As many as eight new nuclear reactors might be built over the next twenty years if recommendations are acted on north of the border. As the Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Dan Karpenchuk reports… dwindling energy supplies have put Ontario’s new government in a corner, and political leaders say there may be little choice but to build more nuclear plants:
As many as eight new nuclear reactors might be built over the next twenty years if
recommendations are acted on north of the border. As the Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Dan
Karpenchuk reports, dwindling energy supplies have put Ontario’s new government in a corner,
and political leaders say there may be little choice but to build more nuclear plants:
Dwight Duncan is Ontario’s new Energy Minister.
And in a recent speech to business leaders in Toronto, he said his biggest challenge is to rebuild
the province’s capacity to provide power over the next twenty years.
His government has promised to close coal burning generating stations by 2007. In addition, all
of the province’s nuclear plants will reach the end of their natural lives by about 2020 unless
they’re refurbished. Government officials predict a huge energy shortfall unless decisions are
And Duncan says that could mean more nuclear plants, despite opposition from
“Absolutely, there’s a body of opinion in this province that I imagine would oppose any nuclear,
and that will be a debate if we go down that route, we will all have to engage in.”
Atomic Energy of Canada, a federal government corporation, is pushing a 12-billion dollar
proposal to build four pairs of new nuclear reactors in Ontario over the next twenty years. Those
plants would produce energy at a cost cheaper than natural gas fired plants or wind energy. The
problem is that they represent a new generation of reactors that use more enriched uranium than
For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m Dan Karpenchuk.
A rare extension of the shipping season through the Soo Locks at Sault Saint Marie, Michigan is encountering the challenges of nature… but ships continue to plow their way from Lake Superior ports to the lower Great Lakes. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Mike Simonson has more:
A rare extension of the shipping season through the Soo Locks at Sault Saint Marie,
Michigan is encountering the challenges of nature, but ships continue to plow their
way from Lake Superior ports to the lower Great Lakes. Mike Simonson reports for
the Great Lakes Radio Consortium:
An unusually high demand for domestic iron ore from northern Minnesota and
western coal from Montana and Wyoming caused the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers
to keep the Soo Locks open an extra ten days. Weather permitting, they’ll try to
keep the locks open until January 25th.
Glen Nekvasil is with the Lake Carrier’s Association in Cleveland. He says this
won’t become an annual extension.
“This is a one-time request. The steel industry had a late surge in 2003, especially
seeing the tariffs on imports are gone, we just could not take a chance on letting that
momentum slip away because 2004 is a whole new ballpark for them. We got to start
out with every advantage we can.”
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Michigan Department of Environmental
Quality all had to agree to the extension, since they say plowing ice flows can cause
For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m Mike Simonson.
After years of delay and scandal, the Army Corps of Engineers is getting ready to release its final report on how to best manage the Upper Mississippi River. The report will influence policy on the river for the next 50 years. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Katherine Glover has the story:
After years of delay and scandal, the Army Corps of Engineers is getting ready to release its final
report on how to best manage the Upper Mississippi River. The report will influence policy on the
river for the next 50 years. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Katherine Glover has the story:
It’s the job of the Army Corps of Engineers to help barges move up and down the Mississippi. The
Corps has channeled the river and dredged soil from the bottom to deepen it. It has built walls
along the sides, called levees, to prevent flooding. And its lock and dam system has converted the
river into a stairway of pools, allowing it to control the river’s flow.
The Corps has spent billions of dollars to build and maintain these systems. Critics say that these
expensive projects amount to huge subsidy for the barging industry. And they say these projects
are destroying the river’s ecosystem.
Dan McGuiness leads the Upper Mississippi River campaign of the National Audubon Society. He
says the damage to the river isn’t always obvious.
“People oftentimes think the river looks pretty good, and it looks not much different than it did 40
or 50 years ago, but most of the damage on the river is what you can’t see; it’s below the water.”
McGuiness is concerned that the Corps new plans will cause even more damage. But industry
groups want the Corps to build newer, bigger locks. Barges have doubled in size since the first
locks were built. To fit through, barges must now separate into two pieces and then reconnected on
the other side.
Chris Brescia is the President of MARC 2000, the Midwest Area River Coalition, a barge industry
group. During peak season, he says, the wait time at a lock can be over 24 hours.
“And remember, that’s at each lock. That’s not just at one lock.”
And there are 29 locks on the Upper Mississippi River.
In April, the Corps will release a study detailing how to improve the river. The Corps abandoned
an earlier version of the study after they were caught falsifying data to justify increased funding.
