A new report says the federal Clean Air Act has been effective in dealing with some of the most serious air quality problems, but also recommends major changes to the law. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Julie Grant has more:
A new report says the federal Clean Air Act has been effective in dealing with some of the most
serious air quality problems, but also recommends major changes to the law. The Great Lakes
Radio Consortium’s Julie Grant has more:
The National Research Council analysis is one of the most comprehensive studies ever done of
the forty-year old law. Republican Representative Ken Calvert requested the report. His district
outside of Los Angeles has some of the nation’s worst air pollution problems.
Rebecca Rubin is Calvert’s press secretary. She says the congressman is impressed with how
successful the Clean Air Act has been, despite the growing economy and population.
“Because of the Clean Air Act they were still able to improve the air quality. So the argument
that development and more people, more cars contribute is not necessarily always true.”
But some environmental groups see the report as a sharp critique of the Clean Air Act. Among
other things, the report’s authors urge the EPA to better enforce current environmental laws, to
pay attention to air quality in poor communities, and to consider the ecological effects of national
air pollution standards.
For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m Julie Grant.
Scientists are sounding the alarm about what they call a catastrophic decline of the American Eel in the Great Lakes. They say the eel’s fate is a warning sign of overall climate change. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s David Sommerstein reports:
Scientists are sounding the alarm about what they call a catastrophic decline of the American Eel
in the Great Lakes. They say the eel’s fate is a warning sign of overall climate change. The Great
Lakes Radio Consortium’s David Sommerstein reports:
John Casselman is a researcher with the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources. He says
American Eels used to be to Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River what salmon is to the
“Inshore eels represented half of the total weight of fish inshore, so they were massively abundant
and the Onondaga of the Iroquois Confederacy actually had an eel clan.”
Today there’s only about one eel for every 10 acres in Lake Ontario. The eel spawns in the
Sargasso Sea and migrates into the Great Lakes. While commercial fishing, pollution, and dams
have contributed to the eel’s dramatic decline, Casselman says oceanic climate change may be a
“And if we’re not concerned about it, or trying to do something about it, it is at our peril. Maybe
the loss of this eel resource is telling us something that’s a lot bigger and that I think we should be
paying a lot more attention to.”
Concerned scientists and the Great Lakes Fishery Commission have issued emergency
declarations urging the U.S. and Canada to take immediate action.
For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m David Sommerstein.
A new report says metropolitan Milwaukee is pumping so much groundwater, it’s pulling water out of the Great Lakes basin. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Sarah Hulett reports:
A new report says metropolitan Milwaukee is pumping so much groundwater, it’s
pulling water out of the Great Lakes basin. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s
Sarah Hulett reports:
Just west of Milwaukee runs a line that divides the Great Lakes basin from
the Mississippi River basin. Researchers at the U.S. Geological Survey say
the fast growing-communities that sit along that line are pumping enough
groundwater that it’s actually reversed the underground flow that used to go
into Lake Michigan. Instead, that water is coming out of the lake.
Noah Hall is with the National Wildlife Federation.
“What’s most shocking and disturbing about this, though, is that this
groundwater pumping that’s been going on is having the effect of draining
Lake Michigan of ten million gallons a day, and diverting that water out of
the Great Lakes basin, never to return.”
Hall says that water is going into the Mississippi River basin. He says the
USGS report illustrates the need for Great Lakes governors to regulate
groundwater – not just surface water.
For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m Sarah Hulett.
Kim Brooks makes a batch of her Annie Goatley Hand-Milled Soap in her kitchen. (Photo by Tamar Charney)
For many of us, soap is just another mass-produced product we buy at the local supermarket. But in recent years, all-natural handmade soap has been showing up in galleries, gift boutiques, craft shows, and farmers’ markets. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Tamar Charney has more:
For many of us soap is just another mass-produced product we buy at the local supermarket.
But in recent years, all-natural handmade soap has been showing up in galleries,
gift boutiques, craft shows, and farmers’ markets. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s
Tamar Charney has more:
Kim Brooks’ home smells clean – like lemon, rosemary, citronella and well,
soap. The smell’s so pervasive that it wafts onto the school bus with her
12-year-old son, prompting taunts. His response to the kids teasing is he smells
like profit. See, his mom is a soap maker.
“I think I need to make some goats and oats with a dab of honey. So we’ll take oatmeal…
then I also want to add a little fragrance to this…”
She makes 30 different types of bars for her Annie Goatley line of homemade soap.
