarah Cwiek reports.

Lakes Michigan and Huron at record low levels

"The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers may take another look at placing structures at the bottom of the St. Clair River to boost water levels in Lakes Huron and Michigan. The lakes are at their lowest levels since record-keeping began in 1918, and many people in the region are demanding action," The Associated Press reports.

Stateside: Sailing on a ship of pleasure

Dec 18, 2012

Early 20th-century steam ships traveling from Chicago to South Haven carried some promiscuous passengers.

Historian Larry Massie wrote a November article entitled “Floating Gomorra" for Encore Magazine, in which he investigated these ships and the people who frequented them.

In his article, Massie said that South Haven, a Mecca for Chicago tourists, placed a ban on alcohol.

This ban, said Massie, carried no authority on board the steam ships.

Stateside: Hike, bike and kayak the Great Lakes

Nov 8, 2012
Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

Midwest residents may have three new ways to enjoy the Great Lakes.

At a conference in Saugatuck this week, Western Michigan University geography professor Dave Lemberg will discuss plans for a 1,600 mile route along Lake Michigan.

Lemberg spoke with Cyndy about the details of the route.

A chart showing historic water levels on the Great Lakes.

Just about a half a meter less, and the record will be beat.

That's how much the water level in Lake Michigan would have to drop to reach the record low level set in March of 1964.

In that month, the Lake Michigan water level was measured at 175.58 meters above sea level.

This past July, it was measured at 176.04 meters above sea level.

You can explore historic Great Lakes water level data on this NOAA website.

Sara and Jeff Tow about the S. S. Badger for getting us safely to WI.

Jeff and Sara Tow had to cut their swim across Lake Michigan short. The couple was publicizing the swim to raise awareness about postpartum depression. Strong currents in the lake and exhaustion were to blame.

From the Associated Press:

Family spokesman Ryan Reed says in an e-mail to the Associated Press that Sara and Jeff Tow were declared medically unable to continue the swim Wednesday. He says they were brought by boat to Ludington and taken to a hospital for evaluation.

The Grand Rapids-area couple got under way Tuesday morning from Two Rivers, Wis. They had planned to swim to the Big Point Sable Lighthouse at west Michigan's Ludington State Park.

Reed says strong currents slowed their progress.

Michigan Radio's Christina Shockley spoke with the couple prior to their attempt for our Seeking Change segment.

Google Maps

11:04 a.m.

Jeff and Sara Tow had to cut their swim across Lake Michigan short. The couple was publicizing the swim to raise awareness about postpartum depression. Strong currents in the lake and exhaustion were to blame.

From the Associated Press:

Illinois DNR

An intensive four day search for the invasive Asian Carp gets underway near Chicago tomorrow. The search area is a short swim from Lake Michigan.

user MirkoB / Wikimedia Commons

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. (AP) - Authorities plan another intensive search for Asian carp next week after repeatedly detecting DNA from the invasive fish in Chicago's Lake Calumet.

Officials said Friday that genetic material from silver carp was found in samples taken in May and June. Policy requires stepped-up efforts to find the fish whenever their DNA turns up during three consecutive rounds of sampling in the same area.

... And you thought you were hot this week!


Warm weather, and high winds are stirring up the warnings around Michigan today.

We're expected to have unhealthy air, potential for wildfires, and roiling water in Lake Michigan.

Air pollution

Ground level ozone is expected to be higher in parts of southeast Michigan and western Michigan today. These areas are under an "Ozone Action Day" alert. Here are tips from SEMCOG on what to do on days like today.


Today's real-time Wind Map is showing some strong northeasterly winds flowing across Michigan's Lower Peninsula, and southeasterly winds across the U.P.

There's a gale warning in effect until midnight in the open water forecast for Lake Michigan where waves of 8 to 12 feet are a possible. The map above is showing waves of around 9 to 10 feet.

The Associated Press reports on winds gusts topping 50 mph in parts of the state "knocking down some trees and threatening the possibility of other damage."

The National Weather Service issued wind advisories for the Lower Peninsula and parts of the Upper Peninsula. Temperatures were expected to drop in northern Michigan, bringing with it the possibility of snow and ice. Snow accumulations of a few inches are possible in the western Upper Peninsula.

The Grand Rapids Press reports on power outages in West Michigan:

More than 10,300 Consumers Energy customers in West Michigan are without power this afternoon because of strong winds, according to a spokesman for the utility.

And the winds coming off of Lake Michigan near Ludington caused damage. The Ludington Daily News reported on power outages with winds that gusted to 49 mph.

Consumers Energy reported 116 customers without power in Mason County and 236 customers without power in Oceana County. Consumers Energy spokesman Tim Pietryga said there were about 5,600 customers without power at 9 a.m. today, most of them along Lake Michigan.

Alison Swan

Alison Swan is a poet and an award winning environmentalist. She's adjunct professor at Western Michigan University.

Not too long ago Swan published her first collection of poetry, Dog Heart. Michigan Radio's Jennifer White sat down with Swan to talk about the new book.

Swan says she finds her inspiration from the wild places of Michigan.

sabianmaggy / Flickr

Jeff and Sara Tow have lived through two cycles of postpartum depression. Now they plan to swim across Lake Michigan to raise awareness of postpartum mood disorder, and help others overcome it. As part of our weekly series, "Seeking Change" Michigan Radio's Christina Shockley spoke with the Tows.