This time around, the Corps has promised to work with environmental groups and to look at
ecosystem restoration alternatives as well as navigation improvements. The study is sure to stir up
fierce debate about one of our country’s greatest water resources, and about how that resource, and
our tax dollars, should be used.
For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m Katherine Glover.
Throughout the region, financially-strapped cities and counties are looking for ways to generate revenue. One idea – converting publicly owned park land into golf courses. Environmentalists hate the idea. But at least some government officials say a golf course is a way to make money and ease the burden on taxpayers. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Mary Stucky reports on a battle over whether to turn part of a hardwood forest near Lake Superior into a golf course:
Throughout the Great Lakes region, financially strapped cities and counties are looking for ways
to generate revenue. One idea, converting publicly owned park land into golf courses.
Environmentalists hate the idea. But at least some government officials say a golf course is a way
to make money and ease the burden on taxpayers. Mary Stucky reports on a battle over whether
to turn part of a hardwood forest near Lake Superior into a golf course:
On a cold winter day, the air is still and quiet on Spirit Mountain, on the western side of Duluth,
Minnesota, a town on Lake Superior. There is a chalet and downhill ski area on one side of the
mountain, but for the most part, the forest is undeveloped.
“We’ll just walk up here a bit so you can see into the forest a bit more.”
Nancy Nelson is a local environmentalist who’s horrified at the thought of a golf course here.
“So, if the golf course were to be built that would all be clear cut and turned into turf grass.”
Spirit Mountain is owned by the city of Duluth. It has a unique mixture of ecosystems. There are
wetlands and small streams. Wildflowers cover the ground in the spring and there is old growth
forest including sugar maple, yellow birch and red oak. Outgoing Duluth Mayor Gary Doty
thinks the golf course is a good idea. The course would have taken 250 acres of the 2 thousand
“I saw this as a responsible activity with safeguards put in place to prevent problems with water
run-off and wetlands and trees and all those kinds of things.”
The Mayor says it would have been an environmentally responsible project. Environmentalist
Nancy Nelson disagrees.
“Once you clear cut an area it all starts over. It takes hundreds of years, at least, to get to the
stage that this forest is at. I just don’t think it’s a fair tradeoff to destroy something that’s taken
that long to develop just so we can build a golf course.”
But experts say building golf courses in natural areas is tempting for cash-strapped cities and
counties throughout the Great Lakes region. Brett Hulsey works with the Sierra Club to fight
plans for golf courses on government park land.
“Across the Great Lakes we see golf courses threatening our national parks, local parks, wetlands
and forests. They destroy habitat for wild animals, fish and wildlife. They increase
run off pollution and they also close off access to public areas.”
Hulsey says trees are cut down, lawn chemicals are used and to even walk through the area you
have to pay greens fees. The Sierra Club website keeps track of places where parkland is
threatened by golf course development.
But as for the course on Spirit Mountain, Mayor Doty says it’s been stopped, at least for now,
stopped by what Doty calls extreme environmentalists who blindly oppose development.
“I don’t think we should take every tree down and build parking lots and hotels and
condominiums every place in town. But I looked at what was good for the community. And
what was good for the community was to develop an environmentally sound golf course and it
still leaves a lot of wooded lands that people would be able to enjoy outside of using the golf
But environmentalists say the world doesn’t need a another golf course. They say, there are too
many now. Since the Spirit Mountain course was first proposed 9 years ago, the popularity of
golf has waned, according to the Sierra Club’s Brett Hulsey, with the supply of golf courses now
“We’re seeing a lot of golf courses struggling. The bloom is definitely off the golf course rose
and local governments should take a real hard look at whether this is the best way for them to
raise local money.
And so some experts say that in the future, the battle over turning park land into golf courses
might be won by environmentalists by default.
For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m Mary Stucky.
Sturgeon like this adult used to be common in the Great Lakes. Today biologists are trying to restore populations of the ancient fish. (Photo courtesy of the USFWS)
Biologists with the U.S. Geological Survey are trying to bring Lake Sturgeon back to the Detroit River. The giant fish once spawned in the riverbed every spring before moving on to Lake Erie… now, the sturgeon are rapidly disappearing. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Celeste Headlee reports:
Biologists with the U.S. Geological Survey are trying to bring Lake Sturgeon
back to the Detroit River. The giant fish once spawned in the riverbed every spring before
moving on to Lake Erie. Now, the sturgeon are rapidly disappearing. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Celeste Headlee reports:
Sturgeon are the largest fish in the Great Lakes. The grayish brown creatures can grow up to
seven feet long, and weigh more than 200 pounds. Sturgeon have been on Earth for 100 million
years – 40 million years before the dinosaurs – and they have remained essentially
unchanged in all that time. Instead of scales, the fish have an almost leathery skin and five rows
of bony plates running along their torpedo-shaped bodies.
