Geologists Mapping Underground Resources

Pull out a map and you’ll find the Great Lakes area holds resources that no other place can claim. The region is rich in lakes and forests and scenic views. But a road map just covers the surface. We know much less about what’s under the earth. Now, a team of geologists is working to map the resources under the ground. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Erin Toner reports:


Pull out a map and you’ll find the Great Lakes area holds resources that no other
place can claim.
The region is rich in lakes and forests and scenic views. But a road map just
covers the surface.
We know much less about what’s under the earth. Now, a team of geologists from the
Lakes states is working to map the resources under the ground. The Great Lakes Radio
Consortium’s Erin Toner reports:

Look outside – look out your car window or into your backyard and try to erase
everything you
see. Take away the playgrounds and the concrete parking lots. Strip away the trees
and the grass
and the topsoil in your garden.

This is the way Kevin Kincare imagines the world. A picture of nothing except naked
– massive hills and cavernous valleys. All created by gigantic pieces of ice that
gouged and
ground their way down the globe from Canada. This would be the picture of Great
Lakes states
about 15-thousand years ago. It’s the picture Kincare is slowly putting down on paper.

“This is a big chunk of granite and you can see this one side is flat and looks
polished. The
glacier was moving across. There’s grooves right here. So this is the direction
the ice was

Kincare is a glacial geologist with the Michigan Department of Environmental
Quality. Six years
ago, he helped start the Central Great Lakes Geologic Mapping Coalition. It’s a
group of
geologists from four states – Michigan, Indiana, Illinois and Ohio – and the U.S.
Survey. They’re working to put together a 3-D digital map of the region’s glacial
They’ll map everything down to the bedrock, which can be hundreds of feet below the

The first step in geologic mapping is compiling information from local maps. After
that it’s out
to the field.

At Tacy Brother’s Gravel Pit, a massive machine is sorting big scoops of earth into
piles of sand,
gravel and rocks.

Kincare is now working on mapping a small county on Lake Michigan. He says looking
at a
gravel pit is like looking at nature’s record of thousands of years of changes to
the planet’s

“That starts to pull the whole story together. How the ice retreated across the
county from east to
west and where all the rivers that were carrying the melting glacier ice and
depositing thick
sections of sand, and where the glacial lakes were, where all the silt and clay was
dropping out.”

Geologists say one of the most important uses for the maps is locating water
Nationally, Michigan ranks first in the number of people who use household wells to
get their
drinking water. Illinois, Ohio and Indiana rank among the top 15 in the nation for
water well use.

Gary Witkowski’s job is to protect the environment in his county in southwest
Michigan. He says
the first step in protecting groundwater is knowing exactly where it is.

“It’d be a tremendous help for us if we could just go to a resource like this and
pull that
information. Not only to us, but, I mean, even to the developer, it would be a
major plus that they
could look at.”

Knowing exactly what’s under the ground also helps planners build in the right
places. And it
helps them avoid building in the wrong places. For example, planners can put
close to supplies of groundwater. They can discourage development on land rich in
minerals and
construction materials, such as sand and gravel. And they can make sure they don’t
industrial plants in places that are especially vulnerable to pollution.

Dennis O’Leary is with the U.S. Geological Survey. He’s helping Kevin Kincare with
the map.

“Those kinds of decisions that involve competing interests really can’t be made
rationally unless
there’s a body of knowledge, of fact, that relates to just what the question’s all
about and that’s
what these maps provide.”

But it could be awhile before people have access to maps this detailed. The four
states in the
mapping coalition and the Geological Survey all have to share 500-thousand dollars a
year for the
project. That means Kevin Kincare can map only one county every three years. It
would take
two centuries just to finish his state.

“We’d have to have a lot of medical breakthroughs for me to finish this project.”

Kincare says the maps are too important to wait that long. He says they need
20-million-dollars a
year from Congress. With that money, they could put together a complete geologic
map of the
Great Lakes region in about 16 years. Kincare says he’s not optimistic they’ll get
that kind of

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

Governments to Meter Water Use?

From industrial processing to backyard pools, millions of gallons
of Great Lakes water are used everyday. And for many people in the
region, that water is cheap. They live in towns where they pay a flat
no matter how much they use. That’s something the International Joint
Commission wants to change. It’s asking governments to start charging
people – and industry – for the real cost of their water. The Great
Radio Consortium’s Karen Kelly reports:

Controversy Over Clean-Up Funds

The most toxic hot spots around the Great Lakes would receive an extrafifty million dollars in clean-up funds, if a Clinton administrationbudget proposal goes through. But some environmental groups don’t wantthe money dribbled out in small doses. They argue the best thing to dowould be to spend all the cash on comprehensive clean-up projects atjust a few sites. The idea is controversial, as the Great Lakes RadioConsortium’s Chuck Quirmbach reports:


The most toxic hot spots around the Great Lakes would receive an extra fifty million dollars in

clean-up funds, if a Clinton Administration budget proposal goes through. But some environmental

groups don’t want the money dribbled out in small doses. They argue the best thing to do would be

to spend all the cash on comprehensive clean-up projects at just a few sites. The idea is

controversial, as the Great Lakes Radio Consortium’ s Chuck Quirmbach reports:

The most polluted parts of the Great Lakes are known as Areas
of Concern. There are over 40 of these hot spots in harbors and
bays, or in rivers that dump into the lakes. At many sites, the
pollution has led health agencies to tell people to be careful
about eating certain types of fish.
But that hasn’t stopped some anglers from doing their thing.