“My soap is hand-milled, so what that means is I take olive oil, palm oil and coconut oil
and then I melt it down and add the lye and it saponifies, and then I make a base that
comes out in big chunks of hard soap and then I take these big chunks…”
It takes about two months from the time she starts a batch of soap until she
has a finished bar.
Kim Brooks started her business last June. She says she’s one of those
people who’d buy handmade soap any time she saw it. She says it was an
inexpensive way to feel like she was pampering herself. Eventually she
learned how to make it.
“There is a group of people that whenever they go to a craft show they buy soap. It’s
odd to think of it, but there is actually a culture of people that seek it out.”
Enough that Brooks says she can make soap seven days a week and still have trouble keeping up
“As long as people get dirty, there’s always a market isn’t there?”
Patty Pike is another soap maker. She lives near Rogers City in northern Michigan. And she runs
an e-mail list for soap makers all across the state. More than 170 people are on the list.
“There are many women who are at home, either by choice or otherwise, and they are looking for
something to do to keep busy or to have a home-based business.”
She says for some, soap making is a creative outlet or a craft. For others,
such as Patty Pike herself, soap is a way to beef up a family farm’s bottom
She raises goats, cattle, and chickens for show and for meat. And
soap was a way to make some money off the extra goat milk.
If you drive around rural communities you’re likely to see hand-lettered signs for soap outside
In recent years, there’s been a renewed interest in how things used to be back before soap became
a mass-produced product advertised on TV.
(sound of soap ad)
At The Henry Ford Museum & Greenfield Village in Dearborn, Michigan, crowds of people who
grew up humming the ads for Dial, Zest, and Irish Spring show up to watch soap making
Jim Johnson is with the Henry Ford. He says in colonial times, soap was just something everyone
made at home.
“As we move towards the whole convenience thing… this starts really at the end of the 19th
century and takes off at that point. By the time you get to the other side of Depression, the other
side of World War II, homemade soap is something only of folklore at that point.”
He says with the back-to-land and natural foods movement in the 1960’s and 70’s there was a
return to handmade, homemade soap. Since then, it has bubbled up from being a counterculture
interest to a more mainstream one.
One that’s been encouraged by the slow food movement, interest in organic products, and even
the popularity of how-to shows on television.
“It may be just sort of a whim or a hobby trying to make a connection to the past, other times they
might attempt it for practical purposes, you know, where they want something that they’ve done
with their own hands and they know what’s in it.”
And for a lot of people that itself is rewarding.
Kim Brooks takes a break from stirring a big pot of soap and she goes out to feed her goats and
Like many of her customers, she has discovered she gets a certain satisfaction making things
herself or from buying things from someone she knows or at least has met.
“You know, we have heard so many things about ‘well this has been put in our
foods or that has been put in our foods’… and ‘this is a cancer-causing agent’ and you know, ‘this
is safe’ but then later on we find out well it’s not really safe. And I think that just as a culture
we’re really trying to get back to more of the natural products. I think handmade soaps go right
along with that.”
And she thinks people may be realizing they value things more when they’re made by people, not
machines. Handmade soaps might be all the rage at craft shows, gift boutiques, and farmers’
markets, but even soap manufacturers have caught onto the trend. In the aisles of many
supermarkets and drug stores, more and more soaps are showing up that look handmade even
when they’re not.
For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m Tamar Charney.
There’s an effort underway to get people to stop burning their trash. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Lester Graham reports that experts have found that toxins from backyard burning can get into food:
There’s an effort underway to get people to stop burning their trash. The Great Lakes Radio
Consortium’s Lester Graham reports that experts have found that toxins from backyard burning
can get into food:
Often, garbage truck routes don’t include rural areas, so many people there just burn their trash.
But that can lead to toxins getting into food. John Giesy is with the National Food Safety and
Toxicology Center at Michigan State University.
“Well, when we burn waste in a barrel, the dioxins will be in the gas and in the particulates. And,
so, they go downwind, but those particulates ultimately fall out.”
And they end up on the grass that livestock eat. We end up taking in the dioxins in the meat and
milk products that we eat. Because backyard burning is the largest human-caused source of
dioxins, the Environmental Protection Agency is working with states and communities to try to
get people to get rid of their trash some other way.
For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, this is Lester Graham.
