Science & Environment | KCUR

Science & Environment

Kansas Historical Society

The federal government recently tore up Debbie and Tony Morrison’s front yard in the small southeast Kansas town of Caney.

And the two are happy about it.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency came in, scraped away contaminated dirt, replaced it with clean soil and spread sod on top.

“It actually looks very good,” Morrison said. “After they put the new grass in, they came down and they faithfully watered and cared for it continually until they felt like it had taken hold.”

Bram Sable-Smith

Editor's note: Until recently, Bram Sable-Smith was a health reporter at KCUR's sister station KBIA in Columbia, Missouri. His father, George P. Smith, was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry on Wednesday for developing a laboratory technique known as phage display, in which a virus that infects bacteria can be used to evolve new proteins.

Bram spoke with his father for KCUR.

Sable-Smith: When did it sink in that you had won the Nobel Prize?

New research out of Stanford University shows that limiting wastewater injection is helping to prevent man-made earthquakes in Kansas and Oklahoma.

The researchers have created a new physics-based model that can better predict where man-made earthquakes will occur by looking at increases in pressure. The model shows that the number of earthquakes is driven by how much wastewater is being injected into the ground.

The University of Missouri has its first ever Nobel Prize.

Professor Emeritus George Smith shares the 2018 Nobel Prize in Chemistry with two other researchers, one from Caltech in Pasadena, and the other from the MRC Laboratory in Cambridge. Smith was a professor at MU for 40 years. He won the Nobel for his development of a method called phage display, in which a virus that infects bacteria can be used to evolve new proteins.

If the experience of getting a bat stuck in your house or office isn’t unpleasant enough, Kansas health officials say it also means you should go get checked for rabies.

New Trump administration rules aimed at protecting the coal industry reverse Obama-era regulations on greenhouse gases by letting states set their own rules.

That means Kansas regulators could clear the way for more coal, but economic trends have already driven a shift to natural gas and wind power.

Seven years ago, a toxic form of algae bloomed in Milford Lake near Junction City. Kansas had never really seen a bloom quite like it before. It lasted for almost three months and has returned every summer since.

The event set state scientists looking for what spurred the blue-green algae, scientifically known as cyanobacteria, and how to stop the return of what is essentially killer pond scum.

The booming calls of the lesser prairie chicken once rung out across western Kansas.

Accounts from the 1800s mention bands of hunters bagging dozens of birds each. Railways advertised special trains that brought sportsmen to shoot the birds in the Texas panhandle, complete with ice cars to preserve the meat on the ride home.

Evergy, the company formed in the merger between Westar Energy and Great Plains Energy, has announced the official retirement dates of several older power plants.

Tecumseh Energy Center, near Topeka, and two units at Gordon Evans Energy Center in Colwich will shut down on Oct. 1. Those will be followed by the last two units at Murray Gill Energy Center outside of Wichita on Nov. 1.

Employees from the Cosmosphere space museum in Hutchinson are helping to recreate one of the biggest moments in our nation’s space history: the mission control room used during the first moon landing.

Kansas water use is declining, according to a new report from the U.S. Geological survey.

In 2015, Kansas used on average more than 4 billion gallons of water each day. That’s down nearly 25 percent from 1990. Of that, 2.6 billion gallons per day are used for irrigation — a decrease of 36 percent from 1990.

“What we’re doing is great, it’s just not enough of it,” said Kansas Water Office Director Tracy Streeter.

Stephen Koranda / Kansas News Service

A team of paleontologists from the University of Kansas is resuming its work in Montana, excavating what appears to be a very rare dinosaur fossil: a juvenile Tyrannosaurus rex. 

KU paleontologist David Burnham said the excavation began in 2016, but the team is returning to the site this summer hoping to find more pieces of the T-rex. 

New research shows that Kansas is slowly seeing a shift in when it gets its rainfall during the year.

Depending on the region, Kansas typically receives between 35 percent and 41 percent of its annual precipitation during the summer months of June, July and August. But during the past 100 years, that trend is slowly shifting toward the spring.

Brian Grimmett / Kansas News Service

A decade ago, Kansans felt an earthquake once every few years. Now ground tremors come regularly. One of the hardest hit areas is Harper County in the south central part of the state.

It’s no coincidence, scientists and state regulators agree, that Harper and Sumner counties are also where massive amounts of wastewater has been pumped below ground by outfits drilling for oil and natural gas.

