The home appliance industry is taking issue with a lawsuit filed by several states. The states want improvements made on energy efficiency standards. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Chuck Quirmbach reports:
The home appliance industry is taking issue with a lawsuit
filed by several states. The states want improvements made on energy efficincy standards. The
Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Chuck Quirmbach reports:
In all, fifteen states and the city of New York have filed suit,
claiming the Department of Energy is years behind schedule writing
updated energy efficiency standards for twenty-two common appliances. The
states say if the federal government would get up to speed, consumers would benefit.
But the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers says there are
good reasons the government is behind schedule. General Counsel
Chuck Samuels says the energy department faces a lot of complex
“It is impossible for any agency to do all these rule-makings. What DOE has been forced to do is to prioritize and pursue those standards
that which will have the most benefit.”
Samuels says refrigerators and clothes washers have become much
more energy efficient. He acknowledges that tougher rules for other
large appliances like furnaces and air conditioners have not been
A new study has found high levels of mercury in fresh swordfish at major grocery chains. Environmentalists say the results should be a wake-up call for the Food and Drug Administration. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Tracy Samilton reports:
A new study has found high levels of mercury in fresh swordfish at
major grocery chains. Environmentalists say the results should be a wake-up
call for the Food and Drug Administration. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Tracy Samilton reports:
The Mercury Policy Project tested fresh and frozen swordfish from stores in
twenty-two states. The average amount of mercury in the swordfish was one-point-one parts
That’s higher than the amount the FDA considers safe for
pregnant and nursing women. Michael Bender is with the Mercury Policy
Project, which organized the study. He says the FDA isn’t doing enough to
“Why aren’t they removing the swordfish from the marketplace? Over fifty percent of samples are over one part per million, the FDA’s action level, where they can take action… why doesn’t the FDA take action?”
Bender says the FDA should also require warnings posted where the fish is
sold. An FDA official who asked not to be named says the agency is
educating the public about the risks of eating swordfish. She says states
can take additional action such as posting notices if they wish.
Lofts are no longer just structures with large windows and exposed brick. Lofts are quickly becoming a symbol of the lifestyle of the young, urban professional. (Photo by Lester Graham)
Many urban planners hope lofts will bring both people and money back to previously abandoned city centers. (Photo by Lester Graham)
In cities across the nation, old warehouses, factories and other buildings are being turned into brand new luxury loft apartments, and for many urban areas, those apartments are a big part of trying to get people to move back to cities from the suburbs. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Nora Flaherty has this report:
In cities across the nation, old warehouses, factories and other buildings are being turned into brand new luxury loft apartments. And for many urban areas, those apartments are a big part of trying get people to move back to cities from the suburbs. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Nora Flaherty has that story:
Abby Cook is taking a tour of the Union Square Condos.
“…finished the dining area, old basketball hoops and signs throughout the building, so…”
The condos are being built in what used to be a high school, and when they’re finished, the apartments will have a lot of the things that lofts are known for. They’ll have high ceilings, hardwood floors, big windows and exposed brick.
“It’s a great use of the building, it’s a neat idea and just the uniqueness, I think of it.”
Cook is excited about the idea of moving to downtown Grand Rapids, Michigan. She lives in the suburbs now.
“Location is key, I think. Being that I am a young person, and I go out a lot, being close to downtown, just being close and the convenience is huge, just huge.”
Developers all over are building these kinds of lofts in empty city centers. That’s because lofts are thought to attract a group that’s become kind of a holy grail to urban planners: young, educated, professionals like Abby Cook. They’re often willing to live in neighborhoods that other affluent people shun, and it seems, they love lofts. Julie Hale Smith is with Michigan’s housing development authority.
“Our main target goal was to increase population in our urban centers. When we looked around at other cities in the country that we were emulating, we noted that one of their linchpins of revitalization was the redevelopment of historic buildings or the kind of faux-lofting of new, or newer buildings to provide that kind of lifestyle, that kind of urbanist lifestyle for folks that chose to live in those kinds of dwellings.”
You hear the word “lifestyle” a lot when you talk about lofts. In fact, they’ve become almost synonymous with a certain lifestyle, and not just in the minds of developers and urban planners.
FLAHERTY: “When you think of loft apartments, what words do you think of?”
PERSON 1: “Urban living.”
PERSON 2: “Maybe urban contemporary types, younger…”
PERSON 3: “Young, urban, hip.”
PERSON 4: “Maybe en vogue for city living, kind of stylish…”
But what is it about lofts? Doug Kelbaugh’s the dean of architecture and urban planning at the University of Michigan.
