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Environment & Science

MARY MEYER / FLICKR

Michigan's Department of Natural Resources is looking for volunteers for its annual frog and toad survey.

The DNR says the survey helps biologists monitor how Michigan's amphibians are doing.

Coordinator Lori Sargent says spring is the best time to estimate frog and toad populations in Michigan.

"This is when they call, when it starts to get warm and the water temperature gets warmer because they're calling for mates and establishing their territory," Sargent said.

Part of a map of the easternmost oil and natural gas liquid pipeline that shows areas of "coating delamination." The east line shows 11 such areas. The west line shows seven.
Enbridge document submitted to the EPA

An Enbridge work plan document shows areas where a protective coating around its twin oil pipelines running through Lake Michigan might be failing.

Enbridge posted the document on its website last fall. It shows 18 specific areas along the pipelines where there is “coating delamination.” The 64-year-old pipelines were installed with a coating around them to protect for corrosion.

University of Michigan School of Natural Resources and Environment / Flickr Creative Commons http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

Michigan energy is getting greener. 

A state report released Wednesday says all Michigan energy providers met or exceeded a government requirement to supply 10% of energy from renewable sources in 2015. 

The Michigan Public Service Commission wrote the report based on a 2008 law. That law also called for a 12.5% standard by 2019 and a 15% standard by 2021. 

The majority of the energy came from provider investments, while a small part came from banked energy credits bought from consumers with an energy surplus.

U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Researchers say new data suggests a potential link between Flint’s switching its drinking water source in 2014 and a deadly Legionnaires Disease outbreak.

Microbeads on a penny.
Courtesy of The 5 Gyres Institute

The International Joint Commission, a treaty organization that advises the United States and Canada, says the two countries should do more to keep microplastics out of the lakes.

Microplastics are tiny pieces of plastic that are five millimeters or smaller. Microbeads are used in things like soap and toothpaste. Microfibers are tiny fibers that wash off our synthetic clothing, like fleece.

Those tiny plastics can end up in the Great Lakes and can get into fish.

If you see the old label on the left, the piece of upholstered furniture likely contains flame retardants. If you see the new label on the right, it will tell you for sure whether it contains flame retardants.
Mark Brush and Arlene Blum

Flame retardants are in a lot of products we use: furniture, carpet padding, electronics, car seats and baby products. Some types of flame retardants called PBDEs have been phased out because they were getting into people’s bodies and there were concerns about health effects.

Researchers are now finding that some of the replacement chemicals are also showing up in people.

Is Line 5 needed to heat the Upper Peninsula?

Feb 14, 2017
Enbridge's Line 5 runs from Superior, Wisconsin to Sarnia, Ontario.
Enbridge

 

An environmental group in Traverse City is challenging the claim that Enbridge’s Line 5 is necessary to keep residents of the U.P. warm. 

The twin pipelines that run under the Straits of Mackinac deliver natural gas liquids that can be turned into propane.

USEPA Environmental-Protection-Agency Follow

A listener recently asked Stateside the following question:

What does the Environmental Protection Agency do in Michigan?

Posted with permission / EDGI

Shortly after the election, researchers from the U.S. and Canada got together to start backing up scientific data from federal agencies in the U.S.

They’re also keeping a close eye on how the Trump Administration is changing federal websites, and they're already finding some changes.

One of the groups heading up this effort is called the Environmental Data and Governance Initiative. (You can see EDGI's report on changes to some EPA websites here, and its report on the State Department and Department of Energy here.)

Huron-Manistee National Forest
Photo courtesy of Joseph O'Brien, USDA Forest Service

According to NASA, 2016 was the warmest year since record-keeping began in 1880. It was the third straight year to break the record for global average temperatures.

Around the world, governments, businesses and individuals are taking steps to reverse this trend. 

Most of these efforts to combat climate change have centered on reducing emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) into the air, largely by limiting the use of fossil fuels. But what if simply reducing carbon emissions—even reducing them to zero—is not enough? That is the assumption behind a new initiative from the University of Michigan.