Fish biologist Bruce Manny says sturgeon were once abundant in the Great Lakes. Back in 1880,
in one month’s time, fishermen pulled four thousand of them from the Detroit River.
“They tore holes in their nets when they were fishing for other fish that they cared about. So
when they found a sturgeon in their nets, they would kill them, bring them to the shore, pile them
up on shore, dry them out and use them for fuel in the steamships. Burn them up.”
People didn’t eat a lot of sturgeon, but the creatures were caught and killed while fisherman
angled for more valuable fish. Scientists estimate that over-fishing has caused sturgeon
populations in all of the Great Lakes to dwindle to less than one percent of their
former number. The state of Michigan closed the Detroit River to all sturgeon fishing years ago.
Bruce Manny says he decided to check on the sturgeon and see if the fish population had started
Manny assembled a team of biologists from the U.S. Geological Survey. They started trapping
and then tracking sturgeon with electronic transmitters. Manny says he was surprised when his
team caught only 86 fish over course of four years. Manny says he realized the sturgeon
were in serious trouble and he obtained grants to investigate further. USGS scientists followed
the tagged fish for two years, and their patience was eventually rewarded. Manny found the first
known spawning site ever documented in Detroit River in modern times.
“We were excited all right. Eureka moment. I mean, this is like a very, very great coincidence
that we were able to find these spawning ready males, and they were able to find a female. When
there are only 86 fish caught in four years out here, there aren’t that many around. So to find
somebody to spawn with, so to speak, is a real challenge, I would say.”
The area where the sturgeon mated lies close to a sewer discharge pipe. There are limp, brown
grasses bordering grey, mucky water. Manny sent divers down and discovered the fish had
actually produced fertilized eggs. Manny says this was a major step forward for his project.
Sturgeon are pretty picky about their nesting sites. They need a fast moving current and several
layers of rock where the eggs rest safely. The problem is a lot of the gravel has been mined out of
the Detroit River for use in construction.
Another problem is the sturgeons’ longevity. Fish biologist Ron Bruch is in Wisconsin. He
oversees sturgeon populations in Wisconsin’s Winnebago River system. He says female
sturgeons live more than 100 years and they don’t spawn until they are at least 20 years old.
“Their life history works well for a long-lived species, but it doesn’t work well for a species that’s
exploited heavily. So, sturgeon can only tolerate very low exploitation rates, and when the
exploitation is high the populations collapse.”
Wisconsin was the first state in the U.S. to create a sturgeon management program, more than
100 years ago, and the fish are abundant there.
Bruch says that’s why many other states have come to him for advice on how to strengthen their
sturgeon populations. He helped build the first man-made Lake Sturgeon spawning site and he
thinks a program started in Michigan has a good chance to succeed.
Bruce Manny plans to build three sites, using limestone, coal cinders and gravel. He’ll monitor
them closely to determine which kind of rock the fish prefer. Manny says he doesn’t mind
spending so much time with sturgeon. He says he admires the fish, and imagines that
each of them has a distinct personality.
“I wish they could talk to me and they do in some ways, because some of them have scars and
evidence of propeller hits which show that they’ve managed to take that sort of punishment and
survive it spite of it all. You know, they’re long-lived, they’re survivors, they’re
tough, and they’re successful.”
Ron Bruch it’ll be 100 years before fisherman will reel in these huge fish. He says many
generations of biologists will have come and gone before the sturgeon population is firmly
reestablished in the Great Lakes. And biologists, he says, will have to create a lot more
spawning sites like the ones in the Detroit River.
“In and of itself, it’s not going to restore all of Lake Erie or all the Great Lakes, but it’s a shining
example of what can be done in many areas around the Great Lakes to help produce Lake
Sturgeon spawning habitat and rehabilitate the Lake Sturgeon population.”
It’ll cost about half a million dollars to build the three fish nesting sites. Officials say they’ll be
ready in time for the sturgeon’s spawning season next May. If the project is successful in the
Detroit River, biologists hope to expand the program into other areas of the Great Lakes where
sturgeon were once abundant.
For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m Celeste Headlee.
