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3M Manufacturing Company Contaminates Mississippi River with Forever Chemicals

by Alan Cruz, age 19

In the late 2000s, it became evident that "forever chemicals" were present in the bloodstream of almost every American. As a result, officials in Minnesota pressed 3M to lessen pollutants spilled into the Mississippi River at its manufacturing facility southeast of the Twin Cities. 3M is a global conglomerate that created these extremely toxic chemicals for use in their wide range of products, from adhesives to medical, building materials, and home cleaning supplies. Lawsuits spurred 3M to reduce pollution and clean up forever chemicals at locations close to another of its factories. These chemicals are known as per- and polyfluoroalkyl compounds (PFAS). In Illinois, it’s a different story. A 3M facility on the Mississippi River roughly 15 miles from the Quad Cities has been contaminating the air and water for more than a decade. Illinois state regulators have repeatedly failed to hold the company responsible.

The harmful effects of forever chemicals are just now becoming apparent. According to David Cwiertny, an engineering professor and director of the Center for Health Effects of Environmental Contamination at the University of Iowa, "It's difficult to comprehend how devastating this could be for people in the Mississippi watershed and the river's ecosystem." Cancer and other diseases are brought on by certain forever chemicals that build up in human blood, and take several years to exit the body. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) concluded that two of the PFAS that have been examined the most are so hazardous that there is truly no safe level of exposure.

A Chicago Tribune investigation revealed that Illinois officials knew about environmental pollution at a 3M facility in Cordova, Illinois as early as 2008. The federal government neglected to look into the well-documented threats in other regions where PFAS are manufactured, despite having a legal obligation to protect human health and the environment. The chemicals appear to have traveled well beyond the 3M facility in Cordova. [Read More]

State DNR to Help Dispose of Firefighting PFAS Foam

by Makya Rodriguez, age 18

Wisconsin is trying to eliminate foams containing PFAS used by firefighters, a move that would benefit the environment by removing hazardous chemicals. PFAS, also known as poly-fluoroalkyl substances, are man-made chemicals. They are used on clothing, carpets, non-stick pans, cookware, and in firefighting foam. It’s a “forever chemical.”It’s family contains 5,000 compounds which are known to last forever in the environment and human bodies.

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) wants to help firefighters clean PFAS chemicals free of charge. The DNR’s foam collection program is doing this with a state fund of $1 million. Of 72 Wisconsin counties, 60 want to cooperate on eliminating PFAS foam through the program. 25,000 gallons of the foam will be eliminated through North Shore Environmental construction.

Once the foam gets removed from certain locations, the program stated that it will send the waste to a hazardous landfill in Alabama. Lining the waterways of the landfill will ensure that PFAS won’t escape into the environment. Once in Alabama, it is said that the PFAS will be stored in cement, where it is better off than in local lakes, rivers, sewers, and drinking water. [Read More]

Can Human Medicine Cure a Coral Epidemic?

by Owen Ayite-Atayi, age 13

New research indicates that antibiotics used in humans can also help sick coral.

Corals are marine invertebrates that often form compact colonies of many identical individuals. Coral species include the important reef builder species that inhabit tropical oceans. The best known example on Planet Earth is the Great Barrier Reef off the coast of Australia.

Recent research proves that certain antibiotics have a positive effect on corals as they try to recover from a tissue-eating disease. This disease is caused by bacteria located in the coral's outer parts. The bacteria start to form and latch onto the coral until it dies. [Read More]

Lead Poisoning Hinders the Recovery of Bald Eagles

by Makya Rodriguez, age 17

The mighty bald eagle is facing some tough times. In recent years, the population of our national bird has decreased by almost 4%, and lead poisoning is usually the reason.

A new nationwide study has found that up to 33% of examined dead bald eagles contained serious levels of lead poisoning. This clinical poisoning is mainly transmitted from an eagle’s prey such as fish or small animals. After consuming such prey, the eagles’ stomach acids break down neurotoxin and release lead into the bird’s bloodstream. The lead then travels to soft tissues around the body and eventually accumulates within the bird’s bones leading to the death of these beautiful animals.