“Lofts have a certain cache… they started in London and New York, where older manufacturing buildings or warehouses, in the case of London, were converted by urban pioneers, often artists, into large, open spaces, typically without separate rooms, and now it’s become sort of a lifestyle issue.”
But luxury lofts like Union Square are a far cry from the gritty artists’ lofts of 1970’s New York. They often have amenities like pools, gyms and game rooms.
“What will happen, is you’ll come up this stairway – there’ll be a landing here – and then there’ll be a second stairway that goes up through the roof to your private rooftop deck…”
Developers often like to call any apartment with big windows and exposed brick a “loft.” University of Illinois Geographer, David Wilson, says it’s all a matter of marketing, that developers aren’t just selling an apartment, they’re selling an identity.
“Developers and builders look at them and they see certain physical attributes: high ceilings, large, expansive windows, and so forth, and they seize upon the idea of marketing these physical attributes. And the marketing process hooks up to the notion of, ‘Let’s play to the identity of these people. Let’s make them appealing, let’s make them attractive.'”
So when people see apartments that look like lofts, they don’t think about washing those big windows, they think of having the hip, urban lifestyle that the windows imply. Take Hannah Thurston. She’s a 23-year-old student. She and her husband are putting down a deposit on one of the Union Square apartments.
“I’m hoping that the other people moving in will be great neighbors. Obviously, we’ll have a lot in common being young professionals, obviously there are a lot of nice perks.”
But whatever developers’ motivations, and whatever people might think of them, lofts are succeeding at one thing: they’re bringing at least some new people many of the nation’s abandoned city centers.
In the forefront, Evelyn Kolojejchick, Ivan Pettit, and John Lundquist help to improve water quality as part of the Environmental Alliance for Senior Involvement. (Photo by John
These senior volunteers help their environmental communities by searching for abandoned oil wells, which can leak oil into the ground. (Photo by John Kolojejchick)
Environmental work isn’t just for young professionals anymore. Retired engineers, former biology teachers, and others with time on their hands are working on environmental problems as volunteers. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Jennifer Szweda Jordan reports on how senior citizens are keeping environmentally active:
Environmental work isn’t just for young professionals anymore.
Retired engineers, former biology teachers, and others with time on their hands are working on
environmental problems as volunteers. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Jennifer Szweda Jordan
reports on how senior citizens are keeping environmentally active:
(Sound of bird)
75-year-old Ivan Pettit is officially retired from his job as an environmental regulator, but he
hasn’t stopped monitoring streams, promoting recycling, and solving a nagging safety issue in his
(Sound of walking)
On a sunny day in Oil Creek State Park in northeast Pennsylvania, he drops a stone down a corroded
(Sound of rattling, splash)
Pettit is estimating the depth of this remnant of an old oil well. It’s one of thousands of
abandoned oil wells in this region. The wells date as far back as 1859. Pettit and a team of senior
volunteers regularly hunt for old wells. The seniors’ work improves water quality and safety for
hikers and hunters, and Pettit says it helps keeps him fit.
“It is work that I have always enjoyed doing as well as getting you outdoors and being able to
observe the things that’s going on around you, that is not a sedentary task whatsoever.”
Pettit belongs to the national Environmental Alliance for Senior Involvement. The group claims
members as young as fifty-five. Pennsylvania has the third highest number of residents older than
sixty among U.S. states. Its active Senior Environmental Corps is touted as a national model, and
has been honored by the United Nations Environmental Program.
But senior groups across the nation are working on environmental problems. In Cape Cod, they
monitor West Nile virus. Seniors clean hazardous waste sites in Indiana. Michigan volunteers
install solar water heaters on poor peoples’ homes.
It’s a fast growing program. In 1993, 26 older adults made up the Senior Environment Corps. A
decade later, over 100 thousand were involved in work across the country.
Ivan Pettit’s work looking for old oil wells is the kind of effort that makes a real difference.
Besides being a hazard for hikers and hunters, some of the old wells seep oil into the ground and
it gets into streams.
In less than two years, the seniors have found almost two hundred wells. Environmental Alliance for
Senior Involvement president Tom Benjamin compares that to two college interns who worked full-time
one summer, and found fewer than fifty.
“Most of these individuals that were volunteers know that community and know the area. They grew up
there, they hunted those woods, they know what a oil well looks like, so they have some instant
(Sound of forest)
Every other week, from spring to fall, the well hunters line up horizontally, twenty feet apart,
and comb a section of forest. Some well holes are several feet across and twenty feet deep. Others
have narrow openings, but drop as deep as a thousand feet. Evelyn Kolojejchick and her husband John
lead Ivan Pettit and other volunteers in seeking out the wells and marking coordinates.