Most of the Great Lakes states are taking advantage of a federal program to get money to help make creeks, rivers, and lakes cleaner. But one state has not found a way to get the federal dollars. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Lester Graham reports:
Most of the Great Lakes states are taking advantage of a federal program to get money to help
make creeks, rivers, and lakes cleaner. But one state has not found a way to get the federal
dollars. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Lester Graham reports:
The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program is making
hundreds of millions of federal dollars available to states if they come up with matching funds of
about 20-percent. The money would go to private landowners to take measures to reduce soil
erosion and pesticide and fertilizer runoff. Seven of the eight Great Lakes states have signed
agreements with the federal government, each earmarking tens of millions of dollars to leverage
much more from the federal government. The state of Indiana has a proposal before the USDA,
but instead of tens of millions of dollars set aside as the other states have done, according to a
report in the Star Press newspaper, Indiana so far only has set aside 120-thousand dollars.
Conservationists in that state are calling on the legislature to tax bottled water and bagged ice as a
way to come up with the matching funds to leverage the federal money.
For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, this is Lester Graham.
Some municipalities have conservation uses for
old Christmas trees. (Photo by Lester Graham)
Depending on how your Christmas went, your tree might have been out on the curb the day after the holiday. Or you might be getting around to taking it down now. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Melissa Ingells found that the trees play a useful role even after the decorations are gone:
Depending on how your Christmas went, your tree may have
been out on the curb the day after the holiday. Or you may just
be getting around to taking it down now. The Great Lakes
Radio Consortium’s Melissa Ingells found that the trees play a
useful role even after the decorations are gone:
Landfills usually don’t accept Christmas trees, so cities and
community groups do their best to recycle them. Most people
take advantage of the service. Over 75-percent nationwide,
says Mel Koelling. He’s a Professor in the Department of
Forestry at Michigan State University. Koelling says the bulk
of the trees are processed into mulch.
“Mulch can go into parks for footpaths, into bicycle trails,
underneath swing sets and other playground equipment. Some
locations have homeowner policies where you bring home your tree and you
can take home a bag of mulch to put under your rose bushes or somewhere else.”
Koelling says some people use the trees for brush piles to
shelter wildlife. And anglers’ groups sometimes sink the trees
into lakes, where they provide a spawning area for fish. So,
that tree that graced your home last month could be improving
your garden, playground, or fishing spot in the months to come.
For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m Melissa Ingells.
Four Great Lakes states have some of the most severe cases of mercury contamination in the country. That’s according to a recent report by the group Environmental Defense. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Erin Toner has more:
Four Great Lakes states have some of the most severe cases of mercury contamination in the
country. That’s according to a recent report by the group “Environmental Defense.” The Great
Lakes Radio Consortium’s Erin Toner has more:
Michigan, Indiana, Illinois and Pennsylvania made the group’s top 10 list of places with the worst
mercury pollution. Mercury can cause brain damage in babies whose mothers eat contaminated
fish. The report says mercury in the ground and water often comes from local sources, such as
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is working on new mercury rules for power plants.
But Michael Shore, of Environmental Defense, says the rules aren’t strong enough.
Other sectors have been required to reduce their mercury pollution by 90 percent. These
standards would only reduce mercury pollution by 70 percent. Also, these standards wouldn’t be
in place until 2018.
The EPA’s policy could use a market-based approach. That allows companies to buy pollution
credits from others that have emission controls in place. Environmentalists say instead, the EPA
should force all power companies to pollute less.
For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m Erin Toner.
A new study on deformities in frogs and other amphibians offers more signs that a parasite might be causing the problems. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Chuck Quirmbach reports:
A new study on deformities in frogs and other amphibians offers more signs that a parasite may
be causing the problems. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Chuck Quirmbach reports:
The study is in the magazine Conservation Biology. University of Wisconsin-Madison graduate
student Pieter Johnson led the study. His team looked a half-century of research on extra legs and
other deformities in amphibians. Johnson says a lot of the deformities have occurred in bodies of
water that contain a parasitic flatworm.
He says the number of those malformation “hot spots” is growing. Johnson says he’s now looking
at whether pollution is making it easier for the parasite to affect the frogs.
“Pesticide contamination has been suggested to inhibit the immune response of amphibians and
that could be increasing their susceptibility to infection.”
Johnson says fertilizer pollution may also be indirectly increasing the number of parasites. Other
scientists are praising Johnson’s work, but say it’s too soon to think that parasitic flatworms are
the only cause of the deformities.
