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.

Susan Bence

A group of manmade chemicals called PFAS, which are found in countless products from food packaging to firefighting foam, is in the news as cases of contamination multiply around the country.

The U.S. House passed a bill this week that would take preliminary steps to regulate the chemicals

In Madison this week, the Wisconsin PFAS Action Council, created to come up with PFAS-coping strategies, held its second meeting.

Susan Bence

Residents in Marinette, Wis., and neighboring Peshtigo have been calling for action on PFAS chemicals for years. On Friday, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources announced that a well outside that area has been contaminated. 

READ: Marinette Residents Want To Get PFAS Chemicals Under Control

Susan Bence

It has become nearly impossible to move protective environmental policy through the Wisconsin Legislature. But a bipartisan collection of state legislators believe they’ve come up with ways to tackle some of the state's water quality issues.

Andrew Feller

You might be surprised to learn surfing is increasingly popular on the Great Lakes. In fact, some enthusiasts plunge into Lake Michigan any chance they get, any time of year.

Shorewood resident Ken Cole hopes to make a statement through the boards he makes and rides.

Cole’s introduction, and instant infatuation, with surfing did not swell out of Lake Michigan. It was in a place far, far away and long, long ago. "It was the mid '90s," he recalls. "I was in Hawaii doing an internship and writing my dissertation."

Susan Bence

Wisconsin is a state rich in natural beauty and resources. But 2019 underscored the stresses those resources face. WUWM outlines the top challenges, as well as signs of improvement, in this past year.

Democratic Gov. Tony Evers promised to start his first term by bringing science back to the state’s diminished Department of Natural Resources.

Republican Gov. Scott Walker, whom Evers, defeated had dramatically reduced the agency’s size and scope.

Katie Rademacher

The Milwaukee River Basin scored a C- for water quality in 2017. The grade has dropped to a D, according to a report recently released by Milwaukee Riverkeeper.

But that doesn't mean the entire 882-plus square mile basin that begins in Sheboygan and Fond du Lac counties is one big mess. For example, Pigeon Creek in Ozaukee County earned a B-. The creek is a tributary of the Milwaukee River, one of three rivers that fall within the basin.

Yulia / stock.adobe.com

The holiday season is in full swing. In today’s world, that means you may have lots of wrapped packages, delivery boxes/bags, and tissue paper galore. But where does it all go once the festivities are over?

Don't worry. We're here to help you know what's recyclable or not. With the help of Samantha Longshore, who manages the resources recovery for the city of Milwaukee, we answer questions you sent us about recycling during the holidays.

samopauser, Adobe Stock

New York author Seth Siegel has spoken on water issues around the world. In 2016, he became UW-Milwaukee’s School of Freshwater Sciences first senior water policy fellow.

That appointment allowed Siegel to dive into research for his latest book, Troubled Water: What’s Wrong With What We Drink. It explores a multitude of drinking-water problems that plague communities around the United States — from contaminated wells to crumbling infrastructure.

Eddee Daniel

For years, Wauwatosa residents and visitors have gravitated to the hush of 50-plus acres of greenspace fondly called Sanctuary Woods. It falls within the Milwaukee County Grounds, the largest remaining open space in the county.

Over recent years, sections, especially along its southern and western stretches, have given way to development.

As Wauwatosa leaders began drafting a master plan for the district, some residents worried Sanctuary Woods might be swallowed by development.

Susan Bence

South Shore Park in Bay View overlooks Lake Michigan. But while its greenspace and pavilion may be Milwaukee County Park gems, South Shore's beach has consistently ranked among the worst in the nation because of poor water quality. After years of discussion, a plan is inching forward to move the beach south where the water more naturally circulates.

Residents gathered Monday evening at the park pavilion above the beach to learn more about the plan.

Recycling Do's And Dont's In The Milwaukee Area

Dec 3, 2019
Lauren Sigfusson

The topic of recycling evokes a variety of reactions. For some people, their practice is a passion. For others, it's sheer confusion.

We want to help you feel confident that what you throw away lands where it belongs. That's why we recently reached out to you, our listeners, asking for your questions about recycling, reusing or garbage.

Beats Me: What Questions Do You Have For WUWM's Beats Reporters?

Mariakray / stock.adobe.com

If you order a drink at a Milwaukee coffee shop or restaurant, there’s a good chance you automatically get a plastic straw. But an ordinance being considered in Milwaukee would limit plastic straws from being handed out at food and beverage establishments unless you ask for one.

There was no real discussion when the Common Council voted Tuesday on the plastic straw ordinance. Alderman Russell Stamper and three fellow alderpersons wanted to cosponsor the bill. Only Alderman Bob Donovan expressed opposition — briefly.

Susan Bence

Milwaukee County Parks is rich in green space — 157 parks and a total of more than 15,300 acres of green space — but less well off when it comes to funding. The system has $362,000 more in tax levy in 2020 than was allotted in 2019, but over the past decade the parks department has reduced tax levy funding and has turned to direct revenue to fill in the gap.