“That was the best cast I’ve
seen today.”

Marl and his buddy Paul are standing underneath an elevated
freeway in Milwaukee. They’re casting their fishing lines into
Lake Michigan for brown trout, perch or whatever wants to bite.

Through Milwaukee’s estuary, that’s the harbor and nearby rivers, is a toxic hot spot, Marl says he

pays little attention to fish consumption warnings.

“Whatever I catch I eat, I eat it on whatever basis I feel like eating it. If I want to eat fish

every night for a week, I eat it… doesn’t seem to affect me in any way.”

But nearby in the Milwaukee harbor, researchers point to pollution that seems to make the casual

approach to fish consumption here quite risky.

(sound of horn)

This tugboat is pushing a barge that’s about to take a load of coal from a huge coal pile at the

water’s edge. The pile is uncovered and during heavy rains or snowmelt, there’s runoff from the

coal into the harbor. Great Lakes researcher Jeffrey Foran says that’s hardly the only pollutant in

the area.

“It’s a virtual alphabet soup of pollution and we can name a few. PCBs, PAHs, contaminants from

sewage runoff historically, metals, cadmium chromium.”

Foran heads the Great Lakes Water Institute at the University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee. He says

there’s actually been some improvement in the surface water quality over the last couple decades.

But Foran warns the sediment in the Milwaukee harbor by and large remains toxic muck, and those

toxins make their way into the food chain. Foran says Milwaukee’s problems aren’t unique.

“If you took the problems and simply dropped the name Milwaukee harbor, you could insert those

problems into probably the majority of areas of concern throughout the Great Lakes basin.”

Hundreds of millions of dollars have been spent on cleanup work at the various sites, but only one

project – at Waukegan, Illinois – is largely done. So environmental groups hope Congress during its

EPA budget deliberations this spring will approve the extra 50 million dollars in cleanup funds

President Clinton proposed. But Great Lakes United executive director Margaret Wooster says the

money should be targeted to just a few hot spots.

“And do the complete cleanup right. From soup to nuts kind of thing. That is the initial making

sure if there’s a polluter, polluter pays their fair share as has happened in many cases, to good

dredging techniques.”

Wooster also says there needs to be good places to dump the dredged material. Then should come

monitoring to make sure the water body doesn’t become fouled again, if there are more
success stories around the Great Lakes, environmentalists believe
lawmakers will then allocate additional money to finish work on
the other sites. But the Great Lakes community isn’t completely
sold on the targeting of funds. William Smith is a citizen
advisor to the Clinton river area of concern north of Detroit.
He wonders how fast news of complete clean-ups would spread.

“And when these one demonstration projects are done,
they’re distant. You hear about them the transfer of information
is long is coming. And sure it’s nice for some harbor to go after
this. But if you’re looking across the board on the Great Lakes
it would be much better used to go after problems in individual
Areas of Concern instead of 2 to 3 separate sites.”

Smith says
funneling just a million or two dollars to some of Michigan’s
smaller hot spots would move clean-up of those sites forward in a
big way. That’s because state officials would probably match the
federal funds. But whether the federal money is targeted to a
couple sites or divided evenly in all the areas, Smith does agree
with the large environmental groups on one thing. He says the
recreation and drinking water needs of Great Lakes citizens
should prompt Congress to approve the president’s plan.

For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, this is Chuck Quirmbach in Milwaukee.

Commentary – A New York State of Mind

Earlier this month (November), the U-S justice department filed the
latest in a string of lawsuits aimed at reducing pollution from coal
fired generating stations. As Great Lakes Radio Consortium
commentator Suzanne Elston points out, instead off wasting all their
time suing each other, the jurisdictions involved should follow the
example set by New York State:

E-Coli Found on Beaches

Scientific discoveries sometimes raise more questions than they
answer. That’s been the case since scientists found e-coli bacteria in
the sand of some Great Lakes beaches. The Great Lakes Radio
Consortium’s Wendy Nelson reports:

Low Water Levels Create New Habitat

There’s been a lot of concern about falling water levels on the
Great Lakes. Some of the lake levels have dropped more than a foot.
However… new wildlife habitat is being formed as the water levels
The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Lester Graham reports:

Other States to Join New York Lawsuit

Air pollution has always ignored state boundaries. And now, New York’s
top lawyer is crossing state lines, as well. For the first time, an
attorney general in one state is threatening to sue power plants in
another. As the Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Karen Kelly reports, now
other states are considering joining the lawsuit:

Is Race Behind Effort to Block Development?

The battle of the Humbug Marsh is being fought just south of Detroit.
Developers have said they want to build upscale homes near the last stretch
of undeveloped wetland on the U-S side of the Detroit River.
Environmentalists are lobbying to defeat the deal. But developers say race
is the real reason for opposition to the project. The Great Lakes Radio
Consortium’s Jerome Vaughn has more: