The Environment Report

The Environment Report

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A Michigan-based environmental news report that comes to you twice a week.More from The Environment Report »

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Butterflies get the love, but there's much more to learn about moths

What do you know about moths, besides that they're attracted to your porch lights? It turns out researchers still have a lot to learn about the many species of moths and the role they play in ecosystems.

Recycling hits some snags in Michigan

We've been hearing from a lot of you about the state of recycling in Michigan. People shared their questions through our MI Curious project: "Why are some recycling centers having trouble selling the stuff they collect?" - Salle Haverkamp "Athens, MI council just voted to end their recycling program partly because they think the stuff is just land-filled. Is recycling real?" - Laurie Swansen The University of Michigan's recycling program cut back on what they take. And some businesses in the state are having problems too. The folks at Ventura Manufacturing wrote to us to say they're having a hard time finding a good recycling option for the material they have leftover at their facility in Zeeland. "Right now, there's not too many people who can recycle," says Franciso Colon is with Ventura Manufacturing in Zeeland. "I mean everybody is charging you a lot of money if they come and pick up your recycling." Steelcase told us they're paying some of the highest prices they've paid in the

Scientists on the lookout for microfibers from your fleece jackets in the Great Lakes

A team of scientists from the U.S. and Canada are setting sail on Saturday. They're heading out on a research trip to sample plastic pollution in all five of the Great Lakes. It's part of a project called EXXpedition Great Lakes: seven research boats led by female scientists who are studying microplastic pollution. Microplastic pollution is made up of plastic particles that are five millimeters in diameter, or smaller.

Scientists on the lookout for microfibers from your fleece jackets in the Great Lakes

Michigan photographer turns invasive species into art

Plants usually don't get as much love as cute animals. Sometimes it's hard to get people fired up about an endangered plant. But Jane Kramer's trying to do that anyway. She's a fine art photographer. She takes photos of the shadows of rare or threatened plants, and then prints them on paper she makes out of invasive plants like garlic mustard and purple loosestrife.

Robins, cardinals, and a West Nile virus mystery

Robins are considered "super-spreaders" of West Nile virus. They're especially good at passing the virus to mosquitoes, and mosquitoes, of course, can then pass it to us. It turns out a different bird species – cardinals – might be shielding people from getting the virus in some parts of the country.

Flint's water system is falling apart. Fixing it could cost $100 million.

Remember all that smelly, brownish-orange water that was coming out of people's taps in Flint? That was Flint's water system – the actual pipes – corroding and breaking down, at a rate 15 times faster than they normally would have, says Virginia Tech engineering professor Marc Edwards. "In essence, [the system] was being held together with bailing wire and duct tape," Edwards says. "It was in bad shape. But putting all that corrosive water in there really just pushed it over the edge." For more than a year, the city pumped corrosive Flint River water through its system. Then, on top of that, it failed to add corrosion control. We've all heard what that did to the lead service lines in Flint, at a devastating human cost. But now it looks like the wider system is also breaking down. That means Flint has to figure out how to fix a whole water system, without making residents foot the bill. Because if nothing changes, water bills are on track to keep climbing: they'll double in 5 years, a

Flint's water system is falling apart. Fixing it could cost $100 million.

Survey: Fewer Americans doubt climate change is real

The first six months of this year were the warmest on record. This week, we heard about a deadly anthrax outbreak in Russia that's thought to be the result of permafrost thawing. A new survey finds that fewer Americans doubt that climate change is happening, but it continues to be a highly polarizing issue.

The hunt for methane gas leaks goes high tech

Scientists are trying to find leaky gas wells and pipelines. They want to know how much of this infrastructure is leaking methane - a potent greenhouse gas. Naomi Zimmerman is checking a computer screen inside a white van that looks like it came straight from an episode of Storm Chasers. "There's a blue line with the green line, but you can't even see it anymore because the fit is spot on. We're ready to do our calibrations," she says.

Coal plant shutdowns are beginning of end of an era

Consumers Energy in April closed seven of its coal-burning units. DTE Energy plans to shut eight of its coal-burning units by the year 2023. Mark Barteau is Director of the University of Michigan Energy Institute. He says eventually, coal is going away because natural gas, wind and solar are more cost-effective - as well as being better for public health and the planet. "I don't think we are going to see any more coal plants built," he says. "What you have to realize is the units that both DTE and Consumers have been shutting down are older and smaller. So the things remaining like DTE Monroe plant are newer and larger. Long range, I guess the answer's yes, the question is, are we talking 15-20 years or more." Barteau says the federal Clean Power Plan, although it's currently in legal limbo, is influencing what's going on in Michigan. The plan aims to reduce each state's carbon emissions by around 30%. You can hear more in today's Environment Report above. (Subscribe to The

Trading pollution credits to try to fix Lake Erie's toxic bloom problem

Toxic blooms of cyanobacteria have been forming on Lake Erie for several years now. A kind of cyanobacteria called Microcystis produces a toxin that can hurt pets and make the water unsafe to drink. Back in 2014, Toledo had to shut down its drinking water supply because of the toxin. The states around the lake – and Ontario - are working to cut back on phosphorus. It's a nutrient that runs off from farms and wastewater treatment plants and makes those toxic blooms grow like crazy. The Great Lakes Commission just launched a new pilot program with Michigan, Ohio, Indiana and Ontario. It'll be a trading program for phosphorus, and they're calling it the Erie P Market.

Trading pollution credits to try to fix Lake Erie's toxic bloom problem

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