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

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Hundreds of thousands of Wisconsin residents might be drinking tainted water. That report comes from the Center for Investigative Journalism. It conducted a yearlong investigation.

The findings indicate that private wells are more vulnerable than municipal water systems.

One-point-seven million Wisconsin residents rely on wells and private owners are responsible for their testing and maintenance.

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Any day now, workers will begin dismantling two historic Eschweiler buildings on the former Milwaukee County Grounds in Wauwatosa. 

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The nine-month after school and summer program aims to arm students from across the Milwaukee area with hands on experience and skills that start with gardening, but grow into something larger.

This week, year two of Teens Grow Greens wrapped up.

Charlie Uihlein came up with the idea. He teaches honors history at Messmer High School, but when he’s not doing that, Uihlein is thinking about ways to improve Teens Grow Greens.

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Loreen Niewenhuis’  first professional path led her to science, working in settings from hospital laboratories to a bone marrow transplant team. But while she raised her two sons, Loreen began writing fiction.

In 2009, her short story collection, Scar Tissue, earned Niewenhuis finalist status for the Flannery O’Connor Award.

Benjamin Haas / Wolf Patrol

Wisconsin hunters need more protection. That’s the adamant opinion of some Republicans who control the state Assembly. They’re pushing a bill designed to prohibit individuals from impeding or obstructing a hunter from his or her sport.

The Assembly Natural Resources and Sporting Heritage Committee held a public hearing Wednesday at the state capitol to discuss the legislation.

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Roy Norton is Consul General of Canada in Chicago. Wisconsin is one of three states, along with Illinois and Missouri, in his purview.

This week the Consul General is visiting communities around Wisconsin. Much of his visit involves strengthening business ties between the state and Canada.

But Monday, Norton was in Milwaukee at the UW-Milwaukee School of Freshwater Sciences, discussing another key issue – invasive species plaguing the Great Lakes.

Milwaukee Riverkeeper

The Wisconsin DNR is being accused of failing to comply with the Clean Water Act. Sixteen citizens are claiming that Wisconsin has had “long-standing water problems from poor implementation and enforcement” of the Act.

Tuesday, Midwest Environmental Advocates filed a request with the EPA demanding an investigation.

The DNR released a statement to WUWM saying:

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Before the Clean Water Act, what came out of wastewater pipes was essentially unregulated.

When Dave Fowler moved here decades ago to work for Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District, the Milwaukee River was not a destination.

“Back in 1980, when I was on that river on a barge, I wouldn’t have wanted to eat my lunch out there. Now I’m seeing hundreds and hundreds of kayakers and boaters enjoying the downtown of Milwaukee because the river and the harbor is now considered a recreational opportunity, not an open cesspool,” Fowler says.

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The Clean Water Act sprang to life in 1972, largely due to public outrage. Lakes and rivers around the country had become increasingly toxic.

The Cuyahoga River in Ohio caught fire because of all the pollutants in it; nearby in Lake Erie massive numbers of fish died.

Wisconsin faced major obstacles. Engineer Lyman Wible worked with the Department of Natural Resources’ water resources team. He paints a bleak water quality picture statewide.

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Every year the Catholic, liberal arts college for women on Milwaukee’s south side hosts a community conference. Alverno psychology professor Joyce Tang Boyland was part of the team who put together this year’s A Tapestry of Sustainability event.

The conference takes place all day Friday on the Alverno College campus and folds in speakers, including former Milwaukee mayor John Norquist.

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In the 1960s, lining urban rivers with cement was considered to be state-of-the-art storm water management. But the practice  proved otherwise, in places like Milwaukee's south side where the Kinnickinnic River flows.

Over the years, during major storm events water has over-topped the concrete, causing damage and tragically, sometimes taking lives.

However, heaps of work and partnerships are going into naturalizing it. 

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Some educators in northern Wisconsin aren't letting the fact that climate change is a politically charged issue sway them from teaching about the subject.

Cathy Techtmann is among them. The UW-Extension environmental outreach specialist decided it was time to rethink climate change education.

“The old model purely based on science were just not resonating with people,” Techtmann says. “A lot of people realize that there’s cultural component, not just a scientific piece but also a cultural piece that makes the issue come alive to people.”

Climate change tends to make the news pretty regularly. Despite the coverage, many believe too little is being done to curb emissions and slow the global warming trend, others dismiss concerns with equal conviction.

A program in far northern Wisconsin along Lake Superior is trying to change minds through education.

Called G-WOW, the model not only integrates scientific climate change research, but a glimpse of how Lake Superior’s coastal environment, people, cultures and economies stand to be impacted by climate change.

Charlie Luthin

A new state recreational area – called Sauk Prairie – is slowly taking shape in south central Wisconsin, south of Baraboo. Planning has been slow, partially because of the site’s unique history.

The public space will occupy about one-third of some 7,000 acres which for decades served as one of the world’s largest ammunition plants.

Despite that use, remnant woodlands and grasslands are considered to be exceptional resources.

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Glendale-based produce wholesaler, Maglio Companies, has teamed up with Growing Power for an experiment.

This summer, the Milwaukee-based national leader in urban farming installed eleven hoop houses next to Maglio’s headquarters, just off I-43, to grow some of its own food. Inside, tomatoes grow in lush profusion.

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