“Ok, longitude is?”
For both Evelyn and John Kolojejchick, well-hunting and other environmental projects are an
extension of teaching high school science for thirty years. Evelyn once aimed to spark interest in
many young minds. Now she feels she’s working on a smaller scale, but hopes to remain effective.
“I belong to Audubon, used to belong to a lot of other environmental organizations and it just
seemed like you needed… you needed to do something that was going to make a difference. I never
had any money to donate to all of these causes and you just you know, you want to do something that
an individual can do.”
Recently, the seniors saw results of well-hunting. They found sensitive species in a stream that
had once been polluted. Several oil wells nearby had been sealed with cement to keep acid mine
drainage out of the water.
“The first year we tested it for aquatic life, there was almost nothing there. And yesterday when
we were there, we had better diversity in that stream than we have in some of our streams that we
test all along that we know don’t have those kinds of problems. So they have made a significant
difference on that stream by plugging those wells. It’s remarkable.”
And it’s the kind of reward that these senior citizen volunteers had hoped for: making a difference
A debate is developing over who has the authority to place
stricter rules on ocean freighters that bring cargo into the Great Lakes.
The ultimate goal is to keep these ships from discharging invasive species
when they dump ballast water into the lakes. But as the Great Lakes Radio
Consortium’s Tracy Samilton reports, experts say the debate is overlooking a
A debate is developing over who has the authority to place stricter rules on ocean freighters that can bring cargo into the Great Lakes. The ultimate goal is to keep ships from discharging invasive species when they dump ballast water into the Lakes. But as the Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Tracy Samilton reports, experts say the debate is overlooking a key issue:
Some states want the EPA to be in charge of regulating ballast water discharges. Others want the Coast Guard to handle it. Whoever regulates the discharges, it won’t be enough, according to Allegra Cangelosi. She’s a policy analyst at the Northeast MidWest Institute.
“They can’t pump it all out with routine ballast pumps. So they often carry residual ballast into the Lakes which is teeming with organisms nonetheless.”
Cangelosi says freighters need to start treating their ballast water with technologies such as filtration and deoxygenation. She says the longer the government waits to require the treatment of ballast water, the more invasive species will make their way into the Great Lakes.
Farm real estate values are at record levels in the region, according to the
U-S-D-A’s National Agricultural Statistics Service. The Great Lakes Radio
Consortium’s Erin Toner reports:
Farm real estate values are at record levels throughout the region, according to the USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Erin Toner reports:
The value of farmland and buildings in the Great Lakes region averages close to three thousand dollars an acre. That’s an all-time high in most states. In some places, the value of farmland went up fourteen percent from last year.
The USDA report says low interest rates and competition for land is helping to drive up prices. Dave Lehnert is with the Natural Resources Conservation Service in Michigan. He says farmers are facing competition from developers who are buying up valuable agricultural land near cities.
“The closer you get to cities, people are more willing to drive further, people are even driving an hour and a half to work, they just like to be out in the country so they have to compete with people who want to by farmland for housing developments.”
Lehnert says he’s seeing a lot of small and mid-size farmers selling their land to large farming operations, and to developers.
There’s a new trend in how states with air quality problems carry out
vehicle emissions testing. Some say it will allow cars that give off
harmful pollutants to stay on the road. The Great Lake’s Radio Consortium’s
Amanda Vinicky reports:
There’s a new trend in how states with air quality problems carry out vehicle emissions testing. Some say it will allow cars that give off harmful pollutants to stay on the road. The Great Lake’s Radio Consortium’s Amanda Vinicky reports:
States that are required to test emissions usually test a car’s tailpipe. Illinois is switching to “onboard diagnostics.” That means the vehicle’s onboard computer gives testers all the information they need.
But older cars don’t have computers, so the state’s exempting all cars made before 1996 from testing. Brian Urbaszewski is with the American Lung Association.
“When you stop testing them, people aren’t even going to know their cars are polluting. Or, even if they know, they’re going to be less likely to fix it because there’s no penalty involved.”
The Lung Association says the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency’s own documents show that air quality will get worse after the 2007 change.
State and federal EPA officials admit that’s true, but they say fewer of those cars will be on the road each year. They say computer testing is better because it detects problems before they happen and it’s cheaper.
Officials are suspending a fight with water bottlers over diversions from
the Great Lakes basin – as long as the water is used for hurricane relief.
