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Preview: The Environment Report Podcast

The Environment Report

Michigan Radio's "The Environment Report" hosted by Rebecca Williams explores the relationship between the natural world and the everyday lives of people in Michigan. New episodes every Tuesday and Thursday.

Last Build Date: Sat, 03 Dec 2016 02:52:48 +0000


1, 4-dioxane, asbestos make EPA's list of high priority chemicals

Thu, 01 Dec 2016 16:26:37 +0000

The Environmental Protection Agency just put out a list of ten high priority chemicals. These are the first chemicals the agency will review for risks to human health and the environment under a new law that Congress passed this summer.

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What happens if the Trump Administration scraps the Waters of the U.S. Rule?

Tue, 29 Nov 2016 16:25:40 +0000

On the campaign trail, President-elect Donald Trump said that he would rescind the Waters of the U.S. Rule, which outlines what kinds of water bodies are federally protected. Environmentalists say the rule is necessary to safeguard our ecosystems and drinking water. But many in the agriculture industry don’t like the rule—they say it’s an over-reach, and they’re worried it will give the federal government more say over what they can (and can’t) do on their fields. The Waters of the U.S. Rule (a.k.a. the Clean Water Rule) isn’t actually being enforced right now. There were so many challenges to the rule when it was enacted in August of 2015, that it’s been stayed in the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals. But many farmers are still worried. That’s because the rule protects certain wetlands and small streams from development. An uncertain future Doug Darling is the co-owner of Darling Farms, in Maybee, Michigan. He’s also a director at-large for the Michigan Farm Bureau. He says the farm has

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What happens if there's an outright denial of climate science from the White House?

Tue, 22 Nov 2016 17:19:55 +0000

This year is likely to be the hottest on record. Scientists with the World Meteorological Organization announced that recently, as world leaders met in Morocco to talk about limiting the impacts of climate change. President-elect Donald Trump has called climate change a hoax, and he’s said he’ll withdraw from the Paris climate agreement. Andy Hoffman is a professor with the Ross School of Business and education director for the Graham Sustainability Institute at the University of Michigan. He says we don’t really know what the president-elect’s climate policy will look like.

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Kalamazoo officials improve city's lead testing, results are better than before

Thu, 17 Nov 2016 15:59:00 +0000

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. Documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act show one high sample in 2014 was taken from a vacant home on East Alcott St., for example. The longer water sits, the more lead can leach into it. After the first result came back at 22 ppb, the city re-sampled the home twice - one sample came back at 298 ppb and a second at 57 ppb. In this instance, the state included all three samples from this home in Kalamazoo's overall lead level calculation. Records show the city replaced the lead service line and the home was sold. This year, the city

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Will there be big changes in how we get our energy?

Tue, 15 Nov 2016 17:32:45 +0000

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.

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What hungry deer mean for Michigan's northern forests

Thu, 10 Nov 2016 16:08:52 +0000

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.

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Nestle's permit to pump more water almost went unnoticed. State now says full public review coming.

Tue, 08 Nov 2016 20:36:50 +0000

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. This issue had flown under most people’s radar until Garret Ellison at MLive published a story about it last week. The DEQ said it had received zero comments from the public until that article was published. It was published three days before a 45-day public comment period was about to end. Carrie Monosmith is the chief of the environmental health section for the DEQ’s drinking water office. The public comments go to her. Last Friday she

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Resurgence of avian botulism suspected in death of birds in Northern Michigan

Thu, 03 Nov 2016 20:34:13 +0000

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.

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A price war over a popular Great Lakes fish

Tue, 01 Nov 2016 16:56:34 +0000

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.

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Chemical plumes in Oscoda, Michigan continue to seep from former U.S. Air Force base

Tue, 25 Oct 2016 21:03:38 +0000

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.

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Harvesting invasive plants for fertilizer and fuel

Tue, 25 Oct 2016 16:20:00 +0000

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

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Searching for lead in Detroit's water lines

Thu, 20 Oct 2016 13:51:59 +0000

The hunt is on for lead pipes in Detroit. Flint officials still don’t know where all the city’s lead service lines are. That’s because the building records were in horrible shape.

