Susan Bence

Environmental Reporter

Susan Bence entered broadcasting in an untraditional way. After years of avid public radio listening, Susan returned to school and earned a bachelor's degree in Journalism from the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee. She interned for WUWM News and worked with the Lake Effect team, before being hired full-time as a WUWM News reporter / producer.

Susan is now WUWM's environmental reporter, the station's first. Her work has been recognized by the Milwaukee Press Club, the Northwest Broadcast News Association, and the Wisconsin Broadcasters Association.

Susan worked with Prevent Blindness Wisconsin for 20 years, studied foreign languages at UWM, and loves to travel.

Ways to Connect

Susan Bence

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources provided a glimpse of its realignment this week.

The announcement did not come as a surprise, but surely is raising some eyebrows. Over a year ago, the agency set out to streamline the DNR and make it more customer-friendly.

Change has been afoot at the Wisconsin DNR, since Republicans took control of state government in 2011 and this is the latest iteration.

Last year the Legislature cut the agency’s research team by 31 percent.

Susan Bence

For many, Thanksgiving launches a season of holiday cheer and perhaps more eating than usual.

Water advocates are seizing the opportunity to try to turn people’s attention to our local watershed. How much of that Thanksgiving residue will wind up in local waterways?

Milwaukee Riverkeeper, Urban Ecology Center and Carroll University are partnering in the project, along with the UWM School of Freshwater Sciences.

Milwaukee Water Works

UPDATE: Eight alderpersons moved to delay a vote and instead take up the proposed mandate at the common council's December meeting.  The ordinance would require property owners to replace lead pipes on their property, when a leak occurs on either their side or the city part of the line.

The Edible Schoolyard Project, facebook

A trio of luminaries of the local, accessible for all, food movement are assembling in Milwaukee Friday evening as part of Growing Power’s Urban and Small Farms Conference.

Its founder Will Allen will take the stage with Ron Finley, who leads a urban garden and education movement in Los Angeles.

Susan Bence

Plenty of people like nothing more than experiencing nature. Shorewood native and author Pete Fromm realized he was one of those people.

Fromm's, who lives in Montana, love for nature has resulted in five Pacific Northwest Booksellers Awards.

He says his parents planted that seed - perhaps unknowingly - through family camping trips.

Susan Bence / Milwaukee Public Radio

Leaders in Milwaukee County's parks department are asking residents to weigh in on the system via an online survey. That input will be used to help craft a master plan.

Why the planning?

Although Milwaukee County is rich with green space - 15,000 acres of parks, the century-old system comes with a price.

According to a 2009 audit, the parks face $200 million in deferred maintenance and addressing it will require the county to make some tough decisions.

Susan Bence

Update: Monday afternoon, the Finance & Personnel Committee of the Milwaukee Common Council conferred over 40 minutes before advancing the proposed ordinance.  It proceeds to the full council for deliberation at its November 22 meeting. The plan would require Milwaukee property owners to pay for their lead laterals to be replaced.

Original story: City leaders continues to struggle with how to replace the lead pipes that provide water to 70,000 of the city’s older homes. Lead is toxic, and young children under age six are particularly vulnerable.

Susan Bence / Milwaukee Public Radio

During the early hours of Election Day, the local immigrant advocacy group spread the word. It planned to celebrate historic Latino voter turnout.

But rather than celebratory, it was somber. While Latino voters in Wisconsin backed Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump by a margin of 87 to 10 percent, Trump emerged with a stunning victory.

As the November election approached, Valeria Ruiz served as campaign coordinator for Voces de la Frontera in Racine, Wisconsin.

Susan Bence

Many Milwaukeeans now know that approximately 70,000 older homes in Milwaukee have lead service lines, meaning lead could be mixing with tap water.

Mayor Tom Barrett suggested a couple months ago that people living in homes built before 1951 filter their drinking water.

On Monday, local leaders announced the first steps in making Barrett’s suggestion a reality. The commissioner of the Milwaukee Health Department Bevan Baker made the announcement.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is responsible for breakwaters around the country, including the Great Lakes.  

The structures calm the waters within them to allow ships and smaller vessels to navigate safely, but take quite a beating, given shifting lake levels and seasonal storms.   

The usual "fix" is to install big boulders, 6 to 10-feet in size, to reinforce failing stretches of breakwater.

President Obama has called climate change a slow-moving catastrophe, yet we’ve heard little about the issue during this campaign season.

That goes for the U.S. Senate race pitting Democrat Russ Feingold and GOP incumbent Ron Johnson. Their campaigns have sizzled around their disparate views on just about everything else - from job creation to immigration.

Yet, they have said little about how they would approach the subject of climate change.

Dairy farmer Lloyd Holterman likes where Johnson stands on issues.

Susan Bence

Are Milwaukee area rail lines becoming safer? One of the potentially hazardous loads some people worry about is crude oil. Trains carry up to 14 loads a week through the heart of the city.

Although Milwaukee has been accident-free, other U.S. and Canadian cities have not. Some citizens fear it’s just a matter of time because Milwaukee’s rail lines and bridges are old.

Andy Cummings of Canadian Pacific says his rail company stands ready to assist communities. CP’s “dangerous goods” officers train local first responders.

Susan Bence / Milwaukee Public Radio

Trains rumble through downtown Milwaukee on a daily basis. Each week, up to 14 of them haul crude oil.

While the city has not experienced any accidents with those tankers, there have been disasters elsewhere, both in the U.S. and Canada.

We wondered, is Milwaukee making progress in protecting the area from a potential accident?

Ask Cheryl Nenn of the group Milwaukee Riverkeeper - her answer is an unequivocal no.

Susan Bence / Milwaukee Public Radio

Lake Michigan is experiencing high water levels. That phenomenon has turned the lives of some people living along its western shore upside down. Huge chunks are eroding, and dozens of homeowners are watching their property slip away at alarming rates.

Randy Vassh is working along a stretch of lakefront homes in the Village of Caledonia, maneuvering his excavator in tandem with his co-worker. The huge machines operate in three feet of water and stretch mechanical arms 30 feet out into Lake Michigan. They scoop up huge rocks and place them back along shore to slow erosion.

Susan Bence / Milwaukee Public Radio

Gross. Annoying. Ugly. But, illegal? This week, WUWM's Bubbler Talk answers the question: Is littering by throwing cigarette butts legal in Milwaukee? 

The City of Milwaukee has had an ordinance on the books since 1999. But according to a spokesperson, “To the best of our collective [Department of Public Works] knowledge, we have not issued any citations for cigarette butt littering.”

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