The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Rick Pluta has more:
Officials are suspending a fight with water bottlers over diversions from the Great Lakes basin – as long as the water is used for hurricaine relief. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Rick Pluta has more:
Michigan’s in a legal fight with Nestle Waters over the company’s right to tap into springs, bottle the water, and then sell it outside the Great Lakes basin.
Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm says that amounts to a diversion of water from the Great Lakes, and it should be regulated, but she’s signed a directive saying that limits on water bottlers will be lifted to support hurricane relief.
“It’s going to allow for the relaxation of rules during the time of a national emergency to allow water to be pumped and distributed to areas of great need.”
The governor says her directive will expire once the immediate crisis is past, but the court fight is still pending over the right of Michigan – and other states in the Great Lakes region – to place limits on how water can be withdrawn from the basin and sold somewhere else.
The Great Lakes Myth Society's songs cover all aspects of living in the Great Lakes region. (Photo courtesy of the Great Lakes Myth
The Great Lakes Myth Society is a rock band with a clear sense of place. As
you might expect from their name, the band’s debut album is full of songs
about Great Lakes folklore. But their music is also infused with a subtle
appreciation for Great Lakes nature as well. The Great Lakes Radio
Consortium’s Dustin Dwyer has more:
The Great Lakes Myth Society is a rock band with a clear sense of place. As you might expect from their name, the band’s debut album is full of songs about Great Lakes folklore. But their music is also infused with a subtle appreciation for Great Lakes nature as well. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Dustin Dwyer has more:
James and Timothy Monger grew up in what they call the “former small town of Brighton, Michigan.” While strip malls and fast-food joints sprung up around them, the brothers held on to a sense of respect for the natural world.
“We were taught when you drive down the road with your parents, and you see a bunch of cranes, you stop, and you look at them until they leave.”
“…And when you see a lilac bush in someone’s yard, you stop and cut off several and you drive away quickly.”
On their debut album with the five-man group, The Great Lakes Myth Society, James and Timothy turn their stolen moments of Great Lakes beauty into songs about the region’s culture, history and nature.
(Sound of song)
“When the cold stars work overtime to impress you, and the Northern Lights rise up from the coral, And your bed is on your back…”
But while many of James and Timothy’s songs for the Great Lakes Myth Society are full of awe for Great Lakes nature, the songs don’t include any overt environmental messages. James says that’s intentional.
“I’m not a big fan of musical political statements. I think it’s extremely narcissistic to me to use your music as a platform unless you’re out there doing something behind it.”
James and Timothy say they prefer a more subtle approach.
“It’s always good to come up from behind people and imply.”
“We whisper in their ears.”
“Yes we do.”
So he and his brother often use personal experiences to draw the environmental connections. Like this song James wrote about his college days at Central Michigan University. It’s called “Isabella County, 1992” On the surface, the song has nothing to do with the environment.
“And it’s an Indian summer, and the tap water’s brown sand ‘cause the lamprey are crammed ‘neath the Chippewa dam.”
But in a song that’s essentially about the drinking scene at a state university, James includes a line about how sea lamprey affect the tributaries that drain into the Great Lakes.
“I think I may be the only person who ever used a sea lamprey dramatically in a piece.”
“I think you’re right.”
James says he worked for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for a summer cleaning fish traps at the Chippewa dam in central Michigan.
“We would just get up early, get some donuts, pull up the traps, pull out three hundred crawdads, count weird riverfish like chubs. I liked the horny head chub a lot. That was my – and the Texas hogsucker. You learn a lot about your state when you know all the names of the fish that come through.”
And if James is about the gritty, sometimes overlooked details of Great Lakes nature, Timothy is more about the beauty of the area. He’s more likely to write songs about the northern night sky.
“‘Neath a radio of stars, on every band unravel cars. In the distance, Old St. Ignace, beneath a radio of stars.”
“Across the Bridge” is Timothy’s love song to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.
“We played a Chicago show directly after 9/11, like a couple days after. Like so many people, we were almost frightened going into a large city. I’d been writing about the U.P. and it kind of occurred to me that that was about the safest place, you know. Sort of in the event of a hurricane, you’d go to your cellar, I’d go to the U.P. in case anything bad was going down.”
Timothy says he just felt safer up north, where society and sprawl have yet to take over. He says it’s one of the few places he and his brother can still go to simply appreciate the Great Lakes – not to be advocates or fight for a cause, but to recognize and appreciate the nature that surrounds them. A place where the only intrusion from the civilized world is the music playing in their headphones.
