Spring Storms Trigger Sewage Dumping

  • An overflow point in a combined sewer line. The overflow is designed to relieve pressure on an overburdened sewer system. (Photo courtesy of the USEPA)

The wet weather of the last few weeks has caused some communities to dump sewage into the Great Lakes. That’s triggering health concerns for this summer. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Chuck Quirmbach reports:

Transcript

The wet weather of the last few weeks has caused some communities to
dump sewage into the Great Lakes. That’s triggering health concerns
for this summer. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Chuck Quirmbach
reports:


Frequent heavy downpours have overwhelmed some lakeside sewer
systems. Some cities have dumped partly treated or untreated sewage
into the Great Lakes, instead of causing sewer backups in local basements.


Jeffery Foran is an aquatic toxicologist and president of the Midwest Center for
Environmental Science and Public Policy. He says the sewage contains pathogens –
bacteria and microorganisms – that can cause disease in humans. He’s worried about the
material spreading along the lakeshore.


“Probably accumulating at the beaches, in the sand, and in the cladophora, this algae that
washes up in the lake and rocks, and other structures that occur along the shoreline.”


The sewerage district in Foran’s home city of Milwaukee has already dumped about two
billion gallons of sewage into Lake Michigan this spring. He says the large volume of
water in the lake will dilute some of the sewage. But Foran is still expecting some beach
closings this summer.


For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m Chuck Quirmbach.

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Ijc Asks States for Asian Carp Barrier Money

  • The Army Corps of Engineers' new barrier will be similar in design to the demonstration project in place now. (Diagram courtesy of USACE)

Officials from a joint U.S./Canada Commission that monitors the health of the Great Lakes is asking states and provinces in the region for help. The International Joint Commission wants the governments to chip in money to make sure that Asian carp don’t invade the Great Lakes and decimate the fishing industry. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Bill Cohen reports:

Transcript

Officials from a joint U.S./Canada Commission that monitors the health
of the Great Lakes is asking states and provinces in the region for
help. The International Joint Commission wants the governments to chip
in money to make sure that Asian carp don’t invade the Great Lakes and
decimate the fishing industry. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Bill
Cohen reports:


A temporary experimental electronic barrier in the Chicago Ship and
Sanitary Canal is the only thing keeping Asian Carp from swimming into
Lake Michigan. That’s why the federal government and Illinois have
allocated 6.7 million dollars to build a new permanent fence.


But now, the builders say they need an extra 1.8 million dollars to complete
the work. That’s why the International Joint Commission is asking all the
states and provinces that have a stake in the dilemma to come up with
that cash. John Nevin is a policy advisor for the IJC. He says if the
older barrier fails or the new one doesn’t work right, the carp will
wreak havoc with the Great Lakes:


“What they do is they swim along with mouths wide open and they filter
feed. They eat all the plankton and all the little stuff that little fish eat,
so they would potentially rob all the other fish in the lake of their food.”


Ohio’s Governor Bob Taft heads the Council of Great Lakes Governors.
He’s seeking input from other governors so he can issue a response soon
to the plea for money.


For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m Bill Cohen in Columbus.

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Usda Withdraws Organics Law “Clarification”

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has withdrawn a “guidance statement” regarding organic food production. Some feared the directive was an attempt by the government to relax standards for organic foods. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Erin Toner reports:

Transcript

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has withdrawn a “guidance statement” regarding
organic food production. Some feared the directive was an attempt by the government to
relax standards for organic foods. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Erin Toner
reports:


Critics said the USDA’s “guidance statement” was actually a new policy that could
lead to more synthetic pesticides being used on organic farms. But USDA officials said
the statement only clarified an existing law, and was issued in response to questions from
people who certify organic operations.


The department has now withdrawn those new statements. Andrea Caroe is on the National Organics Standards Board. She says confusion over the issue raises some new questions.


“Perhaps the regulation is not suiting the community the way it should and that we
should look at the process to evaluate how we could improve the regulation or the law.”


Agriculture officials say they’ll work with the Organics Standards Board to find a way to
address producers’ concerns.


For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m Erin Toner.

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Record Beach Closings on Lake Michigan

A new report shows Lake Michigan beaches were closed a record number of times last year. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Rebecca Williams has more:

Transcript

A new report shows Lake Michigan beaches were closed a record number of times last
year. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Rebecca Williams has more:


The Lake Michigan Federation says communities in the basin reported more than 1400
beach closings last year. It’s the most the group has recorded in seven years.


Joel Brammeier is the Federation’s acting executive director. He says many local health
officials are expanding their beach testing programs. Last summer, that meant more
beach closings.