SS Badger
wikimedia commons

LUDINGTON, Mich. (AP) - Federal regulators will let operators of the passenger ferry S.S. Badger apply for a permit to continue dumping coal ash into Lake Michigan.

The Badger typically puts more than 500 tons of waste ash into the lake every year during its crossings between Ludington and Manitowoc, Wis. The Environmental Protection Agency previously set a December deadline for the company to stop the practice.

The Ludington Daily News reports that EPA on Tuesday told Badger operators they could apply to continue the dumping as they study ways to convert the ship to burn natural gas.

Republican Rep. Bill Huizenga tells The Muskegon Chronicle that the Badger is a historic vessel that provides jobs on both sides of the lake.

Democratic Sen. Debbie Stabenow of Michigan also praised the EPA decision.

The Palisades nuclear power plant is six miles south of South Haven on the shore of Lake Michigan.

The plant had five unplanned shutdowns last year. Four of those were unplanned reactor shutdowns. The fifth was a problem with the plant’s water pumps that did not affect the reactor.

Viktoria Mitlyng is a spokesperson with the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission.  She says the Palisades plant is under scrutiny.

“There are so many issues in one year that have come up, you know, there’s certainly a concern. And we recognize that as a regulatory agency and are keeping a very close eye at what’s happening at the plant.”

The NRC has just issued a violation notice to the company that owns the Palisades plant - Entergy Nuclear Operations, Inc. -  for a separate incident that happened in May.  A water pump at the plant failed - and regulators concluded that’s because one of the components was lubricated when it shouldn’t have been.

NRC says violation is of "low to moderate significance"

The NRC says this violation falls into a risk category of "low to moderate significance." But there’s a regulatory hearing expected next week to address two additional safety issues – one of which is what the NRC calls substantial safety significance.

That’s a much bigger deal than the water pump investigation finalized this week. In the more serious situation, the plant was offline for about a week last September because of a power outage. An electrical circuit at the plant broke when a worker was doing routine maintenance. The worker did not follow procedures for doing the work. When Lindsey Smith talked to NRC spokeswoman Viktoria Mitlyng in November, she said the worker had actually gotten permission from his managers not to follow procedures.

“Nobody stopped in their tracks and said 'hey, what are we doing here? We need to rethink this.'”

Earlier this week, there was a landslide at a coal-burning power plant in Wisconsin. We Energies operates the plant. On their property, there’s a ravine next to a bluff on the shore of Lake Michigan. That ravine is filled with coal ash.

Coal ash is what’s left over when coal is burned to create electricity and it can contain toxic substances like arsenic, mercury and lead.

When the bluff collapsed on Monday, mud, soil, and coal ash spilled into Lake Michigan.

Barry McNulty is with We Energies.

“The vast majority of the debris including the soils and even coal ash, remain on land today. But a portion of that debris certainly spilled into Lake Michigan, which includes three vehicles, we believe, some coal ash, different soil from the bluff,” McNulty said.

McNulty said they don’t know how much coal ash got into the lake, but he said they are installing booms and using skimmers to clean up the spill.

The cause of the spill is under investigation.

Photo by Rebecca Williams

Asian carp have been making their way up the Mississippi and Illinois Rivers toward the Great Lakes for decades. Bighead and silver carp are the species people are the most concerned about.

Government officials are trying to keep the carp out of Lake Michigan. One of the main methods they’re using is electrical shock. There’s a man-made canal near Chicago that connects the Mississippi River system with Lake Michigan. And on that canal is a system of three underwater electric barriers built by the Army Corps of Engineers.

I recently had a chance to visit the electric barriers. You can’t see the actual barriers, because the electrodes are underwater. But the Army Corps invited me into the control room of Barrier 2B. It looks about like you’d guess – lots of computers and gauges. There are a couple large mounted Asian carp on the shelves.

Chuck Shea is a project manager with the Army Corps.

He says the barriers repel fish by emitting very rapid electric pulses into the water... which, if you’re a fish, is not a whole lot of fun.

“The idea is, as a fish swims in, the further it goes it’s getting a bigger and bigger shock and it realizes going forward is bad, it’s uncomfortable, and it turns around and goes out of its own free will and heads back downstream.”

The electric bill for this barrier runs between $40,000 and $60,000 a month.

screen grab from YouTube video

HOLLAND, Mich. (AP) - The National Weather Service says storms brought high waves and strong winds to Lake Michigan and along the western Lower Peninsula of Michigan.

The weather service says waves between 12 and 18 feet were expected Friday. A storm warning was in effect for part of the day.

The Grand Rapids Press reports a 21-foot wave was recorded by a buoy in the middle of Lake Michigan west of Holland.

Winds gusting up to 60 mph were reported. Strong winds were expected around Lake Michigan and Lake Superior.

High winds and waves moved in Thursday. The Muskegon Chronicle reports the S.S. Badger car ferry wasn't expected to be in service Friday between Ludington and Manitowoc, Wis., due to the weather. Ferry service was expected to resume Saturday.

A federal appeals panel has rejected a request by five Great Lakes states for an immediate order to close shipping locks on Chicago-area waterways and take other steps to prevent Asian carp from invading Lake Michigan. 

The three-judge panel of the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Wednesday against the request by Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.  The states were appealing a decision by a federal district judge in Chicago last December.