Native Plants from Prison, and Drugs in our Drinking Water

photo syringe drugs great lakes

Photo by Andres Rueda

As heard Nov. 30, 2012, on Delta Q-90.1 FM, NPR (audio, at 7:00) …
1. Inmates are helping growing native plants for a national wildlife refuge.

Inmates from the Saginaw Correctional Facility in Freeland are helping conserve wildlife habitat at Shiawassee National Wildlife Refuge in Saginaw County by growing native prairie grass and wildflowers from seed.

The program is modeled after one from Minnesota; that prison has since closed.

The local inmates sow seeds collected from the Saginaw County refuge and tend plants once they’ve germinated.

When the plants are mature, they are trucked to the refuge for transplanting on former cropland.

Last year, 60,000 plants were transplanted.

Freeland prison officials hope to see the program spread to other areas of Michigan, and other states.

This is the program’s third year. Among the species planted this year were swamp milkweed, spotted Joe-Pye weed, common boneset, and wild bergamot. Native plants are good because they provide habitat for birds, attract pollinating insects, and help keep out invasive species.

Funding for the program has been provided by grant from Ducks Unlimited, and the Saginaw Bay Watershed Initiative Network.

Recently, 35,000 plants were delivered to the refuge with a market value of $175,000.

2. There’s drugs in our drinking water. And treatment plants are having a tough time dealing with it.

According to reports from Great Lakes Echo and the Alliance for the Great Lakes (document), traces of pharmaceuticals, everyday chemicals, and personal care products in our drinking water are an emerging concern.

Treatment plants can use membrane technology to remove some pharmaceuticals from wastewater. But, they can’t catch all of what’s contributed by humans and animals.

A total of 35 treatment plants in the Great Lakes use membrane technology, including 13 plants on Lake Huron.

The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality is aware of the issue, and officials say various federal research projects are ongoing about pharmaceuticals in water.

The DEQ says pharmaceuticals have been detected in groundwater, lakes and streams in Michigan. The drugs can harm aquatic life. And, as concentrations in our water increase, the presence of these drugs may lead to human health damages.

The federal government doesn’t currently have any requirements about pharmaceuticals in drinking water, but standards are reviewed periodically.

( See also – “Great Lakes Syringes” )

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Creating Clouds Over the Great Lakes, and Insulating Green Homes

As heard at 9 a.m. Eastern, Nov. 16, 2012, on Q-90.1 FM’s Friday Edition (audio) …

photo great lakes cloud types

via NASA

Creating Clouds

Could solar geoengineering help reduce climate change impacts in the Great Lakes?

Harvard University researchers say in a new study that solar geoengineering can be tailored to manage specific risks from climate change.

Solar geoengineering aims to offset global warming caused by greenhouse gases. It involves increasing the concentrations of aerosols in stratosphere or creating low-altitude marine clouds to reflect sunlight away from the Earth’s surface and back into space.

The researchers say such efforts could be tailored by region and need, to maximize the effectiveness of solar radiation management while mitigating its potential side effects and risks.

The research focused on using the technology to counter the loss of Arctic sea ice.

A study co-author tells The Environment Report that solar geoengineering could be used to reduce temperatures and evaporation rates in the Great Lakes.

But any such tinkering would have worldwide effects. Critics of geoengineering have warned that such intervention could result in unforeseen consequences.

Solar engineering projects are still hypothetical at this point. Still, the researchers say their new model could come in handy if engineered solutions need to be implemented to control global warming.

Great Lakes temperatures have increased and ice cover has decreased in recent decades.

Dow Corning @ Greenbuild

Midland-based Dow Corning is introducing its new Vacuum Insulation Panel this week at the U.S. Green Building Council’s Greenbuild 2012 Expo in San Francisco.

The energy-saving product is described as a high-efficiency insulation product featuring five to 10 times better thermal resistance than conventional insulation materials.

The panel also has a thin-profile construction to maximize usable floor space in buildings. The product contains up to 95 percent pre-consumer recycled content in its core and post-consumer recycled content in its packaging.

The Vacuum Insulation Panel has been used in a renovation at the historic University of Birmingham in the United Kingdom.

The Greenbuild Expo is the world’s largest conference and expo dedicated to green building.

The U.S. Green Building Council is the developer of the LEED green building certification program. LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design.

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‘Wicked Problems’ Revealed, along with Kirtland’s Warbler Census

As heard Nov. 9, 2012, on Q-90.1 FM, Delta College NPR …

Those three “wicked problems” have been chosen by Michigan Sea Grant.

photo aquaculture industry

Photo by Burt Lum

The University of Michigan-Michigan State University program is funding three new research projects to tackle so-called “wicked” problems. Submissions were taken just before Halloween.

The wicked problems to be researched are …

  • An expansion of Michigan’s aquaculture industry;
  • Remediation of an Area of Concern at a former mining site in the Upper Peninsula; and
  • Climate change in the Grand Traverse Bay area.

Researchers say they chose the projects for several reasons.

On aquaculture in Michigan: There’s an opportunity to provide an abundant supply of fresh, local fish products to Michiganders. The project aims to develop a strategic plan for aquaculture in the state, dealing with business and science issues, and grow a sustainable sector for Michigan.

On the U.P. Area of Concern: Researchers say there have been more than 20 years of study and meetings on Torch Lake. The project will compile a history of the site to use as a guide for remediating similar contaminated areas.

On climate change in the Grand Traverse Bay area: The research seeks to provide information on the bay’s vulnerability to climate change and begin a process of adaptive management to improve the region’s ability to respond in the future.

The Kirtland’s warbler is doing well.

photo kirtlands warbler singing

Huron Pines, a nonprofit in Gaylord, says a new census of the endangered bird’s population is cause for celebration.

A census is conducted each year by state and federal agencies, with the help of volunteers.

For 2012, 2,063 singing males were recorded in Michigan – 2,025 in the Northern Lower Peninsula and 38 in parts of the Upper Peninsula.
Another 23 were counted in Wisconsin and four more were heard as far north as Ontario, Canada.

That’s an overall total of 2,090 (up from 1,828 in 2011).

The Kirtland’s warbler was listed on the Endangered Species List since 1973.

Huron Pines is part of a Kirtland’s Warbler Initiative to delist the warbler as a species.

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