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.

Outrider Foundation

The Outrider Foundation's website opens with a dramatic satellite view of the earth slowly rotating as the sun blazes in the background. Click on climate change and images of intensely populated, highly industrialized scenes unfold. A giant ice formation crashes into an icy sea.

Susan Bence

If you have plans to visit the giant IKEA store in Oak Creek, be on the lookout for a 3-foot-tall wooden fence. It's not just for show, it is a wall that will help keep nearby salamanders from wandering into the store's parking lot.

The structure is called an amphibian exclusion barrier and divides Falk Park from IKEA.

At the time of the store's construction, Julia Robson was natural areas coordinator with the Milwaukee County Parks. She knows the 222-acre park well.

Susan Bence

Foxconn's massive manufacturing project slated to take shape in what is currently rural Racine County successfully jumped through two major environmental hoops this week.

Water Diversion

Wednesday, the City of Racine’s request to divert Lake Michigan water and deliver it to the Taiwanese-owned LCD plant got the green light.

The request has received a lot of attention and raised a great deal of concern among critics.

Curt Czarnecki, P.E., Kenosha Water Utility

The Kenosha Common Council recently passed an ordinance that requires homeowners to replace their lead laterals when the city initiates a project. Because this can be expensive, Kenosha aims to set up a grant and loan system to help homeowners.

Water utility manager Ed St. Peter has been working on the idea for a while, saying he wants to expeditiously replace every inch of the city’s 8,800 lead lines that connect homes to water mains.

Susan Bence

Just like Milwaukee, thousands of lead service lines deliver water from the main into Wauwatosa households. Wauwatosa's public works director David Simpson estimates nearly 10,000 of its 15,000 customers have lead pipes feeding water into their homes.

Simpson says Wauwatosa recently changed its policy surrounding pipes that break. “If we have a break on the city-owned lateral, we’ll go in and replace the entire city-owned side.” Before that, he says, city crews simply repaired the break.

Susan Bence

Update:

The EPA awarded the Redevelopment Authority of the City of Milwaukee a $3 million grant to help restore the Grand Trunk wetland in the city's Harbor District.

"Milwaukee's landscape has changed significantly over the past 200 years, and the wetland marshes that dominated the center of the City have all but vanished," Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett said in a news release Tuesday. "This restoration work will reestablish a small portion of that wetland."

Curt Czarnecki

It’s hard to get away from discussions about lead in Milwaukee this days. Meet two people who understand the issues but have lingering concerns.

Carol Hayes – Riverwest Resident

Like many people, Carol Hayes’ awareness of the risks associated with lead in water date back the crisis in Flint, Michigan.

She was quite sure her duplex, built in 1924, had lead service lines, but had trouble sorting out how best to filter her water and that of her upstairs tenants.

Susan Bence

Longtime Milwaukee Health Department employee Lisa Lien, who coordinated the city’s struggling childhood lead program, has been suspended.

Just hours before that news broke Monday, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett held a press event on the topic of lead but didn't say a word about Lien.

She worked in various capacities at the health department for 26 years; nine years ago assuming leadership of its Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program.

Susan Bence

Rice typically is grown in hot, humid areas. Yet, a Marquette University researcher has successfully cultivated a small crop on the edge of Milwaukee.

The rice harvest happened on a sun-drenched, but cold morning late last October in Ozaukee County. The one-acre paddy is located on a former family farm that is managed by the Mequon Nature Preserve.

Pai Lor was among a cluster of people helping with the harvest. She grew rice with her family during the first 35 years of her life in her native Laos.

Susan Bence

A month ago, winds blew dust off a huge pile of coal, stored outside of the We Energies' Oak Creek Power Plant onto homes and cars of families just north of the operation. The episode seems to have galvanized broader concerns among neighbors about the health impacts of the coal-burning plant.

Over 160 people attending a listening session with We Energies executives filled an Oak Creek Library meeting room to capacity Wednesday evening.

About four weeks ago so many people crowded the SC Johnson iMet Center in Sturtevant, they had to be shuttled in from a nearby movie theater parking lot.

The topic of that hearing was the City of Racine’s request to divert Lake Michigan water so that Foxconn can pump up to 7 million gallons a day to feed its water-intensive manufacturing system.

Michelle Maternowski

WUWM carried out an informal survey, by driving around town and asking Milwaukeeans what they think about police-community relations here.

We started at Neuvo Mercado El Rey on South Cesar E. Chavez Drive.

“All the policemen in the south side who I know are very friendly to the customers and to us. They do a really good job on the south side," El Rey co-owner Ernesto Villarreal says.

Cynthia Renteria, who was walking into El Rey, says she’s never had any kind of contact or problem with the police, but her father has had a few bad experiences.

Susan Bence / Milwaukee Public Radio

The group Freshwater For Life Action Coalition formed out of concern about Milwaukee’s lead in water problem. FLAC spokesperson Robert Miranda requested records from January 2015 through 2017 of meetings Mayor Barrett held with the Milwaukee Health Department. He wanted to determine how frequently the mayor was updated on the health department’s progress in informing the public.

Susan Bence

Milwaukee has a lead problem. Sixteenth Street Community Health Centers isn't waiting for city leaders to come up with a comprehensive plan, instead it is holding workshops to inform families how to better protect themselves.

Their second Lead-Safe Home Workshop will take place this Wednesday, March 21 from 6 to 8 pm at the Wisconsin Black Historical Society, just off 27th Street on Center.

Susan Bence

Along the shore of Lake Michigan, a coal-burning power plant occupies more than 1,000 acres of land in Oak Creek. Joe Dubanewicz, who lives nearby, has been wondering about the plant, so he reached out to WUWM's Beats Me with his concerns.

“I am wondering if the coal ash ponds are leaching into the groundwater. Who tests the groundwater and are there any monitoring stations for coal dust?” he asks.

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