This map shows land ownership and location of the exploratory copper drilling project
Michigan Department of Natural Resources

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources has given the green light to an exploratory copper drilling project in the Upper Peninsula.

The use permit allows Orvana Resources U.S. Corp., a subsidiary of Highland Copper, to drill in a one square mile area located on the western edge of  Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park. 

According to John Pepin, a DNR spokesman, the company is taking steps to reduce the impact of the exploratory drilling on the land surface of the park. 

A watershed moment for dam removals in Michigan

Feb 7, 2017
Derek A Young / FLICKR - HTTP://J.MP/1SPGCL0

In the state of Michigan, chances are good that if you live near a river or stream, you also live near a dam. There are nearly 2,600 dams in Michigan. Many of them are small and privately owned. And nearly all of them are getting old.

According to 2014 report, 90% of Michigan’s dams are going to meet or exceed their design life — the length of time for which they were designed to operate — by 2020. Beyond that design life, the dams become increasingly likely to fail. That can lead to catastrophic flooding, erosion, and the spread of toxins trapped behind the dam.

So why were all of these dams constructed in the first place?

Map of wetlands
A. M. Nahlik and M. S. Fennessy/Nature Communications / https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

We know a lot about how important wetlands are for filtering water, and controlling floods. A new study documents another big benefit wetlands give us: storing carbon.

Siobhan Fennessy is a biology professor at Kenyon College in Ohio. She says wetlands act like a buffer for climate change.

“Wetlands are really seen now as an ecosystem that can offer us resilience in the face of a changing climate because of their ability to take up carbon dioxide from the atmosphere," she says.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

An administrative law judge has sided with a company called Harrietta Hills Trout Farm that's operating in Grayling. It produced nearly 69,000 pounds of rainbow trout last year.

The state granted a permit to the company in 2014. But some groups challenged that permit, and it ended up in court.

Last week, the judge issued a proposal for decision that the business should keep the permit that’s allowing it to expand.

Opponents of the fish farm are vowing to keep fighting the permit.

Screen grab UWSSEC / YouTube

It’s a bird! It’s a plane! Nope – it’s a meteor, or a fireball, or space junk...

A bright, unidentified object flying over Lake Michigan last night caught onlookers in Illinois, Wisconsin, Indiana and Michigan saying just that.

But what was it?

Bruce Power / Ontario Power Generation

Ontario Power Generation (OPG) is determined it’s going to build an underground storage bunker for nuclear waste at the Bruce Nuclear Power Plant in Kincardine, Ontario.

That location is less than a mile from Lake Huron.

Michigan’s congressional delegation has objected to the project every step of the way. Now, with a New Year and a new administration in the White House, come fresh efforts.

Image used with permission from Environmental Science and Technology Letters.

A new study found fluorinated chemicals in one third of the fast food packages researchers tested. The chemicals keep oil and grease from leaking through.

The researchers found that out of 407 food packages tested, 46% of food contact papers and 20% of paperboard contained fluorinated chemicals.

Scientists have found this class of chemicals doesn't break down in the environment, and some kinds of fluorinated chemicals are linked to health problems.

EPA

There’s been a lot going on at the Environmental Protection Agency lately.

First, the Trump administration barred anyone at the EPA from communicating with the public. Then, a White House official announced that EPA research could be subject to review by the administration.

The Trump administration has sent strong signals that it’s going to be friendly to industry.

Grass carp
USGS

There are grass carp in three of the Great Lakes, but it’s not too late to do something about it.

That’s one of the conclusions of a new risk assessment on this type of Asian carp by the United States and Canada.

Courtesy of Michael Bernitsas

The Next Idea

Earth’s water is a natural medium for collecting energy, taking in about 97% of what we receive from the sun. After reflection and radiation, water stores over 2 million TWh (terawatt hours) per year. The world’s annual energy consumption is about 150,000 TWh. Clearly, we could benefit from using water for power.

Rebecca Williams / Michigan Radio

Ann Arbor is joining a "guerrilla archiving" movement.

Librarians, web developers and other volunteers are working fast to save scientific data from federal agency websites.

It’s called Ann Arbor Data Rescue, and it’s part of a larger project that’s springing up around the U.S. and Canada.