“The monitoring and understanding the levels of contamination is the first step towards
restoring confidence in Great Lakes beaches. To keep that confidence up, that
contamination has to be eliminated so people can access those beaches whenever they
want to.”


Brammeier says Great Lakes beaches continue to be polluted by animal and human
waste. He says while beach testing is improving, most communities need a lot of money
to clean up those pollution sources.


That money could come from Congress. The Senate and House are debating bills calling
for four to six billion dollars for Great Lakes cleanup and restoration.


For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m Rebecca Williams.

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The Allure of Cicadas

This year, cicadas are re-emerging in many parts of the eastern United States. While not really locusts, they are considered a plague by some people. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Jim Blum goes beyond the backyard to find out there is little to fear:

Transcript

This year, cicadas are re-emerging in many parts of the eastern United States.
While not really locusts, they are considered a plague by some people. The
Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Jim Blum goes beyond the backyard to find out
there is little to fear:


(sound of cicadas)


Reporter Jim Blum: “I’m Jim Blum with naturalist Dan Best. Seventeen years ago this
month, Magicicada septemdecula and other species of periodic cicadas rose out
of the ground to lay eggs. Then, and now, and likely 17 years from now,
communities will expect a disaster. Dan, is it?”


Naturalist Dan Best: “No, I wouldn’t call it a disaster. Tremendous
natural phenomenon, yes, but disaster, no. Anytime you have large, big buzzy insects
around, people tend to get shook up, whether it’s bumblebees or dragonflies, but
especially when something shows up in prodigious numbers like these cicadas.”


JB: “Now, unlike a large outbreak of gypsy moths, the periodic cicadas don’t
actually eat the leaves.”


DB: “No, that’s right. The damage we are likely to see is the result of
female cicadas laying eggs.”


JB: “How?”


DB: “Well, they have a structure called an ovipositor, and in the end of a
twig they will use this like a little saw to make slits in the twig where they
will lay their eggs inside of that.”


JB: “How will that be apparent to us?”


DB: “Well, the twig will split as a result of several of these little egg laying
gouges in the twig, and from that point the twig may die, or the end of the
branch. And so you’ll notice withered brown leaves at the tips of branches.”


JB: “And that’s what they recognize as ‘flagging?'”


DB: “That’s the term.”


JB: “Now, what size trees are going to be affected?”


DB: “Branches or twigs that are half-inch in diameter or smaller. So on
big, mature trees that’s just the outer growth, no big deal. The trees
that are more vulnerable are the young trees, where literally all the
branches are that size.”


JB: “If this is not a disaster, what is it?”


DB: “I think it’s a tremendous natural phenomenon to experience. It only
occurs like a comet or a blue moon, and perhaps even less frequently than that.
You don’t want to miss it.”


(guitar music)


JB: “Now what’s a good time to see this emergence?”


DB: “Evening, just after dark. You’ll see the holes before the actual
emergence. And then, as they emerge, they’ll be coming up and you’ll see
them all over small trees. The edge of the woods is a good place to see
it.”


JB: “From the pictures I’ve seen, and from what I remember from 17 years ago,
the periodic cicada, bumblebee sized, black, orange eyes and wings. Do
they look like this when they come out of the ground?”


DB: “No, they don’t. What comes out of the ground are the nymphs, the
golden brown color, and no wings at all. Then they make their way up a tree
trunk or out on a branch, and this exoskeleton that they have splits open and
out emerges the adult which is a creamy white color with red eyes and a
couple of big black patches on it.”


JB: “Dan, are these cicadas going to be everywhere?”


DB: “Well, they are not going to be popping out of every square foot of ground in
the area, but there will be kind of a spotty emergence. But very heavy in
some places.”


JB: “If the visual spectacle of the emergence for some reason, doesn’t happen in my yard,
will I have missed out on the experience?”


DB: “No, because it’s almost impossible to escape what comes next.”


(sound up of cicadas)


DB: “The sound is an overwhelming, even annoying, series of buzzes and ticks.”


JB: “How do they make this noise?”


DB: “This loud noise is created by the males to attract the females. The
males vibrate two drum-like membranes to create the sound, which is then
resonated or amplified by a hollow chamber in their body.”


JB: “Not unlike the sound box of a guitar.”


DB: “That’s right.”


(strumming on guitar)


JB: “How long will we hear them?”


DB: “We’ll here this noise during the month of June and be over by about the
Fourth of July.”


JB: “About the same time that the annual or dog days cicadas show up.”