For most of us, getting rid of the garbage is as simple as setting it at the curb. But not everyone can get garbage pick-up. So, instead, they burn their trash. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Lester Graham reports… that choice could be affecting your health:
For most of us, getting rid of the garbage is as simple as setting it at the curb. But not everyone
can get garbage pick-up. So, instead, they burn their trash. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s
Lester Graham reports… that choice could be affecting your health:
(sound of garbage trucks)
It’s not been that long ago that people everywhere but in the largest cities burned their trash in a
barrel or pit in the backyard. That’s not as often the case these days. Garbage trucks make their
appointed rounds in cities, small towns, and in some rural areas. But they don’t pick up
everywhere… or if they do offer service… it’s much more expensive because the pick-up is so far
out in the country.
Roger Booth lives in a rural area in southwestern Illinois. He says garbage pick-up is not an
option for him.
“Well, we burn it and then bury the ashes and things. We don’t have a good way to dispose of it
any other method. The cost of having pick up arranged is prohibitive.”
He burns his garbage in the backyard. Booth separates bottles and tin cans from the rest of the
garbage so that he doesn’t end up with broken glass and rusty cans scattered around. A lot of
people don’t do that much. They burn everything in a barrel and then dump the ashes and scrap in
a gully… or just burn everything in a gully or ditch. Booth says that’s the way most folks take
care of the garbage in the area. No one talks about the smoke or fumes put off by the burning.
“I haven’t ever thought much about that. So, I don’t suppose that I have any real concerns at this
moment. I don’t think I’m doing anything different than most people.”
And that’s what many people who burn their garbage say. A survey conducted by the Zenith
Research Group found that people in areas of Wisconsin and Minnesota who didn’t have regular
garbage collection believe burning is a viable option to get rid of their household and yard waste.
Nearly 45-percent of them indicated it was “convenient,” which the researchers interpreted to
mean that even if garbage pick-up were available, the residents might find more convenient to
keep burning their garbage.
While some cities and more densely populated areas have restricted backyard burning… state
governments in all but a handful of states in New England and the state of California have been
reluctant to put a lot of restrictions on burning barrels.
But backyard burning can be more than just a stinky nuisance. Burning garbage can bring
together all the conditions necessary to produce dioxin. Dioxin is a catch-all term that includes
several toxic compounds. The extent of their impact on human health is not completely known…
but they’re considered to be very dangerous to human health in the tiniest amounts.
Since most of the backyard burning is done in rural areas, livestock are exposed to dioxin and it
gets into the meat and milk that we consume.
John Giesy is with the National Food Safety and Toxicology Center at Michigan State University.
He says as people burn garbage, the dioxins are emitted in the fumes and smoke…
“So, when they fall out onto the ground or onto the grass, then animals eat those plants and it
becomes part of their diet. And ultimately it’s accumulated into the animal and it’s stored as fat.
Now, particularly with dairy cattle, one of the concerns about being exposed to dioxins is that
then when they’re producing milk, milk has fat it in, it has butter fat in it. And the dioxins go
along with that.”
So, every time we drink milk, snack on cheese, or eat a hamburger, we risk getting a small dose
of dioxin. Beyond that, vegetables from a farmer’s garden, if not properly washed, could be
coated with dioxins. And even a miniscule amount of dioxin is risky.
John Giesy says chemical manufacturing plants and other sources of man-made dioxin have been
cleaned up. Now, backyard burning is the biggest source of dioxins produced by humans.
“So, now as we continue to strive to reduce the amount of dioxins in the environment and in our
food, this is one place where we can make an impact.”
“That’s the concern. That’s the concern, is that it’s the largest remaining source of produced
Dan Hopkins is with the Environmental Protection Agency. He says, collectively, backyard
burning produces 50 times the amount of dioxin as all the large and medium sized incinerators
across the nation combined. That’s because the incinerators burn hot enough to destroy dioxins
and have pollution control devices to limit emissions. Backyard burning doesn’t get nearly that
hot and the smoke and fumes spread unchecked.
The EPA wants communities to take the problem of backyard burning seriously. It wants state
and local governments to do more to make people aware that backyard burning is contaminating
our food and encourage them to find other ways to get rid of their garbage…
“(It) probably won’t be a one-size-fits-all solution, but by exchanging successful efforts that other
communities have had, we should be able to help communities fashion approaches that have a
high probability of success.”
But… public education efforts are expensive… and often they don’t reach the people who most
need to hear them. The EPA is not optimistic that it will see everyone stop burning their garbage.
It’s not even a goal. The agency is just hoping enough people will find other ways to get rid of
their trash that the overall dioxin level in food is reduced.
For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, this is Lester Graham.