Susan Bence

People have been talking for years about Asian carp and how the invasive fish might impact the Great Lakes.

fullempty / stock.adobe.com

If you’re one of those people who feels overwhelmed by the waste we humans create, you might take heart with a move made by Milwaukee's Public Safety and Health Committee. It voted Thursday to prohibit local food and alcohol beverage establishments from providing customers with plastic straws.

Arlin Karnopp

Updated Wednesday at 9:12 a.m. CT

Leaders of a rural county in Wisconsin are not pleased with how the quality of its ground water is being reflected by local reporters.

Lafayette County seems like an idyllic rural spot in Wisconsin, but a local committee made waves Tuesday when it announced its board and any other officials need permission before talking about local water quality.

Office of Senator Tammy Baldwin

The five Great Lakes — Superior, Michigan, Huron, Erie, and Ontario — contain more than 20% of the world's surface freshwater. But the basin is also plagued with challenges, from algal bloom to invasive species.  

UW-Milwaukee

An anonymous donor has pledged $10 million to help fund a new research vessel for UW-Milwaukee's School of Freshwater Sciences.

University officials said Wednesday it will be the most advanced research vessel on the Great Lakes, and the first designed specifically to conduct sophisticated research within the basin.

The vessel will replace the Neeskay, an Army T-boat the university bought and converted nearly 50 years ago.

Susan Bence

Starting Friday, people leading projects designed to preserve native plants and animals are meeting to report and share ideas. They're gathering at a nature preserve north of Port Washington.

It's kind of like a summit on steroids. Each presenter has 20 minutes to dazzle fellow conservationists with charts and graphs. But this is no laughing matter – habitat is dwindling, and so are species.

chalermchai / stock.adobe.com

The Mitchell Park Horticultural Conservancy, fondly known as The Domes, is perhaps equal parts iconic and at risk. Like fellow Milwaukee County facilities, it is woefully in need of maintenance.

Supervisor Sylvia Ortiz-Velez, whose district includes The Domes, is proposing a new source of revenue: growing hemp in one of the dome's greenhouses.

Susan Bence

More and more people appear concerned about the public health dangers posed by lead – especially to young children and pregnant women. Among the groups trying to move from conversation to action is the League of Women Voters of Milwaukee County. The group convened a roundtable discussion Tuesday in West Allis.

Michael Kienitz

Award-winning photojournalist Michael Kienitz's career was sparked by the Vietnam War. The Madison, Wis. native and at the time UW-Madison student says he was struck by the contrast between the protesting he saw around him and how it was reported in newspapers. Kienitz picked up a camera and never put it down.

Susan Bence

Gov. Tony Evers' administration has been promoting action on climate change since his inauguration day in January. In Milwaukee Thursday, Evers took a step toward tangible action.

He announced the creation of a task force charged with coming up with recommendations to combat climate change.

Susan Bence

We Energies says it's time to increase its electric rates. But critics say customers will be paying more while the utility remains too reliant on polluting energy sources like coal.

Dmitry Naumov / stock.adobe.com

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) thinks it's come up with a good formula to better protect Americans from lead in drinking water, calling it a major and much-needed overhaul. Officials unveiled the proposal Thursday in Green Bay. But concern is already bubbling up among those who feel the EPA changes aren't stringent enough.

malp / stock.adobe.com

Driving down poverty and increasing wellness — these are among the critical challenges being tackled at the annual Summit on Poverty.

The two-day program is a collaboration between Marquette University and the Social Development Commission. It’s designed to foster creative conversations among community leaders, educators, and members of the community. 

Ellen Damschen

As habitats shrink and the climate changes, animals and plants are facing challenges across the globe.

But a group of scientists, including from UW-Madison, is finding signs of hope through a research project in South Carolina. They wanted to see if they could improve the odds for species by experimenting with the longleaf pine savanna in South Carolina.

Dwayne Sperber

Chuck Leavell plays keyboards with the Rolling Stones. But he’s also a passionate environmentalist and forester.

"There was a personal connection for me. Where does that wonderful thing that's given me so much joy and a great career come from? Of course, it comes from the resource of wood, as do many, many other musical instruments. Without wood there would be hardly any music, we'd just be singing acapella," Leavell explains.

Susan Bence

Milwaukee’s harbor district is evolving. On its northern edge plans are afoot for a hotel, apartment and office complex. When that happens, a decades’ long fixture will  probably disappear — Jerry's Dock.

There’s nothing pretty about the place. It’s tucked along the Milwaukee River, on the edge of its intersection with the Menomonee and Kinnickinnic Rivers, on their path to Lake Michigan.

Susan Bence

People around the world, including in Milwaukee, concerned about climate change will take part in the Global Climate Strike, which starts Friday.

Ahead of Friday's Milwaukee rally, a corner of the cavernous basement beneath a UWM art studio building is filled with clusters of people chatting, munching on pizza. But mostly, they’re focused on the work at hand. Among them is Nicholas Lampert.

"I was screen printing these patches that people will wear at the demonstration and on the back of jackets," Lampert says.

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