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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The director of the Center for Water Policy at UW-Milwaukee’s School of Freshwater Sciences, Jenny Kehl, says the pending decision on Waukesha's request to divert Great Lakes water will have national significance.

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Milwaukee's harbor district appears to be a jumbled mix of old industrial buildings, ship docks, railroad tracks and a sewage treatment plant. But the City is brewing up a plan to transform the 1,000 water-edged acres.

Today, you see glimmers of transformation. An apartment building rising at 1st and Washington. Freshwater Plaza popping up, complete with grocery store and office space.

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A Marquette assistant professor has been making waves with his research into antibacterial chemicals commonly found in soap.

Over the last few months, two studies led by researcher Patrick McNamara were published.  

Study: TCC Influences Antibiotic Resistance, Regardless of Concentration 

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Charlie Tennessen’s trade is software development but his passion is farming. Ten years ago, he moved onto a 4-acre parcel in Racine County to pursue that passion.

His "team" is comprised of Sebastian, Rosey and Cassie - they’re miniature donkeys. Their job is to pull a homemade sled loaded with compost the resident chickens, goats and sheep contributed.

Tennessen says this is the perfect time to spread the nutrient-rich load. “Winter time is going to be moving compost and summertime, primary tillage on the field,” he says.

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The Milwaukee County Board invited residents to share their thoughts about the future of the Mitchell Park Domes on Wednesday. Over 250 people gathered in the park's greenhouse annex and voiced their support for reopening Domes.

The three bee-hive shaped glass structures, each featuring special plants, have been shuttered since February 6 as concerns mounted about crumbling concrete.

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Wisconsin's Lake Winnebago is home to what’s considered to be one of the largest, self-sustaining lake sturgeon populations in the world.

The state's largest inland lake stretches from Fond du Lac up to Menasha and its abundance of sturgeon is a wildlife management success story.

Last century, over-harvesting and poaching nearly did the species in, including in Lake Winnebago. In fact, Wisconsin banned sturgeon spearing from 1915 until 1931. Gradually the numbers stabilized and flourished.

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The Conference of Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Governor and Premiers held the only scheduled public hearing as it scrutinizes Waukesha’s application on Thursday.

City leaders say that after years of fine-tuning their application, diversion is the only viable solution to replace Waukesha's current water source – deep wells that have become increasingly contaminated with radium.

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At 3 pm today, Wisconsin's neighboring seven state and two Canadian provinces will listen to what the public has to say about Waukesha's request to draw water from the Great Lakes Basin.

The visiting delegates face an immense decision, and the Great Lakes Compact is their guide.

It came to life in 2008 after years of discussion and negotiation. The agreement bans diversions from the Great Lakes Basin, save rare exceptions.

UPDATE - The results are in.  The winner of the Future City Competition National Finals is the City of Ville Suave created by the Academy for Science & Foreign Language in Huntsville, Alabama.

Now in its 24th year, the Future City Competition allows teams of 6th, 7th and 8th graders to design their city of the future. This year’s theme was “Waste Not, Want Not”.

Signs of sustainability are peppered across the City of Milwaukee landscape – from the exponential growth of the Bublr bike share business, to the wind turbine dominating the south shore skyline and an increase in solar panels blanketing rooftops in neighborhoods around town.

The City's director of environmental sustainability, Erick Shambarger, believes 2016 marks an important milestone.

Michelle Maternowski

The Mitchell Park Domes are one of Milwaukee County’s most popular destinations.

County Executive Chris Abele shuttered the aging glass structures over the weekend after a piece of concrete the size of a tennis ball plummeted 20 feet into the desert dome.

Abele announced Monday all three domes will remain shut down until a fix is found. The ultimate answer could carry a price tag of tens of millions.

Construction crews began erecting the structures in 1959. The job took eight years.

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While the country remains riveted to Flint, Michigan because of its contaminated drinking water, other cities, including Milwaukee, have huge lead problems of their own.

An estimated 10 percent of kids under age six in Milwaukee have unhealthy levels of lead in their blood. The culprit: lead-based paint.

It’s long been banned, but thousands of older houses, especially in low-income areas, still contain it.

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A water-related bill floating through the Legislature is causing waves. The measure would give lakefront property owners and developers more latitude to manage wetlands on their land and dredge their waterfront. Critics insist ecosystems and wetlands stand to suffer.  

Mary Knipper sits in her cozy no-frills cottage on Lake Delavan in western Walworth County. The registered nurse had a full career before she and her husband moved here year-round.

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UPDATE: The full state Senate is slated to take up the bill on February 16, 2016.

Original Piece:

On Thursday, GOP members of a state Senate committee advanced an amended bill to the full Senate that could ease the process of private companies buying municipal water utilities. The Republican-controlled Assembly has already said yes.

Green Bay Press Gazette 2005

The Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism issued a report on dangerous levels of arsenic in Wisconsin's water. Bradley Burmeister grew up in one of the most affected areas - Outagamie County.

His family lives two miles outside Seymour, Wisconsin – population 3,000, give or take.