In colder seasons eagles tend to go from natural hunters to scavengers. Scientists have found that eagles are more likely to get poisoned during the colder months when they depend more on the tainted remains of dead prey. [Read More]

Megadrought in California Threatens Western Joshua Tree

by Sol-Saray, age 10

Have you ever heard of the Western Joshua Tree? The Western Joshua Tree is known for its spiky branches. It also looks similar to an acacia tree.

The Western Joshua Tree is usually spotted in deserts in California. There are places in California where the law prevents chopping down Joshua Trees. Aside from the law protecting it, the Department of Fish and Wildlife reports that there is an abundance of these trees, meaning the tree's extinction risk is low.

Despite the tree's low risk-status, there are still factors threatening the Western Joshua Tree. One of these threats is climate change. This is the process of the Earth heating up, largely due to pollution. Climate change is leading to droughts that are causing more wildfires, both of which are threats to the Western Joshua Tree. [Read More]

¿Qué causa la industria del reciclaje fallida de Estados Unidos?

por Yoanna Hoskins, 17 años de edad

La pandemia causó muchos cambios en la sociedad, pero también resaltó cuestiones que antes habían pasado desapercibidas. El engaño de la industria del reciclaje de plásticos es solo un ejemplo. En particular, Covid-19 demostró cuán sensible es la industria del reciclaje de plásticos a las variaciones en los precios del petróleo.

La pandemia causó cambios económicos y redujo el consumo de petróleo. Los precios del petróleo cayeron alrededor del mundo. Como resultado, los fabricantes comenzaron a preferir la creación de plástico nuevo y no al reciclaje porque los bajos costos del petróleo hacían que la nueva producción fuera menos costosa. La fabricación de nuevos plásticos sigue aumentando. Los expertos de la industria y los grupos ambientalistas dicen que esto crea un efecto cíclico, aumentando la polución. [read more]

Discharges of Nitrates Have Been Found in the Mississippi River

by Daniel Li, age 15

A harmful chemical produced by oil companies and slaughterhouses, known to cause cancer and birth defects, made up a vast majority of chemical pollution in 2020.

A recent study found that approximately 94.5 million pounds of nitrates were released into the Mississippi River alone in 2020, making up more than half of all released chemicals nationwide. These nitrates were the most abundant toxic substances found in U.S. waterways, primarily from industries such as petroleum refineries and meat and poultry processing plants. One hundred and seventy-five million pounds of nitrates alone were released by industries, comprising more than 91% of all toxic chemicals released by weight in the United States. These nitrates are primary sources of plant nutrients, but they are not as beneficial as they seem.

While in controlled amounts, nitrates are healthy for plants and commonly used in fertilizers, excessive amounts lead to rapid growth and accumulation of algae in marine or freshwater environments. These algae blooms can grow massive, dense “blankets” over bodies of water, blocking out sunlight. At the same time, as the amount of algae increases and dies, the decomposers in the water use more oxygen to break down the dead algae, leading to hypoxic waters, and stripping other aquatic life of oxygen. [Read More]

Monarch Butterflies are now on the Red List of Threatened Species

by Hanna Eyobed, age 17

Karen Oberhauser, one of the world’s top experts on monarch butterflies, has always pushed for greater awareness of the risks they face. That’s why she thinks it could be a good thing that monarchs were declared endangered in July. “Certainly it’s negative that monarchs have reached this point where they need to be listed. But it’s positive that they have this recognition and that, hopefully, this will bring more people on board to do what we can to preserve monarchs.”

Madison residents can help by planting the only food migratory monarch butterflies can eat as caterpillars: milkweed. Sam Harrington has been very impactful in the Madison community, she is a climate journalist who began making a difference in 2017, when she decided to put her parents’ lawn in Middleton to use by planting a quarter of an acre with plants native to Wisconsin. She planted species like yellow coneflower, royal catchfly, butterfly weed, and purple prairie clover. She eventually planted over 60 species and documented what was planted, what survived, and what animals they attracted. “It feels like an investment in the future, one that I want to live in, one that’s full of pretty flowers and butterflies and I have a good relationship with the land of the place where I’m from.”

