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.

_

Ways to Connect

Library of Congress

Fifty years ago on Wednesday, the first Earth Day kicked off with a huge bang. An estimated 20 million people rallied to the call to protect our most fundamental resources: land, water, and air.

Its founder, Gaylord Nelson, served as Wisconsin governor before moving on to the U.S. Senate. Here's an excerpt from his 1970 speech delivered at MATC in Milwaukee on the eve of the first Earth Day:

Melissa Tashjian

A few years ago, the city of Milwaukee launched a curbside organics pick-up pilot for households to sign up to recieve a special bin to toss yard waste and food scraps.

In 2016, 500 families signed up — now that number's at 519 — primarily in the Bay View, East Side and Riverwest neighborhoods. 

Michele Woodford

The presence of gray wolves in Wisconsin is considered a success story. The wolf is native to the Great Lakes and other parts of the U.S., but by the 1950s, the population was teetering on extinction. The gray wolf was placed on the federal endangered species list in 1975. By 2012, its numbers had rebounded and the gray wolf was taken off the list.

Spencer Platt / Getty Images

The new coronavirus is crippling countries around the world, forcing major cities into lockdown. Production has slowed, as some businesses have had to pause. The sluggish commercial climate along with travel restrictions have led to a drop in air pollution.  

Experts, including UW-Milwaukee distinguished professor of atmospheric science Paul Roebber, say the unintended relief the environment is experiencing will be temporary. But Roebber says lessons can be learned by considering similarities between the outbreak and climate change. 

Susan Bence

According to a report from the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin, nearly 30% of the energy residents rely on is fueled by natural gas. That is almost 2% more than coal.

We Energies wants to increase its natural gas delivery capacity by laying a pipeline that would stretch from rural Walworth County to northcentral Kenosha County.

Chuck Quirmbach

Recently the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration reported that this January was the warmest on record for the globe. This information is part of a growing body of evidence that climate change can be seen and felt.

Susan Bence

An estimated 900,000 Wisconsin households rely on private wells for drinking water. It seems with every passing day, we learn wells are being impacted by contaminants — from manure to PFAS — putting families’ health at risk. Some people feel there's not enough support when they have to deal with a contaminated well.

READ: PFAS Concern Remains High In Marinette

Susan Bence

Milwaukee prides itself for being a water centric city, but it has a problem with its water quality. In 1987, Milwaukee was one of 43 areas around the Great Lakes put on a list no one wants to be on — the Areas of Concern list.

Susan Bence

In the coming months, Lake Effect will be exploring the impact of climate change through a series of conversations with Paul Roebber, a distinguished professor of atmospheric science at UW-Milwaukee. The series will include listener questions about how climate change is directly impacting our region and our lives.

Roebber explains that climate is a complex, dynamical system that changes over periods of time — some long and some short.

Susan Bence

Updated at 5:35 p.m. CT

No one had the opportunity to speak for or against the proposed Kletzsch Park dam project at Tuesday afternoon’s meeting of the Milwaukee County Parks, Energy and Environment Committee.

While the item was taken up almost immediately by the committee, it just as quickly voted to lay over the proposal to the call of the chair.

Unless the committee forwards the Kletzsch Park item to the Board of Supervisors before its end of term meeting on March 26, the item will effectively be dead.

Susan Bence

A family of man-made chemicals that can contaminate water, called PFAS, has been front and center in the news, across the United States and in Wisconsin.

On Tuesday, the Wisconsin Legislature said yes to a first step in limiting the use of the most visible source of PFAS contamination – firefighting foams. Then on Wednesday, the Wisconsin Natural Resources Board took up a proposal to regulate PFAS and other chemicals that can contaminate groundwater.

Susan Bence

There’s promising new research that could help farmers weather climate change. A team of scientists is experimenting with a hormone that naturally occurs in plants. The hormone slows the plant’s growth – meaning it would need less water during a drought.

There’s more research to be done, but it could eventually lead to a drought-survival spray farmers could use on crops.

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.

Pages