Environment

Please Don't Buy Japanese Barberry. Forests Will Thank You

Sep 22, 2017
Paige Walter / Allegheny Front

With reporting by Paige Walter

It would be an understatement to say that Ryan Utz is not a fan of Japanese barberry.

Utz is a professor at Chatham University’s Falk School of Sustainability, and as we walk through some damp, forested land on the property of their Eden Hall campus, north of Pittsburgh, he can hardly contain himself.

Learning About Pollution Can Be Fun ... When You Get To Pick A Giant Nose

Aug 10, 2017
Rachel Filippini

Our region’s dirty air is a big problem. But that doesn’t mean we can’t have a little fun with it, right?

A Mon River Water Filtration System In West Virginia Is Among The Nation's Best

Aug 8, 2017
Michael Virtanen / AP

A raft of garbage covers a swath of the Monongahela River in northern West Virginia, a dozen miles upstream from the drinking water intake for 100,000 people.

Old tires, damaged toys, algae, oil drums, sticks and other refuse have crowded against the dam for so long that weeds sprout from them. Stuck against the spillway, the trash spans a football field's length from one bank to the other and spreads almost 30 yards upstream.

Courtesy of Polly Shaw / Arcadia Publishing

The Lake Arthur Regatta is this weekend.

Sarah Kovash / 90.5 WESA

Six Pittsburgh students are spending their summer learning about the plants and animals in Frick Park and how to protect them with erosion control and managing invasive species. 

Students working in the Young Naturalist program don’t typically have access to nature. 

90.5 WESA’s Sarah Schneider spoke with Taiji Nelson, a naturalist educator with the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy, about teaching kids to be park stewards. 

This conversation has been edited for length and clarity.

Kamil Kaczor / Flickr

Officials announced Tuesday that PWSA is back in compliance with federal standards for lead levels in drinking water. The next day, City Council gave preliminary approval to a bill that would allow the authority to replace the private side of residential lead service lines when it replaces the public side.

Natural Gas Industry Wastewater Pollution May Linger For Years

Jul 21, 2017
Scott Detrow / StateImpact Pennsylvania

A new study finds the treated wastewater from Pennsylvania’s natural gas industry may pollute rivers, lakes, streams and creeks for longer than previously thought.

Richard Shiro / AP

Donald Trump and Republicans in Congress say they’re not so sure about the science of climate change, even though the vast majority of scientists agree: we’re warming the planet and if we don’t stop, it’ll have big consequences for us.

How Cities Are Planning To Survive Climate Change

Jul 13, 2017
Magnus Larsson / Flickr

Cities all over the world are receiving funding to become more resilient. That means preparing them to handle long-term stresses, like income inequality, and short-term shocks, like a flood. In 2014, Pittsburgh became one of those cities. It’s now part of the 100 Cities program, a Rockefeller Foundation initiative designed to help promote resiliency.

Study: Some Highly Fluorinated Chemicals Are Harder To Filter From Water

Jun 29, 2017
Rajikiran Ghanta / Flickr

Researchers have found some kinds of chemicals are harder to filter from water.

These compounds belong to a family called highly fluorinated chemicals. They’re used to make carpets, clothes and cookware stain and water repellant.

They’ve also been used in firefighting foam at military bases and airports. Those chemicals from firefighting foam have contaminated drinking water around the country, including drinking water wells near the former Wurtsmith Air Force Base near Oscoda.

EarthJustice

When  President Donald Trump’s proposed budget cut funding for environmental justice work at the EPA, Mustafa Ali took a stand. 

Irina Zhorov / Keystone Crossroads

The Pennsylvania Senate unanimously agreed Tuesday to create a bipartisan group tasked with investigating lead exposure in the state.

Margaret Sun / 90.5 WESA

President Donald Trump may not think the Paris Climate Accord is beneficial for the U.S., but Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto says the city is still committed to it.

EPA Won't Declare Lake Erie's Waters In Ohio Impaired

May 25, 2017
Haraz N. Ghanbari / AP

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency won't declare Ohio's western end of Lake Erie impaired by toxic algae, siding with state regulators who say they are making progress in tackling the problem.

Fractracker Alliance / StateImpact PA

Pennsylvania’s shale gas drillers continued to break records for production in 2016, tapping about 5.1 trillion cubic feet of natural gas.

Although the increase in production was not as high as in previous years, it still represents an upward trend, while the number of new well permits are declining, according to data published this week by the Department of Environmental Protection.

Pennsylvania still ranks second behind Texas in total volume of natural gas production.

'Aquahacking' Aims To Improve Water Quality In Lake Erie

May 16, 2017
via Allegheny Front

When we hear about hacking, it’s usually not a “good news” story. “Aquahacking” is an exception.

To improve water quality in Lake Erie, teams of engineers, software developers and students worked for months on a hacking competition. Erie Hack is billed as the intersection of the environment and the regional economy.  The Cleveland Water Alliance offered up cash and support, and the ideas started flowing. The final nine teams pitched their ideas to a panel of judges.