Michelle Martin and her work with Monarch butterflies is another example of local change. In July of 2022, as she was inspecting her milkweed plants in her garden, she spotted a monarch egg. She then proceeded to carefully cut the piece of the leaf off, took the egg into her home, and put it on a fresh milkweed leaf in a habitat made specifically for butterflies. During the process of its birth, Martin was consistent in taking care of the caterpillar by adding fresh milkweed. As time went on she added sticks to the enclosure. The caterpillar hung from a chrysalis and after two weeks it hatched into an adult butterfly. After a couple of days, as the butterfly regained its strength, Martin released it. Martin isn’t the only witness to the butterflies she raises, as she is a teacher who shows this process to her class of two-year-olds at Big Oak Child Care Center in Madison. She understands the importance of nature in the lives of developing children and believes that implementing the process of raising monarch butterflies is transformative. It allows her students to be amazed and respectful of the beauty of nature and gives them a sense of urgency to protect it. [Read More]

Invasive Carp Enter the Wisconsin River

by Sofia Zapata, age 13

An invasive carp species that originates from Europe and Asia has been affecting many rivers in the United States, including our own Wisconsin River. If scientists don't resolve this issue or find ways to control the populations, this could be very dangerous for the existing 98 different species that reside in the Wisconsin River.

For over 100 years, the Asian carp has invaded the United States. The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources says that the carp are traveling from Asia to the Mississippi River and followed by the Wisconsin River. This carp can be very dangerous for our rivers because they are really aggressive hunters, which initiates competition for other species.

Asian carp may live up to 20 years and as they grow, they mature between four to eight years in their life. They are an interesting species because of their jumping ability, however this can be dangerous to boaters. Specifically, adult Asian carp weighing 40-60 pounds can jump up to 10 feet above the water’s surface, unlike any other common species. [Read More]

Growing Population of Invasive Moth Species in Wisconsin

by Desteny Alvarez, age 18

Recently, we have seen a rise in the number of spongy moths in Wisconsin. These moths cause skin rashes and are a danger to our environment.

According to Wisconsin’s Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP), around 202,000 spongy moths, formerly known as gypsy moths, were trapped in the summer as part of a federal program. The average number in Wisconsin was 20.1 moths per trap. It was 9.3 moths in 2021. This increase was expected in Wisconsin’s central-eastern areas, smaller than expected in the southwest, as expected in west-central areas in the state, and even higher in northwest areas.

Spongy moths are an invasive species. Their caterpillars devourer leaves of trees and shrubs. If eaten by a large group of caterpillars, many trees lose their leaves and die. Caterpillar hairs also cause skin rashes or other reactions in some people. An aerial spray, used by DATCP, helps stop the moths. [Read More]

Scientists Say Invasive Species of Crayfish Might Leave Wisconsin on its Own

by Lah’Nylah Bivens, age 15

The rusty crayfish appeared in Wisconsin 50 years ago. Since this crayfish is not native to Wisconsin it is considered an invasive species. The rusty crayfish pushed native crayfish out of their dens and ate the native aquatic plants, causing harm to the lakes. This harmed the local spawning grounds, leaving fish unprotected.

Rusty crayfish may have found their way to Wisconsin by traveling in buckets to be used as bait. These crayfish are native to Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, and the streams of the Ohio River Basin states. They also can be found in New Mexico, Northeastern states, areas in Ontario, Canada, and states surrounding Wisconsin.

Crayfish reproduce at alarming rates due to the female rusty crayfish laying around 80 to 575 eggs at a time. It takes about three to six weeks, depending on the temperature of the water, for the eggs to hatch. Scientists have studied these crayfish over the years and have found that the population can die off naturally. Due to destroying their own habitats and fungal diseases, recent studies have shown that the rusty crayfish population has dropped to zero. [Read More]

Greenland’s Frozen Hinterlands are Melting Faster than Expected

by Theodore B. Morrison, age 15

Climate change has been impacting the planet for ages since humans started producing greenhouse gases. One impact climate change has had is the melting of the glaciers, which scientists have been trying to track for some time. One group has been following a particular ice stream to help keep track of the effects of climate change.