DB: “That’s right, that we’ll here during the hot days of July and August.”


JB: “Now why are those called annual cicadas?”


DB: “Well, unlike the 17-year cicada, which emerges from a single brood in
our area, we have several broods of these annual cicadas which have a much
shorter cycle in the ground. So every year, one way or the other, we have
annual cicadas.”


JB: “Why 17?”


DB: “Jim, I can’t tell you, I don’t know, it’s just one of those great mysteries
of nature.”


JB: “That’s naturalist Dan Best, and I’m Jim Blum, for the Great Lakes Radio
Consortium.”

(cicadas fade out)

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David Orr Speaks Out About Oil Consumption

Many Americans don’t see a connection between the war in Iraq and the price of gas at the pump, but a leading environmentalist says they should. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Julie Grant reports:

Transcript

Many Americans don’t see a connection between the war in Iraq and the price of gas at the pump, but a leading environmentalist says they should. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Julie Grant reports:

Soon after George W. Bush took office, David Orr was asked to join a presidential committee aimed at improving environmental policies. They wanted the Oberlin environmental studies professor because he was considered a quote “sane environmentalist.” The group’s recommendations were supposed to be presented to Administration officials in September 2001, but after the 9-11 terrorist attacks, committee members felt their report was shelved.

“And the essential message of it was that this really is one world and what goes around comes around. And things are connected in pretty strange, ironic, and paradoxical ways and the long-term future isn’t that far off. So you really cannot make separations of things that you take to be climate, from economy, ecology, fairness, equity, justice, and ultimately security.”

But Orr says the Bush Administration and much of the nation weren’t ready for that message. People felt the need to retaliate against Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda. Many political analysts also agreed with President Bush, that the United States had an important role to play in ousting Saddam Hussein in Iraq. But Orr believes the U.S. invasion of Iraq was less about terrorism than it was about America’s need for Middle East oil.

“If you remove the fact that Iraq has 10-percent of the oil reserves in the world and Saudi Arabia has about 25-percent, that’s about a third of the recoverable oil resource on the planet, take the oil out, would we be there? And that’s a major issue. We’re there, in large part, because we have not pursued energy efficiency.”

Orr says reducing U.S. dependence on foreign oil would make the nation more secure than spending billions of dollars in military costs to fight for those oil reserves.

Some lawmakers say reducing dependence on Middle East oil is one reason to drill for oil at home, in places such as the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. But Orr says political leaders and citizens should instead find ways to use less oil and reduce the need for it. He says the federal energy bill should force automakers to build cars that get better gas mileage.

“If we bumped our energy efficiency up from 22 miles per gallon to 35 or 40, which is easily achievable, that’s not difficult. The technology already exists to do that. We wouldn’t have to fight wars for oil, we wouldn’t be tied to the politics of an unstable region.”

“But the car makers aren’t being forced to…”

“No – the CAFEs? no. If we had a decent energy policy, it would be a strategy not of fighting oil wars, but using in America what is our long suit: our ability with technology to begin to move us toward fuel efficiency, and that process is actually well under way. It just doesn’t get the support of the federal government.”

Instead of trying to encourage fuel efficiency, Orr says Congress is thinking about short-term answers. With the price of gas at the pump more than two dollars a gallon, the Senate recently approved a tax break package to encourage further domestic oil and gas production.

Orr wants consumers to push for energy alternatives, rather than finding more places to drill, but Americans like their big SUVs, and Orr says few politicians would risk asking them to forgo the comfort, luxury, and perceived safety of big trucks as a way to preserve energy for future generations.

“Everybody knows gas prices have to go up, everybody knows that. The question is whether we have somebody who is say a combination of Ross Perot and Franklin Roosevelt who would sit down and level with the American public. We have got to pay more.”

Orr says even if you don’t mind paying the price at the gas station, there are higher costs we’re paying for oil consumption.

“You pay for energy whatever form you get it, but you pay for efficiency whether you get it or not. You pay by fighting oil wars. You pay with dirty air and you pay at the doctor’s office or the hospital or the morgue, but you’re gonna pay one way or the other, and the lie is that somehow you don’t have to pay. And sometimes you don’t have to if you’re willing to offload the costs on your grandchildren or on other people’s lives, but somebody is gonna pay.”

And Orr says that payment is going to be either in blood, money, or public health. He outlines his thoughts on the motivations for the war in Iraq in his new book “The Last Refuge: Patriotism, Politics, and the Environment in an Age of Terror.”


For the Great Lakes Radio
Consortium, I’m Julie Grant.

