environment

Jason Rieve

One of the miracles of manufacturing new products today is the use of nanomaterials — extremely small substances. Think of a piece of paper you’re holding in your hands. Look at the edge of the paper and imagine something 100,000 times smaller.

Nanomaterials are found in all kinds of products we every day, things like sunscreen, car paint, and clothing. While the tiny particles have dramatically improved the performance of many products, there’s a downside: Scientists are finding that nanomaterials are often being washed into our lakes and streams.

Updated at 3 p.m. ET

Millions of young people raised their voices at protests around the world Friday in a massive display meant to demand urgent action on climate change. Scores of students missed school to take part, some joined by teachers and parents.

Some of the first rallies began in Australia, and then spread from Pacific islands to India and Turkey and across Europe, as students kicked off what organizers were calling a Global Climate Strike.

When curbside recycling caught on in the 1970s, it was mostly about cans, glass, cardboard and paper. That's how Donald Sanderson remembers it.

Sanderson is 90 years old, an earnest man with a ready smile. Every Thursday in Woodbury, N.J., where he lives, he hauls a big blue recycling bin out to the curb. Recycling is close to his heart. "I guess you could say I'm the father of recycling," he says. "I don't know if that's good or bad."

A standard river barge can hold about the same amount as 60 semitrucks. In early June, 642 of them had floated to a standstill near American Commercial Barge Line's office outside Cairo, Ill.

"That's just me. That's not the other fleets in the area," said Mark Glaab, facility manager there. "That's just ACBL."

"Water, water everywhere." That line from poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge could be the mantra for rain-weary residents across the country. Some regions have seen record amounts of rain since early spring. The Mississippi River and tributaries spent months above flood stage, while all of the Great Lakes are nearly at or above historic highs.

Keith Kompoltowicz, chief of watershed hydrology for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in Detroit, says data show that the Great Lakes have been on the rise for several years, especially in recent months.

The avalanche of plastic waste that's rolling over land and sea has inspired numerous potential solutions. Some involve inventing our way out of the mess by creating new kinds of natural materials that will harmlessly degrade if they're thrown away.

Others say it might be quicker to change people's throwaway behavior instead.

LOOZRBOY / FLICKR

The Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled Thursday that Canada-based Enbridge Energy doesn't need to carry additional insurance for a pipeline project in Dane County, despite the local government's insistence that it do so in case of an accidental spill.

Dane County officials made a $25 million environmental liability policy a requirement for Enbridge's permit for a project to triple the flow of crude oil from its Line 61 pipeline to 1.2 million barrels per day. The pipeline runs from northern Wisconsin to Illinois.

Nick / Flickr

Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul recently announced that he will defend an EPA decision to exempt parts of the Milwaukee area from stricter air quality regulations. Kaul will be siding with the Trump administration and former Gov. Scott Walker in defending the exemption, which contends that much of the area’s air pollution is caused by Illinois and Indiana.

The largest habitat for life on Earth is the deep ocean. It's home to everything from jellyfish to giant bluefin tuna. But the deep ocean is being invaded by tiny pieces of plastic — plastic that people thought was mostly floating at the surface, and in amounts they never imagined.

Johanna Madjedi / Flickr

Most of us see birds every day — it might be a pigeon shuffling down the sidewalk or a robin hopping past the yard — but few of us take much notice of them. A new book is hoping to change that and make bird-watching a bit more accessible.

Chuck Quirmbach

Wisconsin scientists are working on new ways to protect drinking and surface water from pollutants. They’re also investigating better methods of cleaning water that's already contaminated. But researchers say success may cost taxpayers more money.

Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Secretary Preston Cole has been promising to place a higher priority on good science when crafting policy. For example, he hopes better research will lead to cleaner drinking water. 

alexandrink1966 / stock.adobe.com

Quality is perhaps the most important part of any water distribution system. Water utilities process every drop that makes it into our plumbing, which takes a lot of time and energy. One way to keep from overburdening the system is by reducing our consumption — what we know as "water conservation."

Bill Graffin works for the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District, which works in wastewater treatment and conservation efforts in the Milwaukee area. Here are some helpful tips from Graffin on how you can conserve water at home.

Milwaukee-Area Engineer Aids International Environmental Crises

Apr 16, 2019
Image courtesy Mike Paddock

Parts of the Midwest are still reeling from spring flooding caused by a winter's-worth of snow melting in a very short period of time. The floods have caused hundreds of millions of dollars in property damage, even in places with plans for such occurrences. 

Are Plastic Bag Bans Garbage?

Apr 9, 2019

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Updated at 6:41 a.m. ET Sunday

It's the worst flooding parts of the Midwest have seen in decades, where several states are battling the aftermath of a powerful "bomb cyclone" which swept through the region, bringing blizzard conditions, hurricane-like winds, snow and heavy rain.

At least two people have died in connection to the flooding.

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