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

Dave L, flickr

Today the Milwaukee  Common Council unanimously voted to ban a material called coal tar.  The black, shiny liquid is sprayed or painted on surfaces such as driveways, parking lots and playgrounds.The ban also includes other pavement sealant products that contain more than one percent polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, PAHs.

Coal tar sealants have been shown to contain dangerous levels of the cancer-causing compound.

Runoff from pavement treated with coal tar is also impacting rivers and streams.

Susan Bence / Milwaukee Public Radio

Wauwatosa is re-envisioning the city's southwest corner, in its Life Sciences District Plan. The area includes the sprawling medical complex, including Children’s and Froedtert Hospitals, and what, for years, was known as the Milwaukee County Grounds.

City of Milwaukee Health Dept. & Milwaukee Water Works

Mayor Tom Barrett, along with city public health and government officials, unveiled a three-pronged approach to reduce resident's exposure to lead Friday - both through paint and pipes.

Lead paint was commonly applied in homes built before 1978. Lead pipes and soldering were commonly used to deliver water to buildings constructed before 1951.

Barrett said the campaign especially targets parents of young children and pregnant women.

Susan Bence / Milwaukee Public Radio

UPDATE: 2:30 pm  - The resolution passed,  13 to 4.

Original post: Last summer people flocked to the lush green space above Lake Michigan like never before. The crowds were pursuing small, virtual monsters. The creatures "appeared” in the space, on smartphone screens of people who have the Pokémon Go app.

County Supervisor Sheldon Wasserman represents the Lake Park neighborhood. And at a recent county parks committee meeting, Wasserman showed videos and photos taken last summer by neighbors, during what they considered a Pokémon Go invasion.

Susan Bence

Milwaukee Riverkeeper describes itself as “a science based advocacy organization working for swimmable, fishable rivers.” Unfortunately, the Milwaukee River Basin, which includes the Kinnickinnic, Menomonee, and Milwaukee Rivers and their tributaries, has some work to do before reaching that swimmable, fishable goal.

For the past decade, Riverkeeper has dispatched dozens of citizen scientists to monitor water quality in nearly 100 spots throughout the basin.

T Ehlinger

The Trump team seems to have followed Wisconsin’s lead. The Walker administration eliminated the words climate change from both the DNR's website and the Public Service Commission's website.

Then shortly after Donald Trump became president, the White House website no longer mentioned climate change.

Scott Manley of Wisconsin Manufacturing and Commerce has no problem with wiping the term from all government vocabulary.

SIDDHARTHA ROY / FLINTWATERSTUDY.ORG

Milwaukee is grappling with the cost and time needed to replace approximately 70,000 lead service lines scattered around the city.

Lead is a heavy metal neurotoxin that causes severe health problems in those exposed to it, especially children.

William Kort decided to try to contribute to the solution.

Kort is an adjunct instructor with the UWM School of Freshwater Sciences and put together a class called Public Water Provision in Milwaukee – Lead and Other Issues.

Landscapes of Space, LLC

Tuesday night, Wauwatosa’s common council reviewed a development plan for a huge swath of the city's side south. The draft, called the Wauwatosa Life Sciences District Master Plan, lays out businesses and residential development, as well as tending to traffic congestion.

But residents who filled the gallery seats and lined its walls seemed focused on one small section of the plan.

Susan Bence / Milwaukee Public Radio

Habitat for Humanity is known for partnering with Milwaukee families to build or improve the places they call home. A few years ago, volunteers created a program to help fund those homes - a deconstruction crew.

Quorum Architects and Ayres Associates

Update: 

Quorum Architects - Ayres Associates has been named winner of Harbor District, Inc.'s Take Me to the River Design Competition.

According to the selection committee, Quorum's Slosh Park project was selected for its "elements that would make for an interesting and engaging space" as well as for "most effectively balanc[ing] several [of the project's] goals."

Susan Bence / Milwaukee Public Radio

Waukesha reports that it is in full steam ahead mode with plans to deliver Lake Michigan water to its residents. At the meantime, a consortium of U.S. and Canadian mayors, the Great Lakes St Lawrence Cities Initiative, are fighting to halt the project.

While the Compact Council already cast its unanimous support in favor of Waukesha last summer, the body will listen to both sides in the next month or so.

Morguefile

Wintry weather can mean slippery sidewalks and driveways. The Soil Science Society of America urges people to use salt sparingly, as too much can have long-term effects on soil.

"Soils that contain too much sodium are unable to effectively retain important plant nutrients,” says Mary Tiedeman, a soil microbiology PhD student who recently blogged on the topic.

Susan Bence / Milwaukee Public Radio

Aldo Leopold’s 1949 book A Sand County Almanac fueled the conservation movement. Estella Leopold, a vibrant nearly nonagenarian, was the youngest of five Leopolds. She grew up happily oblivious of her father’s fame.

Aldo was teaching at UW-Madison in the 1930s, when he bought a shack – quite literally, a ramshackle small barn – fifty miles to the north on what was exhausted farmland.

Estella loved the land.

Susan Bence / Milwaukee Public Radio

Environmental issues were plentiful this year.  From Waukesha water to a retooled DNR, WUWM looks at a few that will continue to vertebrate in 2017.

Waukesha Water

Waukesha has to replace its well water because it’s tainted with radium. The city built its solution around a daily allotment of about ten million gallons of water from Lake Michigan, and that meant winning permission from the states that border the lake, because Waukesha sits outside its basin.

SIDDHARTHA ROY / FLINTWATERSTUDY.ORG

While the lead crisis in Flint, Michigan, got most of the headlines in the last year, other issues with lead contamination have beset other cities such as Washington, DC and Milwaukee.

The City of Milwaukee announced measures to replace pipe laterals in older homes and businesses in the coming year. And while some say the city’s response was late in coming, others believe Milwaukee’s approach has been - if not proactive, at least responsive.

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