FILE PHOTO / Reno County Fire District No. 6

One year and nearly a half million torched acres after the Starbuck wildfire, strong winds blow across a parched Kansas landscape.

In some ways, last year’s experience showed how man-made systems fell short of handling natural disaster.

As March roars in with another dangerous fire season, lessons from 2017 will be tested and Kansas could learn whether it’s better prepared now.

file photo / KCUR 89.3

Kansas regulators have found that more than one thousand applications for new wastewater disposal wells failed to give the required 30-day public notice period.

Since October 2008, applicants hoping to get approval to begin operating wastewater disposal wells have been required to alert the public about a 30-day protest period.

file photo

The Trump administration remains unlikely to back off its plans to ease Obama era restrictions that make it harder for utility companies to burn coal.

Likewise, the federal courts may eventually decide what pollution rules the Environmental Protection Agency can enforce on energy production.

Dry cleaning can leave a really big mess behind.

One of the largest plumes of toxic dry cleaning waste ever discovered in Kansas is just south of Wichita, and state environmental officials are working to make sure people in the plume’s path have clean drinking water.

Madeline Fox / Kansas News Service

Kansas’ energy-regulating agency will investigate nearly a decade’s worth of permits it granted to oil and gas companies after learning recently that some wells received permits without meeting certain state regulations.

The probe, announced Tuesday, will determine the number of wells approved since 2008 without the companies giving nearby residents accurate information about their rights to protest the wells.

U.S. Geological Survey

Saltwater injection. Fracking. Enhanced oil recovery.

News of protests in recent months against oil- and gas-related activity in the Flint Hills has drawn fresh attention to these and other terms — as well as some confusion.

Jackson County Emergency Preparedness

It’s time for your annual reminder of what to do when – not if – the New Madrid fault goes.

Drop to the floor. Cover your head. Hold on until the shaking stops.  

Prairies in Missouri and southern Illinois could look shorter by the end of the century, according to a study from the Missouri Botanical Garden and Kansas State University. 

Researchers reported in the journal Global Change Ecology that tall varieties of the big bluestem grass that covers much of Midwestern prairies could be taken over by shorter forms of the plant over the next several decades. That's because climate change could reduce rainfall in many parts of the region, leading to drier conditions.

Celia Llopis-Jepsen / Kansas News Service

The fight over an oil-related waste disposal well in Kansas’ Flint Hills has broadened into a campaign to protest similar wells across several counties and lobby lawmakers for regulatory changes.

File Photo / Kansas News Service

Kansas energy regulators have given the green light for an oil company to dispose of production-related wastewater in the Flint Hills — a plan that had met with resistance from residents.

Courtesy of Romeo Durscher / NASA

It is indeed dark during the day as a total solar eclipse makes its way from Oregon to Missouri to South Carolina. Eleven states are in the path of total darkness. Follow the astronomical phenomenon's journey across America along with NPR journalists and others experiencing the eclipse.

Loading...

Lexi Churchill / KCUR

It's a sticky summer afternoon in Kansas City, Kansas and Richard Mabion is outside replacing neighbor’s light bulbs for free. These bulbs will last longer and shine brighter, but most importantly, they’ll be much better for the environment.

Nuclear Regulatory Commission / Flickr - CC

Hackers have been infiltrating the networks of companies that run nuclear plants in the United States, including in Kansas, since May.

The New York Times reports that U.S. officials suspect foreign governments, including Russia, are behind the attacks. 

Amy Mayer / Harvest Public Media file photo

This story was updated at 3:12 p.m.

A federal jury in Kansas City, Kansas, awarded nearly $218 million to Kansas corn farmers after finding seed giant Syngenta AG was negligent when it introduced strains of genetically engineered corn seed into the marketplace that were not approved for import by the Chinese government.  

The eight-member jury returned its $217,700,000 verdict after an 18-day-long trial, the first of eight certified class actions lawsuits against Syngenta brought in state court.

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

Whenever she takes people out on her boat, Vicki Richmond from the Healthy Rivers Partnership likes to ask if they know where their drinking water comes from.

“You’d be amazed how many people don’t know it’s the Missouri River,” says Richmond as members of the media clamber aboard. For Drinking Water Week, the Kansas City Water Department arranged to have Richmond show us the Missouri River.

(This reporter would like to state, for the record, she knew before today where our drinking water came from.)

Pages