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

A month ago, winds blew dust off a huge pile of coal, stored outside of the We Energies' Oak Creek Power Plant onto homes and cars of families just north of the operation. The episode seems to have galvanized broader concerns among neighbors about the health impacts of the coal-burning plant.

Over 160 people attending a listening session with We Energies executives filled an Oak Creek Library meeting room to capacity Wednesday evening.

About four weeks ago so many people crowded the SC Johnson iMet Center in Sturtevant, they had to be shuttled in from a nearby movie theater parking lot.

The topic of that hearing was the City of Racine’s request to divert Lake Michigan water so that Foxconn can pump up to 7 million gallons a day to feed its water-intensive manufacturing system.

Susan Bence / Milwaukee Public Radio

The group Freshwater For Life Action Coalition formed out of concern about Milwaukee’s lead in water problem. FLAC spokesperson Robert Miranda requested records from January 2015 through 2017 of meetings Mayor Barrett held with the Milwaukee Health Department. He wanted to determine how frequently the mayor was updated on the health department’s progress in informing the public.

Susan Bence

Milwaukee has a lead problem. Sixteenth Street Community Health Centers isn't waiting for city leaders to come up with a comprehensive plan, instead it is holding workshops to inform families how to better protect themselves.

Their second Lead-Safe Home Workshop will take place this Wednesday, March 21 from 6 to 8 pm at the Wisconsin Black Historical Society, just off 27th Street on Center.

Susan Bence

Along the shore of Lake Michigan, a coal-burning power plant occupies more than 1,000 acres of land in Oak Creek. Joe Dubanewicz, who lives nearby, has been wondering about the plant, so he reached out to WUWM's Beats Me with his concerns.

“I am wondering if the coal ash ponds are leaching into the groundwater. Who tests the groundwater and are there any monitoring stations for coal dust?” he asks.

Susan Bence / Milwaukee Public Radio

Virginia Tech researcher Dr. Yanna Lambrinidou served as advisor to Michigan's Flint Water Interagency Coordinating Committee and before that lent her expertise to the  Washington, D.C. lead in water crisis.

Susan Bence / Milwaukee Public Radio

While advocates of bringing Foxconn to Mount Pleasant stood behind delivering Lake Michigan water to the plant, people in the crowd at the public hearing Wednesday remained unconvinced.

In order to get water to Foxconn, the Racine Water Utility hopes to pipe Lake Michigan water from the Great Lakes basin across Racine County, into the Mississippi River basin that eventually drains into the Gulf of Mexico.

Insitute for Sustainable Communities

The Institute for Sustainable Communities (ISC) came to life in Vermont nearly 30 years ago with a mission to collaborate with community-based organizations in order to nurture sustainable development.

“For the first 17 years all of the work we did was in places like the former Soviet Union, former Yugoslavia, where I worked previously for ISC, Bulgaria, Hungary, Poland, places like that,” says Steve Nicholas, vice president of ISC programs in the United States.

Susan Bence / Milwaukee Public Radio

The Taiwanese-owned LCD manufacturing facility will require loads of water for its production process. The Racine Water Utility wants to extend service to provide that water.

Foxconn's massive campus will be located where I-94 and Highway 11 intersect in Mount Pleasant.

Susan Bence / Milwaukee Public Radio

Update: Wednesday, the Wisconsin Natural Resources Board approved giving a parcel of Kohler Andre State Park to Kohler's proposed golf course in exchange for more than nine acres adjacent to the park.

The board voted unanimously to approve the proposal.

Original Post, February 27, 2018:

Eric Epstein

Update:

Late Tuesday, the state Senate's wetland bill vote was cast along party lines, 18 Republicans for and 14 Democrats against.  Next step, Gov. Scott Walker's desk. 

Original story, February 19, 2018:

Republican Rep. Jim Steineke of Kaukauna authored the bill making it easier for landowners to fill some wetlands – not high quality systems, he says, but low-grade isolated ones.  The bill passed in the Assembly last week.

Susan Bence / Milwaukee Public Radio

Mayor Tom Barrett gave Dr. Patricia McManus, head of the Black Health Coalition of Wisconsin, the official green light Thursday, but the process was far from seamless.

Six weeks ago former commissioner Bevan Baker stepped down after evidence surfaced that the health department had botched protocols surrounding lead testing in children.

Mayor Barrett then announced his choice for interim commissioner - Paul Nannis.

Audrey Nowakowski

Update 11:50 am:

With the message "You Spoke, I Listened," Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele announced the Pay-to-Park Initiative would be removed from the 2018 budget.  Abele is now suggesting the County's rainy day contingency fund to "fully fund our Parks department for this year."

Susan Bence

Like many Milwaukeans, Deb Schampers of Bay View has driven past the wind turbine just south of the Hoan Bridge countless times. For years, she’s been wondering about it: Why is it there? Why only one? Who benefits?

Just for fun, during her daily commutes, Deb made up her own answers -- “It was possibly helping us make Milorganite for the world... It’s heating the ovens at DiMarini’s (a pizza place a half mile from the turbine.)”

s / Milwaukee Public Radio

The Common Council voted nearly unanimously Tuesday to name Dr. Patricia McManus interim health commissioner.

Just one day earlier, Mayor Tom Barrett withdrew his choice for interim health department head, Paul Nannis.

The writing was on the wall. Recently the Public Safety and Health Committee grilled and rejected Nannis.

Common Council President Ashanti Hamilton decided to act – drawing from a seldom used measure called emergency power – to nominate Dr. Patricia MaManus for the job.

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