WUWM: Environmental Reporting

The environmental beat is massive -  from covering threats to air and water, to sharing scientific research, to uncovering the individuals and groups working to create sustainable communities.

Although I (WUWM's environmental reporter Susan Bence) have reported on a variety of stories, I continue to think 'I need to dig deeper.' So, I'm turning to you to help make that happen.

Wisconsinites, what have you been wondering about when it comes the environment? Questions about conservation? Climate change? You ask and I'll report.

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Ways to Connect

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.

More than a century ago, the Boundary Waters Treaty established an advisory group made up of representatives from the United States and Canada. The International Joint Commission, it was tasked with preventing and resolving disputes over the use of the waters shared by the two countries.

Today, a primary function of the IJC is to report – to both the U.S. and Canada - how effectively the two countries are restoring and protecting the Great Lakes.

Susan Bence

This month, Boerner Botanical Gardens in Milwaukee’s Whitnall Park has taken on an exotic look. The visiting display called China Lights covers eight acres of the gardens. At night the display lights up.

The welcome gate pulls you through a world lined with peach trees. Just ahead flowers sparkle in a sunken garden. Turn your head to discover colorful lotus fairies, turn another direction and pandas at play appear.

And you’ve barely seen anything – including the 22-foot tall dragon.
 

Artist Ziming Luo created the show.

Susan Bence

This year's Milwaukee Film Fest will feature the documentary Almost Sunrise, which chronicles the journey of two Milwaukee area natives as they struggle with deep emotional scars after tours of duty in Iraq.

Tom Voss and Anthony Anderson set off from the Milwaukee County War Memorial on October 30, 2013 to walk across the country.

Susan Bence

Saturday one thousand baby sturgeon will be released along the shore of Lake Michigan. The event is a part of a 25 year partnership between Riveredge Nature Center and the Wisconsin DNR.

The ancient fish was once plentiful here, but by the turn of the last century its numbers had plummeted.

stock image

The Milwaukee Film Festival includes a whole series of films with Wisconsin themes or made by Wisconsinites. That includes a film called From Mass to the Mountain, which features the environmental work of a priest from Ripon, dubbed Padre Pablo by the people he helps in Panama.

Susan Bence

Brooks Niedziejko has always loved fishing for carp and there’s plenty to fish. A number of Wisconsin’s 15,000 lakes are challenged by the prolific reproducer.

Common carp are not native, but have been swimming here for years. Europeans prized carp as a game fish, so they brought it along when settling in America.

LaToya Dennis

During his budget address Monday, Mayor Tom Barrett’s says replacing lead laterals of 70,000 homes would cost $770 million.

Barrett calls his proposed 2017 budget a starting point of his commitment to full removal, which would include:

-          Allocating  $5.2 million to remove lead lines at 385 day care facilities in 2016-2017.

-          2017 budget includes funding to cover approximately 300 residential lines when they leak or fail.

The story begins with a St. Paul, Minnesota-based family named the Griggs. In the 19th century, the family made a fortune in the lumber industry, allowing the Griggs to acquire a 872-acre estate in Northern Wisconsin, called Forest Lodge.

The Griggs’s enjoyment of their oasis on the shores of Lake Namekagon stretched across three generations. In 1999, the Lodge’s final direct heir, Mary Griggs Burke, donated the estate to The Trust for Public Land.

Susan Bence

The Common Council is responding to the city’s deteriorating water infrastructure by creating a task force to examine the daunting challenges.

The Water Quality Task Force met for the first time Friday morning.

Its chair, Alderman Jim Bohl, says he doesn’t intend to leave any source of lead contamination unturned. His strategy includes looking at national research.

Michelle Maternowski

The Milwaukee County Parks, Energy and Environment Committee meeting Tuesday was the latest scene of public debate over Pokémon's popularity in Lake Park.

Supervisor Sheldon Wasserman says he’s hearing from his constituents loud and clear. The smartphone game Pokémon Go has turned life as usual in the Lake Park neighborhood upside down.

Wasserman blames Niantic, the company that created the virtual reality game for the crowds of people congregating in and around the park.

Susan Bence

Harris Lowell Byers grew up in Georgia loving science and agriculture. Today, he lives in Glendale, remediates brownfields, and is the father of two children. Byers says the scientist and dad in him wanted to find out how much lead might be making its way from the urban soils into vegetables; so he headed back to school to earn a PhD at UW-Milwaukee's geosciences department to try to come up with answers.

Susan Bence

The whole world seems to know about the Milwaukee mayor's statement this week.

Tom Barrett advised residents living in homes built before 1951 to install water filters to protect themselves from possible lead poisoning.

Barrett made the comment just after he took part in a panel discussion at Marquette University Law School. The topic was “Lead, Drinking Water, and Aging Infrastructure."

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