Sarah Schneider / 90.5 WESA

Just ahead of Earth Day, two dozen Pittsburgh nonprofit CEOs are calling on residents to lobby against a rollback of environmental laws at the federal level.

President Donald Trump has proposed cutting the Environmental Protection Agency’s budget by 31 percent, as well as eliminating the clean power plan.

One Way To Respond To A Warming Planet? Get Smaller

Apr 13, 2017
Kai Schreiber / Flickr

Though the earth is experiencing its first bout of human-induced climate change, the planet has faced massive global warming events in the past. For instance, 56 million years ago, the earth was 46 degrees hotter on average than it is right now. And in response, mammals literally shrank. Imagine an early horse ancestor the size of a cat.

Is A Petrochemical Boom Heading For Pennsylvania?

Mar 23, 2017
GoogleEarth

Shell is expected to begin constructing its $6-billion petrochemical plant in Beaver County later this year. But a new, state-commissioned report says that may be only the beginning for Pennsylvania’s petrochemical industry.

Federal Cuts At EPA Will Trickle Down To Pennsylvania

Mar 9, 2017
Tom Whitten / Flickr

As a candidate, Donald Trump promised to drastically reduce the size and scope of the Environmental Protection Agency. A memo by the White House Office of Management and Budget indicates that’s still the plan. The memo outlines a proposed 25 percent cut to EPA’s $8-billion budget, including reductions in state grants for clean air and water programs.

Marie Cusick / StateImpact Pennsylvania

Opponents of the Atlantic Sunrise natural gas pipeline have raised tens of thousands of dollars for a new encampment in Lancaster County, but most of the money is from one source–  British cosmetics firm, Lush.

Auslandsoesterreicherflickraccountinhaber / Flickr

Ticks don’t always wait until the spring to become active. A warm snap in western Pennsylvania could mean more breeding among the insects, and more cases of Lyme disease.

Pennsylvania has had the highest rate of Lyme disease in the nation for years – and that number is going up. More than 12,000 cases were reported last year -- one-third the total cases of Lyme disease across the country.  

Environmentalists Oppose Permits For Pennsylvania Pipeline

Feb 15, 2017
Matt Slocum / AP

Environmental advocacy groups are trying to halt construction of a $2.5 billion natural gas liquids pipeline across southern Pennsylvania while they appeal newly issued permits that they say would unleash massive and irreparable damage to the state's environment and residents.

In filings Monday night, three groups said the state Department of Environmental Protection had approved incomplete and legally flawed permit applications for Sunoco Logistics' Mariner East 2 pipeline hours earlier "in response to heavy and sustained political pressure."

NBC

The Confluence, where the news comes together, is 90.5 WESA’s weekly news program.

Each week reporters, editors and bloggers join veteran journalist and host Kevin Gavin. They’ll go behind the headlines taking an in-depth look at the stories important to the Pittsburgh region.

Handling The Rising Tide Of Climate Change In Our Region

Jan 12, 2017
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

In a farewell address this week, President Obama reiterated his administration’s commitment to acting on climate change—and his thoughts on the gravity of issue.

“Without bolder action, our children won’t have time to debate the existence of climate change. They’ll be busy dealing with its effects,” he said.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service / NCTC Archives Museum

Rachel Carson would recognize the conflict between environmental regulation and corporate interests as it is manifesting in President-elect Donald Trump’s pick for head of the Environmental Protection Agency.

Pittsburgh Air Is Still Bad, But It Is Getting Better

Dec 27, 2016
Gene J. Puskar / AP Photo

Air quality in western Pennsylvania improved in 2016, according to three regional monitors tracked by the Allegheny County Health Department.

“It was a good year in ozone,” said Jayme Graham, the department's air quality manager.

Could The Former Shenango Coke Works Site Become A Solar Farm?

Dec 17, 2016
Google Earth

Last year, when Leah Andrascik heard the Shenango Coke Works was closing, she thought it was a joke. Then, when she realized the news sent in an email by a fellow activist was true, she was relieved.

Andrascik lives just across the Ohio River from Neville Island, just north of Pittsburgh, where the coke plant was a constant source of concern for many residents. “When it was still in operation, there was a lot of dark smoke that would come out of the battery,” Andrascik says.

Oil And Gas Development Could Pose A Risk To Struggling PA Bats

Dec 15, 2016
US Fish and Wildlife Service

 

A coalition of nine oil and gas companies is asking the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for a 50-year permit that would allow the killing or disturbing of five bat species in Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia. The permit, which is covered under the Endangered Species Act, is called an incidental take permit because the impacts are incidental to carrying out a legal activity, like constructing pipelines.

Sarah Schneider / 90.5 WESA

The Pittsburgh Urban Redevelopment Authority is paying for what will be the third round of environmental testing of the former Civic Arena site.

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