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GARDENERS HAVE HAND IN INVASIVE SPECIES CONTROL (Short Version)

  • Centaurea diffusa a.k.a. Spotted knapweed. Introduced in the late 1800's, knapweed can reduce diversity in the region's prairies. (Photo courtesy of the USDA)

Gardeners are being asked to be careful about what they plant. Invasive species that cause damage to natural areas often start as a pretty plant in someone’s yard. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Lester Graham reports:

http://environmentreport.org/wp-content/uploads/2004/05/graham2_053104.mp3

Transcript

Gardeners are being asked to be careful about what they plant. Invasive species that
cause damage to natural areas often start as a pretty plant in someone’s yard. The Great
Lakes Radio Consortium’s Lester Graham reports:


Botanists, plant nurseries and gardeners are all being asked to do a little more homework
before importing, selling, or planting new kinds of plants. Katherine Kennedy is with the
Center for Plant Conservation. She says some of the plants you mail order from the
nursery can end up being invasive kinds of plants that damage the local ecosystem…


“We are actually at a point where these invasions crowd out the native community, not
just a species or two, but the entire community. And the wildlife value falls and the
native plants are displaced. And, so, the destructive potential for a species that becomes
truly invasive is more immense than I think many people realize.”


Kennedy says you can’t count on the nursery to warn you when you order plants. She
says gardeners have to make sure the plants they’re ordering won’t hurt the surrounding
landscape.


For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, this is Lester Graham.

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Gardeners Have Hand in Invasive Species Control

  • Centaurea diffusa a.k.a. Spotted knapweed. Introduced in the late 1800's, knapweed can reduce diversity in the region's prairies. (Photo courtesy of the USDA)

Gardeners have been ordering new plants and digging in the dirt this spring, but if they’re not careful, they could be introducing plants that can cause havoc with forests, lakes, and other natural areas. Gardeners can’t count on their suppliers to warn them about plants that can damage the local ecosystems. In another report in the series, “Your Choice; Your Planet,” the Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Lester Graham reports:

Transcript

Gardeners have been ordering new plants and digging in the dirt this spring, but, if
they’re not careful, they could be introducing plants that can cause havoc with forests,
lakes, and other natural areas. Gardeners can’t count on their suppliers to warn them
about plants that can damage the local ecosystems. In another report in the series “Your
Choice; Your Planet,” the Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Lester Graham reports:


Gardening, especially flower gardening, seems to get more popular all the time. Maybe
it’s because the baby-boomers have all reached that age where they’re beginning to
appreciate stopping for a moment to smell the roses.


That’s fine. In fact if gardeners plant the right kinds of plants… it can be great for
wildlife. There are all kinds of guides for backyard natural areas.


But… in some cases… gardeners can unleash plant pests on the environment.


Katherine Kennedy is with the Center for Plant Conservation. She says almost all of the
problem plants that damage the native ecosystems were planted with good intentions…


“I don’t believe that any invasive species has ever been introduced into the United States
on purpose by someone who willingly said, ‘Oh yeah, this is going to be a problem, but I
don’t care.’ They’ve almost all been inadvertent problems that were introduced by
someone who thought they were doing something good or who thought they were
bringing in something beautiful.”


English ivy, a decorative ground cover, is now killing forests in the Pacific Northwest…
kudzu is doing the same in the southeast… and in the Great Lakes region and the
Midwest… pretty flowering plants such as purple loosestrife and water plants such as
Eurasian watermilfoil are causing damage to wetlands, crowding out native plants and
disturbing the habitat that many wildlife species need to survive.


Bob Wilson works in the Michigan Senate Majority policy office. Like many other
states, Michigan is looking at legislation to ban certain problem plants. Wilson agrees
that these plant pests are generally not intentional… but they do show that people seem to
unaware of the problems that they’re causing…


“The two most common vectors for bringing in these kinds of plants are typically
landscapers, who bring it in as a way of decorating yards and lawns, and then aquarium
dumpers, people who inadvertently dump their aquarium, thinking that there’s no
consequence to that. Before you know it, something that was contained is now spread.”


But stopping the import of pest plants is a lot harder than just passing laws that ban them.
With mail order and Internet orders from large nurseries so common, the plants can get
shipped to a local nursery, landscaper or local gardener without the government ever
knowing about it.


Recently, botanists, garden clubs, and plant nursery industry groups put together some
codes of conducts. Called the St. Louis Protocol or the St. Louis Declaration… the
document set out voluntary guidelines for the industry and gardeners to follow to avoid
sending plants to areas where they can cause damage.


