WUWM: Environmental Reporting

Many of us are environmentally aware — many recycle, some conserve water, you might ride a bike to work. But we do face profound environmental challenges.

Help WUWM’s Environmental Reporter Susan Bence dig deeper into the issues you are most concerned about.

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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."

Susan Bence

Residents in Milwaukee may be growing their vegetables in soil tainted with lead, without knowing it. A handful of partners are working built awareness of this problem and reduce the risks.

Growing Healthy Soil for Healthy Communities, which includes such partners as Medical College of Wisconsin and the UW Department of Soil Science, is reaching out to residents on the north and south sides.

Avigail Becerra has become one of the program’s staunchest advocates.

MADISON WATER UTILITY

Mayor Tom Barrett made a surprise water announcement Wednesday saying anyone living in a home built before 1951 should install water filters to protect residents from possible lead poisoning.

He issued the advice while taking part in a public policy conference at Marquette University Law School.

TOOL: Do You Have Lead Pipes in Your Home?

Susan Bence

In this era of urban agriculture, Milwaukee is making a name for itself as a leader. At the same time, a group tuned into the dangers of lead in the soil wants to use the urban farming wave to inform families.

In Milwaukee, an estimated 10 percent of kids under age six have unhealthy levels of lead in their blood - levels that could cause permanent brain and nervous system disabilities.

A major culprit has been the lead-based paint used on houses decades ago. Those paint chips can also make their way into family gardens.

Michelle Maternowski

Milwaukee’s Lake Park is one of the most popular local Pokémon Go play areas. Crowds of people are lured to the handful of PokéStops, hoping to catch a rare pocket monster. The phenomenon intrigues some, and annoys others.

Susan Bence

9-year-old Raya El-Hajar had an exciting summer. She won the 2016 Healthy Lunchtime Challenge. Then, First Lady Michelle Obama welcomed Raya and 55 fellow chefs from around the country to the White House last month to celebrate their achievements.

The 5th annual challenge was designed to encourage 8 to 12 year olds to create an original, healthy, tasty and affordable lunch recipe. More than 1200 applications flowed in for review.

Susan Bence

As Kris McCoy sets up at the Saturday Mineral Point Market in Water Tower Park, she is surrounded by her artfully arranged wooden creations – a large buffet, numerous candle holders, decorative ladders, to name a few.

Mineral Point is home.

McCoy and her husband have lived here 23 years and raised their four children here.

Susan Bence

Although the Great Lakes governors approved Waukesha’s application, a coalition of Great Lakes mayors hopes to stop it.

This week, those who belong to the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative announced that they would challenge the Compact Council’s decision.

UPDATE - After a long discussion Tuesday evening, the task force did not come to a concensus on whether to rehab or replace the footbridge.  Several groups are keenly interested in the bridge's future,  including the North Point Lighthouse Friends and Lake Park Friends.  The groups plan to review the proposed alternatives with their members.  The task force will consider those perspectives as the final selection is made.

Jarob Ortiz

A job of a lifetime began Monday for 33-year-old Jarob Ortiz, a coveted position he never imagined would be his. Ortiz has become the official photographer of the National Park Service, and during its centennial year.

"Each one of those interviews I spent about 7 days leading up to those things studying about 6 hours a night, just making sure I would be as good as I possibly could,” Ortiz says.

Susan Bence

Milwaukee is in a reflective mood, days after tragic events unfolded in the city’s Sherman Park neighborhood. Earlier this week, people quietly reflected in Alice’s Garden, a green oasis two miles southeast of the Sherman Park hot spot.

A circle more than 50 people – different sizes, ages and colors – stood together.  And, Monique Inez Liston led a solemn chant.

Susan Bence

Cole Compton is about to begin his senior year at Shorewood High School’s New Horizon Charter School.

WUWM's Susan bence met him a few years ago Weber’s, a greenhouse on Green Bay Ave off Capitol Drive. Compton was the youngest intern in the then fledgling after-school, paid internship program called Teens Grow Greens.

Susan Bence

At last count, Wisconsin was home to more than 230 different species of birds. Now, 1,000 surveyors are pooling data for across the state to see if those numbers are holding.

In the Wisconsin Breeding Bird Atlas II survey, bird experts aren’t counting the ones who simply stop over during migration, rather those that rely on Wisconsin's habitats to multiply.

Susan Bence

Vanessa Tobin has a very specific professional niche. She is Senior Technical Adviser for Water Supply, Sanitation and Water Resources Development for Catholic Relief Services (CRS) based in Baltimore Maryland.

Before joining CRS in 2012, Tobin worked extensively in the field for the United Nations and other organizations in places such as South Sudan and Nepal. Most recently she served as UNICEF’s Chief of Water, Environment and Sanitation.

Susan Bence

The center, in the midst of a major green makeover, resides west of Ashland and south of Bayfield and is nearly twenty years old.

With its sweeping 180 acres before him, US Forest Service program manager Jason Maloney beams as he watches a crew erecting the infrastructure to support four rows of solar panels - 100 kilowatts’ worth.

The work – and the effort to fund it - goes back ten years, to Maloney’s predecessor at the center.

Susan Bence

Special projects leader Tommy Richardson led WUWM's Susan Bence on a tour of Stockton Island. The experience proved to be as much an exploration of a major boardwalk project as it was demonstration of Richardson’s love for his job.

Richardson says he never dreamed he’d be working here. We’re on a Park Service boat, heading from a dock outside Bayfield to Stockton Island.

He grew up “near” but a world away from the Apostle Islands. Richardson's grandfather farmed outside Ashland; his dad worked at the local paper mill for 30 years.

Jodi Parins

Sixteen large dairy operations pepper Kewaunee’s county landscape – so do the fields on which they spread their manure. Today, more than 30% of Kewaunee County residents’ wells are contaminated.

The geology of the county allows manure to seep into the groundwater, and the situation finally resulted in action.

Resident Lynn Utesch served on workgroups, along with representatives from agencies, such as the EPA and state DNR.

The spreading of manure has become a heated issue in Wisconsin. Especially with the emergence of CAFOs - farms with large concentrations of animals. Some residents blame CAFOs for contaminating drinking water.

Today, dozens of people will trek to Ashland, in the far north, where the Natural Resources Board is supposed to decide how the state will proceed.

Andrea Merimee

Wednesday, Schlitz Audubon Nature Center will run its first-ever moth identification night and will add its results to a national database.

Actually, counts are going on this week around the globe! It's National Moth Week.

In Milwaukee, Brooke Gilley has taken on the moth counting mission at Schlitz Audubon Nature Center. If anyone can engender warm fuzzy feelings about moths, it’s Gilley.

S Bence

A few years ago, The Park People spearheaded a “passport” to entice people to explore the Oak Leaf Trail. It covers more than 100 miles of diverse terrain. At first, the passport highlighted 14 park stops. This year, it includes 26 and a full-size map.

Cheri Briscoe is a hardcore volunteer. She’s advocated for the Oak Leaf Trail even before it acquired the name.

"I love biking and so I decided that’s what I want to focus on in my later life," she says.

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