This group used GPS to track ice stream movements. The furthest point inland observed by this group transitioned from approximately 344 meters a year to 351 meters a year in three years. The quick movement of ice streams is projected to raise the global sea level by 14 to 16 millimeters by 2100. That is the same quantity of increase in global sea level rise by Greenland’s entire ice sheet in the last 50 years.

The tracking of this specific stream was motivated by the hope of discovering more about the effects of climate change. These sea level rises could change the world's coastlines and many scientists and climate activists hope to attempt to reverse or stop these effects of climate change on a warming planet Earth. [Read More]

Drought Causes Saltwater to Invade the Mississippi River System

by Dulce Vazquez, age 14

The Mississippi River water level is reaching historical lows. A part of the Mississippi River measured in New Orleans is just three feet above sea level, which is very unusual and damaging to the boats that rely on the river and causes wildlife to act in different ways.

A third of the rain that falls in the United States goes to the Mississippi River system. Less rainfall is coming from the Midwest, which scientists are describing as a drought. This drought is causing many problems for ships and barges as mud clogs pathways, creating navigation difficulties.

Water from the Gulf of Mexico is pushing up the river and filling up a gap. “As the flows in the Mississippi River drop, the Gulf of Mexico essentially comes upstream,” says a specialist from the Army Corps of Engineers. The last time something similar to this happened was 10 years ago, back in 2012. This could cause problems by getting into the water people drink. [Read More]

Wisconsin DNR Drafts New Plan for Wolf Hunt

by Zayn Khalid, age 12

Hunters and animal rights advocates are frustrated with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) because they did not set a standard for wolf hunting. Animal rights advocates want wolf hunting to be illegal, but hunters want to hunt. What will the DNR do?

In the past, it was legal to hunt wolves in Wisconsin. In 2012, former Governor Scott Walker established an annual fall wolf hunt in the state. This hunt has become the biggest argument between animal rights advocates and hunters. Animal rights advocates say that “wolves are too majestic to slaughter,” but hunters say wolves kill farmers' livestock. The DNR paid out more than $3 million from 1985 to 2021 to provide for the loss of farmers’ livestock.

A group called Hunter Nation won a court case forcing the DNR to hold the month of February 2021 for hunting. The outcomes were chaotic as hunters killed 218 wolves in four days, going way past their 119-animal quota. Animal advocates worried that the February hunt decimated the population of wolves, which convinced a Dane County judge to hold off on the annual fall hunt. [Read More]

Low Water Levels in Mississippi River Expose Artifacts and History — by Owen Ayite-Atayi, age 15

The Mississippi River is the second longest river in the United States and is 2,340 miles long. Although the Mississippi River is a majestic river, there are still many mysteries in this river, especially regarding its artifacts. [Read More]

Should Farmers Switch to Solar? — by Camila Cruz, age 15

Solar panels are going to require millions of acres of land to be a viable solution against climate change. In particular, these acres are owned by farmers. Scientists are on a mission to make it work for both parties by putting solar panels in the same location as crops. [Read More]

The Science Behind Spring's Most Popular Weed — by Malak Al Quraishi, age 12

When you're picking weeds, you may wonder how dandelions spread so easily across the grass. You might ask yourself, why are dandelions so effective at spreading their seeds widely? [Read More]

First-of-its-kind Experiment Uses Lab-bred Trees to Stop Pollution — by Leilani McNeal, age 17

The U.S. Forest Service is trying a “first-of-its-kind” experiment that involves specialized trees that may keep contaminants from leaching out of landfills. [Read More]

City of Madison Continues to Make Progress in Composting Programs — by Mariama Bah, age 15

Citywide composting in Madison has had a challenging history, but supporters are still trying to make it a reality. Compost is a mixture of decomposed organic matter typically used as fertilizer as it is high in nutrients for soil. [Read More]

New Land Purchase Will Protect Wildlife and Wetlands in Dane County — by Dulce Maria Vazquez, age 14

