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.

Susan Bence / Milwaukee Public Radio

One point twenty-seven million tons. That’s how much garbage was added to Orchard Ridge last year alone. The landfill is located in the Village of Menomonee Falls. Of the 85 licensed operations in Wisconsin, Orchard Ridge is the largest.

On an average day 400 to 600 trucks haul in garbage from four counties – Ozaukee, Washington, Waukesha and Milwaukee.

But, how much more waste can the 23-year-old landfill hold? And what will become of the site once it is full?

Susan Bence / Milwaukee Public Radio

Pleasant Valley Park is nestled along the Milwaukee River’s western shore in Milwaukee's Riverwest neighborhood. Long ago, the 23-acre parcel was home to one of Milwaukee’s most popular beer gardens with restaurants, a band shell, steamboat docks and “extravagant” landscaping. Today, Pleasant Valley falls within the Milwaukee River Greenway.

Susan Bence

Before the City of Milwaukee was the Milwaukee we know, it was a massive marsh and wetland system fed by the Milwaukee, Menomonee and Kinnickinnic Rivers. By the 1850s, the wetlands were filled in and replaced by factories and foundries. By some miracle, one small bit of wetland – now called the Grand Trunk - survived along the harbor’s south central edge.

Despite the channelized Kinnickinnic River just to the wetland's west, endangered garter snakes and other native critters are still found in the 6.5 degraded acres.

Susan Bence / Milwaukee Public Radio

The Kohler Company wants to create a world-class golf course adjacent to Wisconsin's Kohler-Andrae State Park. The proposed golf course along Lake Michigan would butt up against the northern edge of the park the Kohler family helped create in the 1960s.

If all goes as planned for Kohler, the 18-hole golf course would occupy 247 wooded acres already owned by the company. However, some neighbors aren't happy about the plan.

Susan Bence / Milwaukee Public Radio

A special commission representing Canada and the United States released a report Tuesday morning about efforts to restore and protect the Great Lakes.

The group, called the International Joint Commission or IJC, has been around for over a century and is tasked with preventing conflicts between the two countries over shared waters.

The Great Lakes swallows up a lot of the commission’s attention.

Lily Merritt

There’s something new on Milwaukee’s food scene. This isn't your typical vending machine - spewing out candy bars and chips, instead it serves up from-scratch meals.

Farmer’s Fridge is the brainchild of Chicago-based entrepreneur Luke Saunders. Within the sleek machine is a collection of colorful salads and snacks. And, selections shift with the seasons.

Susan Bence / Milwaukee Public Radio

Update, November 20: The Public Safety and Health Committee approved the resolution without debate at its Monday morning meeting.

Update: After this story aired, the City of Milwaukee Health Department contacted WUWM to share this information about the department's lead education efforts:

Tom Farence

From roughly 1944 until 1954, steam locomotive Number 265 carried load upon load of freight and later folks for the Chicago, Milwaukee, St.Paul & Pacific Railroad. 

However, the locomotive's career bumped up against progress when steam engines were out and diesel was in.

In 1956, the retired locomotive jumped the tracks and the City of Milwaukee replanted it off East Conway Street. And, that's when Number 265 became known as Old Smoky.

Katie Gardiner

The Army Corps of Engineers is proposing a plan to stop silver and bighead carp moving from the Mississippi River basin into the Great Lakes.

Cheryl Nenn with Milwaukee Riverkeeper calls the proposal a starting point, not a solution, because multiple aquatic invasive species are threatening both the Great Lakes and the Mississippi River basin.

Courtesy of Componex

Cal Couillard has been intrigued with solar energy since the 1970s. But, it wasn't until this year that he took the plunge, and had solar panels installed at his Edgerton-based business.  He also created a fund to help others "go solar."

Solar energy used to be expensive, Coulliard explains, and therefore, only people who wanted to be green jumped aboard. Now, he says, prices have dropped dramatically and it makes sense financially.

SunVest Solar, Inc.

Pewaukee-based developer Matt Neumann admits he might appear to be an unlikely advocate for solar energy. His political roots are deep, and conservative.

“When I got into solar, I found myself in the extreme minority of Republicans or conservatives who thought solar was a good idea. As a matter of fact, a lot of people thought I was crazy," Neumann explains. "Now we’re cost-competitive, and Republicans and Democrats agree that they want to do the right thing for the environment.”

Elvis Kennedy, flickr

Wisconsin's Senate took up key pieces of legislation Tuesday. Two of the most controversial bills are now headed for Gov. Walker's signature. One bill eases sulfide mining regulations, and the other opens up hunting to kids of any age.

Susan Bence

Update, November 3:

Although Democrats rallied against the bill designed to lift the nearly-20 year restrictions on sulfide mining, the Republican-dominated State Assembly prevailed with a 53-38 vote. Bill sponsor Rep. Rob Hutton of Brookfield folded in amendments that include halting mining if it is legally challenged; another to help ensure mining companies pay taxes.

Susan Bence / Milwaukee Public Radio

Oak Creek had been on tap sell Waukesha Lake Michigan water to replace its contaminated well water. But Monday Waukesha announced that instead, it will purchase the supply from Milwaukee.

Before he toasted over glasses of water with Waukesha Mayor Shawn Reilly on Monday, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett acknowledged the road to their agreement had been a bumpy one.

Quasimondo Physical Theatre

Writer Jeff Grygny has long been interested in how philosophy, culture, science, and spirituality intersect. His latest work, The Performance Ecology Project, factors in the natural world. The production is a collaboration of Quasimondo Physical Theatre and Cooperative Performance.