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Planet Detroit

Planet Detroit helps you get smarter about the environment in Detroit and Michigan. Planet Detroit’s stories and weekly newsletter focus on explanatory, solutions-based and investigative reporting, and a deep commitment to community engagement around local environmental issues. Planet Detroit’s mission is to raise awareness about Metro Detroit’s environmental and public health issues, hold powerful entities accountable and help our audience connect with their local environment and take action to protect the health of their communities.

Following the storms on July 8, Highland Park resident Michelle Jones had to leave her house on account of an outage that lasted for 36 hours. This was the second time she had lost power in two months, after a June storm knocked out her service for ten hours.  But this time the outage came in the middle of a heatwave when temperatures were hitting the mid-90s. “It was just miserable,” Jones says. “I went to my other daughter's house because you could not sleep, you could hardly breathe.”  Jones also relocated some of the food from her freezer, saying
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bee hive being held in front of city skyline
Brian Peterson-Roest and Brian Roest-Peterson (yep, you read that right!) are the founders of Bees in the D, a Detroit-based nonprofit with the mission of installing hives across the region and teaching about the importance of pollinators.  They manage 175 bee hives at almost 60 locations across Michigan, including 15 rooftops. The robust nonprofit is all volunteer-run. They are also in the process of purchasing some land from the Detroit Land Bank in Core City. The architecture firm Studio Detroit designed an educational community center for the space pro-bono using upcycled shipping containers. Bees will live up on the roof,
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Today, Jesuit pear trees are considered a treasure of Detroit's natural history and preservation efforts are underway.
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water faucet
Flint is the most notable example. But we might soon find out about many more.  Aside from a few infamous cases—like Flint, Chicago, and Washington, D.C.—public officials across the United States have continually downplayed the pervasiveness of lead contamination in water. But if preliminary evidence holds up, a new Michigan rule for testing lead will likely show just how widespread the problem is.  The Detroit Public Schools Community District had their own crisis in 2018 when testing showed that 57 of 86 schools had lead levels above the federal action threshold of 15 ppb. Children are especially vulnerable to the
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orange flowers in a field
Since the Detroiters Do Science project began in May, citizen scientists across Metro Detroit have recorded nearly 2500 observations (and counting!) through the iNaturalist app as part of our Nature in Your Neighborhood project. That’s 27 observers and 313 identifiers, who have come up with 990 species so far. Participants have shared the wide range of species they found in their yards, neighborhoods, and local parks—from the zebra jumping spider (9 observations) to the osprey (4 observations). Among the most common observations were the black swallowtail butterfly (16 observations), common milkweed (13 observations), and chicory (14 observations). And we’ve decided
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water bottles/plastics in large pile to be recycled
Dear Planet Detroit,  I am a Detroit citizen living in the Palmer Park historic apartment neighborhood. Why doesn't the city provide recycling bins and access to recycling just as the single family homes and other areas of Detroit?  -Tired of seeing the waste and consumption.  Dear Tired,  Recycling services in Detroit have been primarily focused on single-family homes in the past. But this will soon change.  In 2019, the city of Detroit received a grant from the Department of Energy, Great Lakes, and Environment (EGLE), that will allow them to offer recycling to multi-family unit buildings such as apartment complexes
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cloudy sky, horizon sunrise
Dear Coughing, As many traveled outside for cook-outs, fireworks, and sunbathing on July 4th, it wasn’t just the smell of barbeque that filled Metro Detroit’s air —  July 4 also had the highest measured Air Quality Index (AQI) in 2020.  Some of that pollution may have come from the use of personal fireworks. Over the past 20 years, the Detroit region has improved air quality overall. But summer months still bring higher levels of air pollutants. Increased solar radiation causes ground-level ozone to spike, and stagnant air currents can trap emissions and increase concentrations of particulate matter and gaseous pollutants.
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dripping faucet
By Associated Press LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Protections to prevent water shutoffs during the coronavirus pandemic are being extended to the end of the year under an order signed Wednesday by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. Since March, 2,477 Michiganders have had their water restored through a grant to help utilities reconnect consumers. Last week, Whitmer signed a bill designating $25 million in federal funding for the state Department of Health and Human Services to forgive past-due utility bills and fees of residential customers. “As Michigan families grapple with the impacts of COVID-19 on public health and our economy, our administration is
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sunset in dark orange sky behind dark tree branches
In light of the 90-plus degree temperatures and high humidity, the city of Detroit announced Tuesday that it would open the Farwell, Patton, Crowell, Adams Butzel and Kemeny recreation centers to provide cooling from noon until 8 p.m.  During normal times, the city operates cooling centers at 15 community and recreation centers and 21 libraries that provide air conditioning on most days. Now, only five facilities provide cooling across the city’s 139 square miles. Heatwaves are by far the deadliest weather events affecting American cities, according to Eric Klinenberg, author of the book Heatwave about Chicago’s deadly 1995 heat event.
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Highland Park City Council voted unanimously Monday to establish a COVID-19 Just Recovery Task Force.  “This task force is about the community coming together to get through this crisis, but also to look forward,” said City Council President of Highland Park Carlton Clyburn in a press release.  The task force will be a joint effort between the City Council and the grassroots-led Highland Park Community Crisis Coalition. The task force's goals are to coordinate relief and community safety efforts and develop a long term plan to respond to COVID-19 using the framework of a “just recovery”. According to the Climate
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clinton river map
by Lauren Karmo Canoers and kayakers across metro Detroit will be able to enjoy the Clinton River as a newly recognized state water trail. With three launch sites in Mt. Clemens and Sterling Heights, 72 of the 81.5 mile-long river has been deemed the ninth state water trail by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources after a decade-long effort by the Clinton River Watershed Council (CRWC), a nonprofit organization.  “Having a designation is important … and it also brings people into communities in many different ways,” said Anne Vaara, chief deputy for the Oakland County Water Resources Commissioner and former
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Tamika Jaja
Tamika Jaja would rather focus on learning the names of native insects than being distracted by how she may be perceived by others, but knows that it’s likely not a luxury she’ll have any time soon.
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