Groundswell Conservancy is a not-for-profit conservation group that recently bought 34 acres of wetland habitat in Dane County. The land is located in the Town of Dunn near the Lower Mud Lake Natural Resource Area. This purchase will help groundswell achieve its mission of protecting wildlife habitats in Dane County and south-central Wisconsin. [Read More]

How One of China's Most Beautiful Attractions Saved Lives — by Sedona Afeworki, age 14

Where would be a good place to hide if something bad ever happened? The Guilin Hills is a place in China where many people hid during World War II and the following civil war when clashing armies turned the region into a battlefield. The hills also have a lot of caves, one of many ways they’ve played a role in Chinese history. [Read More]

Recent Drought Slows River Traffic on the Mississippi — by Dayanara Flores Gonzalez, age 15

Over 500 million tons of agricultural and other products are shipped through the Mississippi River every year. More than 40 percent of the global food supply starts at the River Basin. A phenomenon that happens about once a decade, the water level is at a record low of just three feet above sea level near New Orleans. [Read More]

Dane County Students Gather to Discuss Climate Change at Second Annual Conference — by Desteny Alvarez, age 17

For the second year in row, students from around Dane County will gather to address climate change issues. The second annual Dane County high school climate action conference will take place at the Alliant Energy Center on Saturday, November 12. [Read More]

Wisconsin Begins PFAS Testing this Fall — by Sandy Flores Ruíz, age 16

Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, also known as PFAS, are a family of synthetic chemicals. They are used in everyday household products, such clothes, carpets, nonstick cookware, packaging, and firefighting foam due to their ability to repel water and stains. The PFAS family of approximately 5,000 chemicals are known as “forever chemicals” because they last for a long period of time in the environment and human body. Research suggests that these chemicals can cause various types of cancers, decrease birth weights, damage the immune and reproductive systems, impact hormone regulation, and alter thyroid hormones. [Read More]

What Fuel­s America’s Failed Recycling Industry? — by Yoanna Hoskins, age 17

The pandemic caused numerous changes in society, but it also highlighted issues that had previously gone unnoticed. Deception in the plastics recycling industry is just one example. In particular, Covid-19 demonstrated how sensitive the plastics recycling industry is to swings in oil prices. [Read More]

Wisconsin Considers Updated PFAS Rules — by Gabriella Shell, age 16

After failure earlier this year, the Wisconsin DNR is once again attempting to tighten restrictions on one of the state’s biggest water pollutants. [Read More]

It’s an “Interruption Year” in Wisconsin:
Snowy Owls Are Moving South
by Mariama Bah, age 15

Keep your eye to the ground and be careful when you’re walking in the Arctic Tundra, because you may find a snowy owl nesting site. Treeless, wide, hilly spaces are where snowy owls prefer to nest and hunt. These owls mainly eat small mammals, but their diet can range from rodents and rabbits to ducks and geese. [Read More]

State of Wisconsin Issues PFAS Warnings for Dane County Fisheries — by Makaya Rodriguez, age 17

PFAS, also known as (poly-fluoroalkyl substances), are man-made chemicals. They were used on clothing, carpets, non-stick pans, cookware, and as firefighting foam. PFAS are made to be stain and water-resistant. These PFAS chemicals are being found in many Wisconsin bodies of water, specifically in Dane County. [Read More]

Lluvia ácida: una consecuencia de la contaminación

por Jason Medina, 11 años de edad; traducido por Yoanna Hoskins, 17 años de edad

La lluvia ácida ha existido para 150 años, la misma cantidad de tiempo que el carbón se ha utilizado para poder. La lluvia ácida afecta el bienestar de los animales, las plantas, los árboles y los lagos.

Cada año, cien millones de toneladas de dióxido de azufre son liberadas a la atmósfera por la quema de combustibles fósiles. En la década de 1970, los Estados Unidos produjeron treinta y dos millones de toneladas. Cuando el dióxido de azufre está en la atmósfera y se mezcla con la lluvia, crea lluvia ácida. La acidez es una medida de la concentración de iones de hidrógeno (pH) y el valor más bajo de pH, más ácida se vuelve una sustancia. El pH del agua destilada es de siete y el del agua de lluvia natural es de alrededor de 5.6. La lluvia ácida está bajando el pH de algunos lagos debajo de cinco.

