Pop Sci Picks a Michigan Invention, EPA Reports on Enforcement, & a 2012 Lightbulb Guide

The Environment Report. As heard Fridays @ 9 a.m. Eastern on Q-90.1 FM, Delta College

photo lighting facts consumers union guide

Courtesy Consumers Union

Dec. 30, 2011:

1 – A Michigan invention has been named one of the “Best of” 2011 by Popular Science magazine.

The product, called Forage Boost, was developed by researchers at Michigan State University.

It’s a microbial fertilizer that uses an ingredient called SumaGrow. The fertilizer was chosen as a “Best of What’s New” product by Pop Sci for its positive environmental impact.

SumaGrow is different from common fertilizers because it harnesses the power of non-genetically modified living microorganisms to improve the productivity of forages, hay crops, and grain and vegetable crops, according to MSU researchers.

SumaGrow is said to reduce the need for chemical fertilizers and improve disease resistance.

Popular Science magazine wrote that Forage Boost “could eliminate all other fertilizer use on the planet’s eight billion acres of pasture grass.”

2 –

Enforcement by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has cut more than 300 million pounds of pollution in the Great Lakes region, according to a year-end report.

The information comes from the EPA’s Region 5 office in Chicago, which oversees enforcement efforts in Michigan, Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota, Ohio and Wisconsin.

Major cases highlighted by EPA for fiscal year 2011 include a settlement with the Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District, which will keep untreated sewage out of Cleveland-area waterways and Lake Erie.

Closer to home, EPA records show enforcement actions in 2011 involving the Saginaw Wastewater Treatment Plant, which discharges to the Saginaw River.

In total, the region’s office estimates that 311 million pounds of pollution was reduced, treated or eliminated as a result of EPA enforcement actions.

An additional 25 million pounds of hazardous waste was cut, and 72 million cubic yards of contaminated soil or water were cleaned up, the EPA says.

3 –

New federal lightbulb laws are taking effect Jan. 1.

Here’s what you need to know: Incandescent lights are not being banned. But the lights you can buy in stores will be more efficient come Jan. 1, and there will be expanded choices.

The Consumer Federation of America and Consumers Union have released a guide on the new lighting standards.

Light bulbs sold in 2012 will have to be 25-30 percent more energy efficient than traditional incandescent bulbs.

There will be three choices: Halogens, Compact Flourescents, and Light-emitting diodes. The last of those, LEDS, cost around $25 per bulb, but prices are expected to drop. Halogens and CFLs sell for about $2 each. All three last longer than traditional incandescents and can reduce emissions from power plants due to less energy consumption.

You’ll have to buy based on lumens, not watts. Lumens indicate brightness. 60 watts is 800 lumens, for instance, and 100 watts is 1,600 lumens.

You’ll also have to check for light color, measured on the Kelvin temperature scale. Lower K numbers indicate more yellow light. Higher K numbers mean whiter or bluer light.

Don’t worry if you can’t remember all of this, because the law also requires a “lighting facts” label on packages for most bulbs manufactured after Jan. 1, 2012.

Those facts will include estimated yearly energy costs.


Mich Enviro Report: Great Lakes Restoration & Asian Carp Control Comments

As heard Friday, Dec. 23, 2011, on Delta College Q-90.1 FM …
photo christmas berries
Merry Christmas

Michigan and other Great Lakes states are receiving a total of $300 million for environmental restoration projects under a 2012 federal budget bill passed recently by Congress.

The Healing Our Waters – Great Lakes Coalition is praising the bill, which is waiting to be signed into law by President Obama.

The bill would provide $300 million for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative to clean up toxic pollution, restore wildlife habitat, stop invasive species and reduce polluted run-off from farms and cities, according to the coalition.

Also included in the budget is almost $1.5 billion to help communities across the U.S. address sewage overflows with low- and no-interest loans.

Of that, Michigan is to receive about $63 million.

The money for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative in 2012 is virtually the same as in 2011.


What are the best ways to keep Asian carp and other invasives out of the Great Lakes?

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is taking public comments.

The Corps has released a paper that identifies various options for keeping aquatic invasives like the carp from entering the lakes via pathways like the Chicago Area Waterway System.

The Corps is examining controls for Asian carp and other invasives as part of the Great Lakes and Mississippi River Interbasin Study.

The identified controls range from those currently in use, such as aquatic herbicides and introduced predatory fish species,  to controls that are in research and development.

The paper says possible controls include modifying flow conditions, including plugging the man-made Chicago shipping canal that connects to Lake Michigan.

Interested members of the public are being asked to review the list contained in the paper and provide comments or further information.

To comment, see glmris.anl.gov. The deadline is Feb. 17.

— Photo by Alex Hern

Mich Enviro Report: Rifle River Stats, Net Metering & Saginaw Bay Phosphorus

As heard Dec. 9, 2011, on Delta College Q-90.1 FM
Members of the nonprofit Huron Pines group in Grayling at pouring over stats from a study done this year of the Rifle River watershed.  

The group spent time photographing and measuring the area this year. A total of 245 road and stream crossings sites were surveyed, along with 405 streambank erosion sites.

In roadside ditches and publicly accessible lakes, a total of 214 incidents of invasive species were recorded. In addition, 86 small dams were located via aerial photography and GIS analysis.

Huron Pines plans to use this information to prioritize restoration projects for the next two years.

The information also will be used to build a Rifle River Watershed Management Plan textbook. The book will be a resource for local planners and other interested in watershed protection.


More people are generating power from renewable resources in Michigan.

A new report from the Michigan Public Service Commission shows that the number of net metering customers increased from 254 in 2009 to 628 in 2010.

Solar power was the most popular, with 300 additional generators in 2010. Wind accounted for 74 additional generators in 2010.

The Net Metering & Solar Pilot Program Report is based on customer participation data provided by Michigan utilities.

The commission says Michigan has seen tremendous growth in the number of solar installations due to net metering and utility solar pilot programs in the state. There are about 8.9 megawatts of solar installations in Michigan.


What’s the state of Michigan’s environment?

A triennial report from the state DNR and DEQ documents changes in environmental trends including land use, animal and fish populations, invasive and endangered species, air pollutant levels and water quality.

For Saginaw Bay, the report says that between 1993 and 2009, average phosphorus levels were at their lowest in 1996 and 2005 and at their highest in 1998. Phosphorus is a nutrient that contributes to algal blooms in the bay.

State official says it appears that mean total phosphorus levels are decreasing in the bay, but a trend can’t be identified as of yet.

A number of actions have been taken to reduce phosphorus levels in the Saginaw Bay watershed. That includes a Bay county ban on most residential phosphorus fertilizers that took effect in 2009.

A statewide ban on phosphorus-based fertilzers goes into effect on Jan. 1, 2012.

— Photo by Jason McDowell
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