These three monks walked 1600 miles from San Francisco to the Trinity Test Site. They came "full circle" to extinguish a flame kindled by the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima that had destroyed their Buddhist shrine. Keigaku Muchu is in the center. (Photo by Paul Adams)
The obelisk that marks ground zero at the trinity Test Site where the first atomic bomb was exploded on July 16, 1945 in New Mexico. The obelisk is made of volcanic rock taken from nearby mountains to symbolize fire. (Photo by Paul Adams)
The McDonald ranch house, built in 1913 by German immigrants, was used to assemble the Fat Man plutonium bomb that was tested at Trinity. The house was several miles from the first atomic test but was not destroyed by the explosion. It is a popular stop on the open house tour at the Trinity Test Site on the White Sands Missile Range. (Photo by Paul Adams)
Sixty years ago the first nuclear weapon was tested in the New Mexico
desert. A month later two atomic bombs were dropped on Japan. It brought
World War II to a swift end. There are tourists who are interested in the
history of these weapons of mass destruction. They find the historical
sites of the atomic age are hard to get to and still controversial. The
Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Mary Ann Colihan reports:
Sixty years ago, the first nuclear weapon was tested in the New Mexico desert, ushering in the dawn of the atomic age. A month later, two atomic bombs were dropped on Japan. It brought World War II to a swift end. There are tourists who are interested in the history of weapons of mass destruction. They might find the historical sites of the atomic age are hard to get to and still controversial. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Mary Ann Colihan reports:
(Sound of monks chanting)
Keigaku Muchu is a Buddhist monk. Since the atomic bombs were dropped in 1945 on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japanese monks have walked back and forth between these two cities with a lantern that was lit by a flame captured from the smoldering ruins of their shrine, which had been destroyed.
In Zen Buddhism, sixty years is considered a sacred cycle. So this summer, they took a new pilgrimage to the Trinity Site in New Mexico. That’s where the atomic bomb was first tested. They wanted to close the cycle from where the atomic destruction started to where it ended in Japan. Keigaku says his journey helped him join spiritually to countless supporters who never want atomic weapons used again.
“So if people in northern America want to come physically to the Trinity site, that’s great too. But if they can’t come, they can be connected. I can connect with them spiritually.”
The monks were not alone on their 1600-mile overland trek from San Francisco in searing desert heat to the Trinity site. This walk was organized by Matt Taylor, co-executive director of the Global Nuclear Disarmament Fund. He says the walk has multiple missions.
“The main thing we’re trying to achieve is bringing the atomic claim that has been kindled from the ashes of Hiroshima back to the trinity site where it began, closing a sixty-year cycle.”
The Trinity test site is located on the White Sands Missile Range. The military holds an open house at the Trinity test site just two days per year. Jim Eckles is a spokesperson for the missile range.
“We get two to three thousand folks during each open house, and they come from all backgrounds, all walks of life, from all over the country. You’ll see young families, young kids, students on a science project, old people who were alive at World War II, veterans who come up and say, ‘I was getting ready to go to the Pacific and this saved my life,’ motorcycle gang members – you name it they come.”
Eckles says the Department of Defense is not likely to stop using the missile range just to welcome more atomic tourists. But the military is preserving the Trinity site.
“It’s significant because it is the first atomic bomb explosion or test site. It did change our lives. The Cold War had a different tone to it because of nuclear weapons and them hanging over our heads. And of course, they are still out there so they still influence us.”
And world headlines about nuclear proliferation still make history a flash point.
At another historic atomic site, the job of preserving is a little more difficult. John Isaacson is a resource manager in the environmental stewardship division at Los Alamos National Laboratories. There, the Manhattan Project was the code name for the top-secret program to build the atomic bomb. Isaacson says we’re still trying to understand what to make of the beginning of the atomic age.
“This is history that is gone through a number of different sort of re-analyses in the past fifty years since the end of the war and it’s still very alive for many people, a very real history for many people”
But there’s a problem. Manhattan Project buildings at Los Alamos are deteriorating. Most are wooden and were thrown up hastily by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Although today, the public doesn’t get to see the site because it’s deep within a security zone, Isaacson says it should be preserved.
“I think the Manhattan Project is a real good example of this very controversial, unresolved historical process that, by preserving the buildings, it allows people to think about it, and it’s important to think about it.”
Isaacson wants us to keep the buildings in good repair for the day when they can be opened to the public. He’s getting some help. The Atomic Heritage Foundation in Washington D.C. is helping them and other Manhattan Project sites across the country raise eighty-eight million dollars to refurbish properties that are historically significant to the start of the atomic age.