They’re doing this in case the Trump Administration changes or removes data.

USGS

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. (AP) - Scientists say grass carp have invaded three of the Great Lakes and pose a significant environmental risk. But they say there's still time to prevent them from becoming established.

Grass carp are among four Asian carp species threatening to reach the lakes, where they could upend ecological systems and compete with native fish for food.

A U.S.-Canadian assessment released Friday says grass carp have been found in Lakes Erie, Michigan and Ontario. At least some are reproducing, although most are believed to be sterile.

Roger Chafee in May 1965 at a console in NASA’s Mission Operations Control Room in the Mission Control Center (MCC) in Houston during a Gemini simulation.
The Grand Rapids Public Museum and City Archives, Roger B. Chaffee Collection

Today marks 50 years since NASA faced one of the organization's biggest setbacks. On Jan. 27, 1967, a fire during a preflight test for Apollo 1 killed the three astronauts on board.

One of the crew members was Grand Rapids native Roger B. Chaffee.

Glen Swanson, a former NASA historian and current visiting instructor in the Department of Physics at Grand Valley State University, joined Stateside to look back at Chaffee's life and death, and how the Apollo 1 disaster changed NASA.

The sites of the Velsicol Superfund sites in St. Louis Michigan.
Kaye LaFond / Michigan Radio

 

There are a lot of former industrial sites in Michigan that need to be cleaned up. The pollution left behind in one town in the middle of Michigan is particularly bad. The Velsicol Chemical Company (known as Michigan Chemical up until 1976) produced a lot of toxic chemicals in St. Louis, Michigan.

 

Small Mich. city hopes water problems will soon be solved

Jan 24, 2017
Steve Depolo / Flickr Creative Commons http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

Rust-colored water that smells like rotten eggs has been coming out of some faucets in the city of Leslie since 2013, according to Leslie city manager Aaron Desentz.

And the city has delivered bottled water for three years to about 50 of its 750 water customers, at a cost of about $9,000, while it has searched for a solution to the problem.

"People do rely on the bottled water, typically for their drinking needs, if they're having these problems," said  Desentz.

Sheba the Elephant at the Belle Isle Zoo during the 1940s
1940s Detroit Zoo Guide - Asian Elephant Net website

"She is five tons of gray, ponderous beauty."

That's how Rex G. White of the Detroit News described the now-forgotten treasure of the Belle Isle Zoo: Sheba the Asian elephant.

She arrived in Detroit in 1923 and lived at the Belle Isle Zoo until she died on Jan. 2, 1959.

And it all began with a letter written by a schoolgirl.

A mild weather day
Emma Winowiecki / Michigan Radio

2016 was the hottest year on record.

When we talk about climate change, we usually talk about extreme weather events: extreme heat, drought, flooding. But scientists have also studied what’s likely to happen with the best weather days. Days that are not too hot, not too cold, or humid or rainy. Just right.

A kitchen sink in Flint with a point-of-use water filter.
Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

In Flint, experts are warning that one potential solution to the city’s lead-tainted tap water has some serious potential downsides.

Whole house filters cleanse water of impurities and chemicals. Groups have been promoting their use in Flint to screen out lead. A company gave a presentation to the city council just a few days ago.

But experts say the filters have a downside.

Dr. Mona Hanna Attisha helped raised the alarm about lead in Flint’s tap water. She says ‘whole-house’ filters don’t screen out lead that leaches from pipes and filters inside the home.

Mark Savage / Entergy Corporation

A state board wants more information on how Consumers Energy will make up for the nearly 800 megawatts of power that will be lost after the Palisades Nuclear Plant’s planned shut down in 2018.

In documents filed this month, Consumers said it plans to make up for the lost nuclear power with an expanded wind farm in Michigan’s Thumb region, increased energy efficiency, and by purchasing power from within the regional electric grid.

Honey bees face a number of threats.
cygnus921 / Creative Commons

Researchers have found a chemical that’s widely used on crops such as almonds, wine grapes and tree fruits can be bad for bees.

They’ve found it makes honey bee larvae more susceptible to deadly viruses.

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