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How our unseasonably warm fall is affecting migratory birds

Tue, 18 Oct 2016 14:39:12 +0000

2016 has been on a record-breaking warm streak, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. So what does this unseasonably warm fall mean for birds that need to start packing up and heading south? Andrew Farnsworth is a research associate with the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, and he runs BirdCast – it’s a tool the lab created to forecast what’s happening with bird migration each week. He says how weather patterns affect birds varies by species. “Some birds are dramatically affected, in that, for example, in the fall, species may stay around quite a lot longer than they might otherwise if temperatures are warmer. For example, waterfowl: common loon, ducks on the Great Lakes, if temperatures are warmer than average all the way through the fall and into early winter, those birds will stick around much, much longer than they would if there were a freeze,” he says. Some species are less affected by temperature, and instead time their trips south based on changes in the

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Why one industrial designer wants us to rethink our relationship with plastic

Thu, 13 Oct 2016 16:55:00 +0000

Plastic pollution is all around us, from grocery bags that aren’t properly recycled to islands of plastic floating in the oceans. An industrial designer from the Netherlands is trying to get people to think differently about plastic’s long life cycle.

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As deer season begins, testing for chronic wasting disease ramps up again

Tue, 04 Oct 2016 16:21:10 +0000

Archery season for deer started over the weekend, and that means state officials are gearing up to test more deer for chronic wasting disease. The disease is contagious, and it’s always fatal for the animals. It creates tiny holes in their brains, and deer get very skinny and start acting strange. Since it was first found in wild deer in Michigan last year, seven deer have tested positive, with an 8th case suspected.

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Scientists hope to track sea lampreys by their DNA

Thu, 29 Sep 2016 21:15:07 +0000

We spend a lot of money to control sea lampreys. The U.S. and Canada spend $21 million dollars a year to keep them in check. The invasive fish drills holes into big fish like trout and salmon, and drinks their blood and body fluids. A single lamprey can kill 40 pounds of fish. Managers are always looking for new ways to control the blood suckers and keep tabs on where they are in the Great Lakes system. Now, scientists are testing the idea of using environmental DNA – or eDNA. It’s a tool that’s been used a lot to see if Asian carp are in a river or lake; it detects genetic material from the fish.

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Tracking honey bees with big data

Tue, 27 Sep 2016 13:40:03 +0000

You can thank a honey bee for pollinating about one of every three bites of food we eat. But as you’ve likely heard, bees are in trouble. They’re getting hit hard by pesticides and diseases and pests, and they’re losing habitat. Two Grand Valley State University professors are using technology to track the health of hives in a new way.

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Reviving Michigan's coastal marshes

Thu, 22 Sep 2016 12:49:55 +0000

Most visitors to northern Michigan are looking for sugar sand beaches on the Great Lakes. But if you’re a spawning fish or a migratory bird, you might be looking for a coastal marsh. The Great Lakes used to be lined with coastal marshes that were full of native plants and wildlife. But in lower Michigan, many of these places been drained, plowed, polluted and, more recently, overrun by exotic plants from other parts of the world. Some conservation groups are working to restore and protect the marshes we have left.

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Can you really offset the carbon dioxide you put in the atmosphere?

Tue, 20 Sep 2016 19:27:44 +0000

Every day, you and I burn up all kinds of things. We burn gasoline to get to work, mow the lawn, or fly to a conference. We burn natural gas, coal, or heating oil to heat our homes. And we burn up coal or natural gas when flipping on that light switch. Whenever we burn stuff, we release carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Burned a gallon of gas driving around town? You just put around 20 pounds of CO2 into the air. That CO2 traps heat, and all the burning we do is causing the planet to warm dramatically. You thought 2015 was hot? 2016 has likely got it beat: (To see an interesting graphic representation of the kind of warming scientists expect, check out this cartoon.) So what can you do about it? Of course, there are ways to stop burning stuff. Drive less. Fly less. Buy energy efficient things. And the neighbors won’t like it, but you could let that grass go to seed instead of mowing it. Right now, our economy revolves around burning fossil fuels. Most of us can’t avoid doing it. But

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Flint activists sue for door-to-door bottled water delivery

Thu, 15 Sep 2016 11:00:00 +0000

Should a judge force the government to deliver bottled water, door to door, to everybody in Flint? The Flint water crisis has gone to federal court: a group of activists say the state’s efforts really aren’t reaching a lot of people – especially older, sick, or low-income people. There’s several plaintiffs here: a group called the Concerned Pastors for Social Action, the Natural Resources Defense Council, and a Flint resident/activist named Melissa Mays. They’re asking the court to force the state and city to immediately deliver bottled water directly to every Flint resident who needs it. “These are everyday Flint residents who simply don’t have the ability to get out of the house every day, and pick up a heavy case of water and bring it back home,” says Anjali Waikar, an attorney with the NRDC. They brought in a witness who really makes their case: Jacqueline Childress is 60 years old, a retired General Motors employee who lives with her disabled adult son. She says she doesn’t have a

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