For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m Chuck Quirmbach.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says it’s ready to take a new look at the science and risks involved in using treated human waste – sewage sludge – as fertilizer on farmland. That’s seen as good news for people who live near farms using sewage sludge. Some of them say the sludge makes them sick. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Amy Tardif reports:
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says it’s ready to take a new look at the science and
risks involved in using treated human waste – sewage sludge – as fertilizer on farmland. That’s
seen as good news for people who live near farms using sewage sludge. Some of them say the
sludge makes them sick. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Amy Tardif reports:
About three million dry tons of treated sewage – called sludge – is used to fertilize sod, pasture
land and even food crops every year in the United States. As cities sprawl and people move into
rural areas they discover the practice. And many don’t like it.
“We were like what is that smell? This is sick. It makes you want to vomit. Your eyes start
burning and you want to get away from it as quick as you can.”
Molly Bowen is one of a group of homeowners suing the haulers who dump and landowners who
use sewage sludge near their neighborhood. People around the country have blamed the sludge
for causing illnesses and even deaths. They say their wells are contaminated with sludge. They
say they breathe sludge dust blowing from recently treated fields. Bowen and her neighbors
blame the sludge for a lot of health problems.
“Laryngitis, stomach, upper respiratory, not being able to breath well.”
For a while these people thought no one was listening. But cases are coming in from all over and
the Environmental Protection Agency is starting to pay attention. In 2002, the EPA asked the
National Academy of Sciences to study the public health aspects of sludge. Thomas Burke is a
professor and epidemiologist with Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health.
He chaired the study.
“This is poop we’re talking about here. It has the potential to cause serious illness if they’re not treated
appropriately and if there is not appropriate protection of the population.”
Burke and others studied to see if the EPA methods used to determine the limits for chemicals,
viruses and bacteria in sewage sludge were strong enough. Burke says the methods are not strong
enough to use the sludge safely.
“We need to understand better the potential health effects. We need a new national survey to
understand the microbes and the potential pathogens that might be present. And also we need to
better characterize the chemicals that might be present in sludge. The current rules are based upon
work that was done back in the ’80’s.”
The EPA is looking at those concerns. It says it will try to determine if there are contaminants in
the sludge that could cause health problems.
Prior to the National Academies of Sciences report, government regulators, including the EPA,
sewer plant managers, and sludge haulers, insisted sludge was safe when applied according to
Houston-based Synagro manages sludge biosolids for municipalities in 35 states. Vice President
for government relations, Bob O’dette says there’s been plenty of studies already.
“If I thought for a moment that this caused anybody any health problems, I wouldn’t be in the
industry. I formed my opinion on biosolids before I came into the private sector.”
Problems have been pointed out. But the Federal Office of Inspector General reported in 2002
that the EPA offers virtually no federal oversight over sludge disposal and the agency is not
protecting the public. Those in the agency that tried to point out the problems were pressured or
Dr. David Lewis says he warned his bosses that using sludge might cause health problems. He
worked as a research microbiologist at the EPA’s national exposure research laboratory in
Georgia. He was fired last May. He alleges in whistleblower lawsuits that the EPA – which not
only regulates, but also promotes recycling sludge biosolids as fertilizer – wanted his sludge
“I can assure you that many of the issues raised by private citizens are issues that are raised and
that many scientists at EPA share those concerns and have from the beginning because of the
concerns over pathogens, metals and other contaminants in sludge and that concerns the risk that
might be present for public health and the environment.”
Lewis says although many viruses and bacteria die in the field, especially when exposed to
sunlight, the biggest risk of infection comes from what grows in the sludge after it’s put down.
Bacterial pathogens grow when the organic matter decomposes. He says it’s just like meat that’s
cooked and then left out on the counter. Some nasty stuff can start growing.
But now the EPA indicates it is ready to make changes. It plans to spend nearly six-million
dollars over the next three years following some of the advice of the National Academy of
Science study. Geff Grubbs is the EPA’s director of science and technology.
“We’re looking at what are the possible impacts and risks to people who live near and would
otherwise be exposed to pollutants that are emitted into the air from biosolids as they’re applied
to land. We’ll be conducting an analysis of samples of biosolids from various points across the
country to help determine the concentrations of additional pollutants that could impact health.”
The EPA says it will first look at health studies of people who claim to have become sick from
exposure to sludge. And it hopes to work with the Centers for Disease Control and state health
departments to arrange for them to track and investigate alleged cases of sludge sickness.
Environmentalists and others say they hope this is a more science-based look at the issue, but
they remain skeptical.
For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m Amy Tardif.