Sarah Reichard is a botanist with the University of Washington. She helped put the St.
Louis Protocol together. She says if a nursery signs on to the protocol, it will help stop
invasive plant species from being shipped to the wrong places….


“And it’s up to each of the nursery owners, particularly those who sell mail order or
Internet, to go and find out which species are banned in each state.” LG: And is that
happening?
“Uh, I think most nursery people are pretty responsible and are trying to
do the best that they can. I’m sure that they’re very frustrated and understandably so
because the tools aren’t really out there for them and it is very difficult to find the
information. So, it’s a frustrating situation for them.”


But in preparing this report, we found that some of the biggest mail-order nurseries had
never heard of the St. Louis protocol. And many of the smaller nurseries don’t have the
staff or resources to check out the potential damage of newly imported plants… or even
to check out each state to make sure that banned plants aren’t being sent inadvertently.


Sarah Reichard says that means gardeners… you… need to do some homework before
ordering that pretty flowering vine. Is it banned in your state? Is it a nuisance that could
cause damage? Reichard says if enough gardeners care, they can make a difference…


“You know, gardeners have tremendous power. We, you know, the people that are
buying the plants at the nurseries – that’s what it’s all about. I mean, the nurseries are
there to provide a service to provide plants to those people and if those people have
certain tastes and demands such as not wanting to buy and plant invasive species, the
nurseries are going to respond to it. So, we’re all part of one team.”


Reichard and others concerned about the problem say although agencies are working on
it… the federal government has not yet done enough to effectively stop invasives from
being imported and shipped to the wrong areas. They say it’s up to the nurseries, the
botanists, and the gardeners to stop them. If not, we’ll all pay in tax money as
government agencies react to invasives with expensive eradication programs to try to get
rid of the plants invading parks, preserves, and other natural areas.


For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, this is Lester Graham.

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Epa Administrator to Lead Great Lakes Task Force

President Bush says he wants the federal government to help coordinate clean-up of the Great Lakes. The Environmental Protection Agency will spearhead the so-called Great Lakes Interagency Task Force. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Bettina Kozlowski has more:

Transcript

President Bush says he wants the federal government to help coordinate
clean-up of the Great Lakes. The Environmental Protection Agency will
spearhead the so-called Great Lakes Interagency Task Force. The Great
Lakes Radio Consortium’s Bettina Kozlowski has more:


The Task Force is charged with coordinating existing federal, state and
local programs and presenting a unified plan to the President next
spring.


EPA Administrator Mike Leavitt will head the task force.


He says the central body will coordinate strategies to attract more
federal funding.


“We can do a better job at managing the 140 programs we already have
and bring a better payload to the Great Lakes. The role of the federal
government is to simply join with the cities, with the other states and
to become a convener and then to step back into our place as a full
participant.”


Leavitt hopes the partnership will tackle the problems with
contaminated water, fish and wildlife, and curb the spread of invasive
species such as the Asian carp.


U.S. Congressman Rahm Emanuel and environmentalists say the plan is a
smoke screen.


They say the Administration is trying to distract voters from its poor
record on the environment. Illinois Democrat Emanuel says the Great
Lakes need funding, not another study.


For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m Bettina Kozlowski.

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Migrating Whooping Cranes Get Lost

Eight whooping cranes trying to migrate to their summer home in Wisconsin are now stuck in Michigan. The birds are part of a flock of 36 that have all been hatched in captivity. They’re taught to migrate to Florida in the fall following an ultra-light aircraft. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Peter Payette reports:

Transcript

Eight whooping cranes trying to migrate to their summer home in
Wisconsin are now stuck in Michigan. The birds are part of a flock of 36
that have all been hatched in captivity. They’re taught to migrate to
Florida in the fall following an ultra-light aircraft. The Great Lakes Radio
Consortium’s Peter Payette reports:


The lost whooping cranes are the newest members of the flock. They
were returning from Florida for the first time. Wildlife officials say the
birds were scared by people in North Carolina who came too close. The
cranes took off, flew at night and got off course.


Now they’re on the wrong side of Lake Michigan and won’t fly over it.


Joan Garland, with the International Crane Foundation, says the cranes
could summer in Michigan and hopefully return to Wisconsin during their
spring migration next year.


“We had a bird for instance, last year, from the 2002 flock that ended up
all summer in Northern Illinois and so we were watching her to see if she was
going to go back to northern Illinois or Wisconsin… it turned out this year,
she did come back to Wisconsin.”


Garland believes the twenty other cranes in the flock made it back to
Wisconsin. There are less than 500 hundred whooping cranes in North America.


For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m Peter Payette.

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