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Great Lakes Now Presents

Episode 1015: Unlocking the Lakes

The pandemic raises questions: As stay-at-home orders end around the Great Lakes, does Wisconsin’s experience opening businesses predict anything for other communities that depend on tourism? How are researchers, reef restorers and hydroponic farms reacting to the pandemic? What has the pandemic done to charter fishing for walleye on Lake Erie? Plus, with an increase in use of personal wipes — four times as many in one Michigan community — will there be more fatbergs growing in our sewer systems?

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Unlocking the Lakes – Episode 1015

The pandemic raises questions: As stay-at-home orders end around the Great Lakes, does Wisconsin’s experience opening businesses predict anything for other communities that depend on tourism? How are researchers, reef restorers and hydroponic farms reacting to the pandemic? What has the pandemic done to charter fishing for walleye on Lake Erie? Plus, with an increase in use of personal wipes — four times as many in one Michigan community — will there be more fatbergs growing in our sewer systems?

WHERE WE TAKE YOU IN JUNE



 

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Premieres on DPTV

Tuesday, June 30 at 7:30 PM

STATIONS CARRYING THE SERIES


DPTV
Detroit, Michigan

WEAO
Akron, Ohio

WNEO-TV
Alliance, Ohio

WCML-TV
Alpena, Michigan

WDCP-TV
Bad Axe, Michigan

BCTV
Bay County, Michigan

WBGU-TV
Bowling Green, Ohio

WNED-TV
Buffalo, New York

WCMV-TV
Cadillac, Michigan

WTTW-TV
Chicago, Illinois

WVIZ-TV
Cleveland, Ohio

WKAR-TV
East Lansing, Michigan

WQLN-TV
Erie, Pennsylvania

WCMZ-TV
Flint, Michigan

WGVU-TV
Grand Rapids, Michigan

WGVK-TV
Kalamazoo, Michigan

WNMU-TV
Marquette, Michigan

WMVS-TV
Milwaukee, Wisconsin

WCMU-TV
Mount Pleasant Michigan

WNIT-TV
South Bend, Indiana

WCNY-TV
Syracuse, New York

WGTE-TV
Toledo, Ohio

WDCQ-TV
University Center, Michigan

WNPI-TV
Watertown, New York for Ontario signal

WPBS-TV
Watertown, New York for U.S. signal

In the Month of June on Great Lakes Now

Click the tabs to read descriptions of each feature in Episode 1015.

A disposable wipe, still intact after being tested for flushability. Photo courtesy of Ryerson University.

Map of Macomb County, Michigan area areas we visit in episode 1015

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Fighting Fatbergs

SEGMENT 1 | Macomb County, Michigan

In 2019, a 19-ton glob of garbage and waste clogged a southeast Michigan sewer. 

Called a “fatberg,” the blockage was made of fats, oils and greases bound together mainly by disposable wipes. Great Lakes Now introduced you to the Macomb County fatberg in our “Waters Infected” episode last year. Here’s what we said:

It’s a congealed mess of things people have put down their toilets, sinks and drains that should go in the garbage — think wipes, paper towels and hygiene products. … What makes fatbergs such a problem is that if they get big enough, they clog the sewer linked, which can mean raw sewage backing up into basements or leaking into rivers or lakes.

The COVID-19 pandemic has led to a four-fold increase in the number of wipes appearing in the Macomb County system, according to Candice Miller, public works commissioner. Some of those wipes are labeled “flushable,” but research suggests they can cause big problems in sewers. 

Wipe-makers disagree, and Miller is suing to keep the word “flushable” off of wipe labels.

The county has filed a lawsuit against wipe manufacturers, as researchers try to determine what’s really “flushable.” 

Great Lakes Now Correspondent Will Glover takes you in the sewers, to the research labs and into the dispute that seeks to answer the question, “Can I flush this?”

Here is other Great Lakes Now work about fatbergs:

Help your kids build a fatberg at home — SAFELY — in this Great Lakes Learning activity.

Wisconsin distillery Hatch Distilling Co, has eased into re-opening. For now, staff is investing in a side hustle: hand-sanitizer production. Ep. 1015

Wisconsin distillery Hatch Distilling Co, has eased into re-opening. For now, staff is investing in a side hustle: hand-sanitizer production.



Map of Wisconsin areas we visit in episode 1015

Watch The Feature

Wisconsin Doors Open

SEGMENT 2 | Wisconsin

After the Wisconsin Supreme Court overturned the governor’s safer-at-home orders, the state’s businesses were the first to re-open during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

But owners confronted a dilemma: keeping staff and customers safe while trying to make a living.

Some stir-crazy Illinois residents began bouncing up to the Badger State for a sit-down brat and brew, and one of the closest places to do that is Kenosha. The community is just north of the border along Lake Michigan where Brat Stop owner Debbie Glembocki felt a responsibility to reopen her restaurant and cheese mart. 

“It’s my family business. My dad passed away last year. I don’t want to lose something that’s been here forever,” she says.

Even though tourism is a key sector in the state, the Department of Tourism is cautious. They’ve adopted the slogan: dream now, travel later. Without a statewide executive order, counties can still decide when and how to open for business.

“In Illinois, the number of coronavirus cases is significantly higher than in Wisconsin,” says Wisconsin Public Radio journalist Corrinne Hess. “So I think some of these border businesses, border cities are worried about the people coming up here and going to the restaurants, going to their stores.”

Further north in Door County, doors are wide open.

“We certainly have different messaging this summer than we initially had planned to when we put our plan together late last year,” said Jon Jarosh, director of communications for Door County. “But, you know, I think our tourism industry here and our economy is resilient.”

However, local distillery Hatch Distilling Co, has eased into re-opening. For now, staff is investing in a side hustle: hand-sanitizer production.

“Everyone comments that it smells so good and that it smells like bourbon,” says owner Christ Roedl.

Here is other Great Lakes Now work about travel and tourism in the region:

Find all of Great Lakes Now’s coverage of the COVID-19 pandemic HERE along with Episode 1014: Lakes on Lockdown.

Lake Erie Charter Captain Dave Spangler, sanitizing his boat between clients. Photo by Great Lakes Now.

Lake Erie Charter Captain Dave Spangler, sanitizing his boat between clients. Photo by Great Lakes Now.


Map of areas we visit in the segment on COVID-19 updates from episode 1015

Watch The Feature

COVID-19 Updates

SEGMENT 3 | Detroit, Keweenaw Peninsula, and Lake Erie

The global pandemic has changed how hydroponic farmers, lakes researchers and fishing charters are operating this summer. 

In this segment, we first revisit PlanTed a hydroponic farm in Detroit to find out how urban growers are shifting their businesses in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. HERE is the first segment about this business.

Researchers on Lake Erie shared how the health crisis is impacting their harmful algal monitoring programs. We first met them in “Toxic Algae and the Climate Conundrum.” 

We also check in with scientists at Buffalo Reef, an important fish spawning site off the Keweenaw Peninsula where restoration efforts are underway. The EPA’s Chris Korleski gives an update on what will happen this summer – HERE is what we reported last year.

Finally, on Lake Erie, Captain Dave Spangler walks us through the precautions charter boats are taking to help reduce the spread of the virus. Spangler, who has been a source in numerous Great Lakes Now stories, died in October.

Find all of Great Lakes Now’s coverage of the COVID-19 pandemic HERE along with the full episode: Episode 1014: Lakes on Lockdown.

Videos from Episode 1015

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Previous Episodes

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Digital Credits
The Great Lakes Now Series is produced by Rob Green and Sandra Svoboda.