Casi 1,800 lagos en el sur de Noruega están más o menos desprovistos de peces. En la mitad de los lagos de Suecia, los peces están seriamente agotados y los ríos salmoneros también sufren mucho. En Canadá, unos cincuenta mil lagos también se han visto afectados, así como cientos de lagos en Adirondacks en el estado de Nueva York. Cuanto más ácida es la condición, más aluminio se disuelve en el suelo. [Read More]

First Plant Successfully Sprouts in Lunar Soil — by Daniel Li, age 15

The first seeds to ever sprout in lunar soil poked their heads above moon dirt at the University of Florida in May. Decades of research and experimentation led to this breakthrough which marks the first time terrestrial plants have grown in extra-terrestial soil. It also offers hope that astronauts will one day be able to grow food on the moon. [Read More]

New Report Exposes “Greenwashing” in the Clothing and Fashion Industries — by Sandy Flores-Ruiz, age 16

The Changing Market Foundation, an environmental advocacy group, said recently that certification systems claiming meant to check the sustainability practices of fashion companies fall short of public expectations. These practices support greenwashing in the textile industry. Greenwashing is the deliberate concealment of information by a company in order to project an image of environmental stewardship to the public. [Read More]

Scientists Look for Ways to Protect Wisconsin Walleyes — by Julian Medina Ruiz, age 14

Wisconsin lakes are facing a sharp decline in the walleye populations. This trend is most apparent in the northern part of the state. [Read More]

Scientists Study Effects of Climate Change in Lake Superior — by Moises A. Hernandez, age 17

About ten years ago, a bloom of cyanobacteria appeared in Lake Superior. Since that time, scientists have searched for answers as to why this problem occurs in this specific lake. [Read More]

Plastic Pollution Overwhelms America’s Recycling Systems — by Gabriella Shell, age 16

Generations of Americans have grown up on a doctrine of “reduce, reuse, recycle.” Everyone, from the oldest Boomers to the youngest of Gen Z know what to do when they see the little triangle made of arrows on the bottom of a plastic product: chuck it in the recycling bin. However, unbeknownst to the masses of routine recyclers, this casual recycling may be causing more problems than it fixes. [Read More]

Watch Out for Poison Hemlock in Wisconsin — by Anissa Attidekou, age 12

There are a wide variety of poisonous plants that are toxic to humans and animals. Some can lead to extreme pain and others can even be deadly. One of these deadly plants is named the poison hemlock. [Read More]

Public Service Commission Approves New Solar Projects in Wisconsin — by Mariama Bah, age 15

Last year the Wisconsin Public Service Commission (PSC) approved a $925 million investment by Alliant Energy to construct six solar farms across Wisconsin. The projects are currently in development. Recently, the PSC voted to approve Alliant Energy's plan to buy or build six more solar farms, an investment of an additional $620 million. [Read More]

Harriet Tubman Was an Expert Naturalist — by Katina Maclin, age 16

Harriet Tubman was an expert naturalist. The Underground Railroad’s most famous conductor used her understanding of geography, wildlife biology, and astronomy to guide people to freedom. [Read More]

New School in Fitchburg Uses Green Energy Technology — by Devika Pal, age 16

Forest Edge Elementary School in Fitchburg is the first Net Zero Energy school in Wisconsin. The school opened in September of 2021, and is part of the Oregon School district. The district’s Superintendent Dr. Leslie Bergstrom said the school’s goal is to create “the best design for student learning that also incorporated technologies to efficiently use and conserve energy.” [Read More]

Groundswell Conservancy Land Purchase Will Help Dell Creek Conservation Efforts — by Dyami Rodriguez, age 17

Buying land is a major factor in protecting the environment. To that end, the Groundswell Conservancy, along with other conservation groups, recently made a major purchase with the intent of protecting Wisconsin's environment. [Read More]

The Canola Flower: Beautiful and Delicious! — by Sol Saray, age 10

Canola is a flower that blooms in late winter to early spring representing Jeju Island in South Korea. It is a type of rapeseed and is part of the mustard family. There is even a festival named after the canola flower. [Read More]