Jake Walsh, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Wisconsin-Madison Center for Limnology, takes a water sample from Lake Mendota in Madison, Wis., on Nov. 16, 2018. Walsh was examining the zooplankton in the sample, including the invasive spiny waterflea. The species was unintentionally introduced into the Great Lakes through the discharge of contaminated ballast water from an ocean-going vessel. It was first discovered in Lake Ontario in 1982 and spread to Lake Superior by 1987. The waterflea was spread through Midwestern lakes by recreational boaters. Coburn Dukehart / Wisconsin Watch
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‘Lakers’ may have to treat ballast water; lame-duck law hits glitch; vaping blamed for severe lung damage; pesticide problems persist; pot pardon in IL

Of note: This week we highlight a story reported by Bridge Magazine’s Jim Malewitz and our own Sarah Whites-Koditschek, the Wisconsin Public Radio investigative fellow embedded in our newsroom. The story explores potential requirements aimed at reducing the spread of invasive species by requiring “lakers” — ships that exclusively travel in the Great Lakes — to treat the ballast water they exchange from the lakes. The industry is fighting the regulations, saying they would be costly and ineffective.

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Great Lakes freighters may have to treat ballast water to curb invasives

Wisconsin Watch — August 27, 2019

Since 1959, at least 80 invasive species have arrived in the ballast water that transatlantic ships take in and discharge for balance. Ocean-going ships called “salties” are required to dump their ballast at sea, replacing it with salt water to kill freshwater invasives. Regulators are considering whether to require “lakers” — ships that exclusively travel in the Great Lakes — to treat their ballast water. The lakers’ industry association questions whether they are to blame for the spread of invasives and says the requirements could cost hundreds of millions of dollars. 

Lawsuits on hold as budget committee delays action

Wisconsin State Journal — August 29, 2019

More than a dozen lawsuits are on hold as a result of the lame-duck laws Republicans passed in December to limit Democratic Attorney General Josh Kaul’s authority to resolve cases on his own. Several cases with pressing deadlines that could award the state millions of dollars are awaiting approval from the Legislature’s Republican-controlled budget committee, which has newfound oversight authority over the Department of Justice. The cases pending before the budget committee are outlined in documents obtained by the Wisconsin State Journal.

‘A 70-year-old’s lungs’: Former Wisconsin athlete hospitalized at age 20 with lung injuries that may be tied to vaping

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel — August 29, 2019

In its ongoing investigation into the dangers of e-cigarettes, the Journal Sentinel reports that a 20-year-old former star high school athlete from southeastern Wisconsin is hospitalized in Florida with severe lung injuries he and his family believe are linked to vaping. The man’s father said he is in shock over how fast his otherwise healthy, athletic son got sick. “Last Wednesday, he was doing 25 to 30 pull-ups a day. And on Friday, there’s talk of him being intubated,” he said in an interview. “That’s how quick it goes.”

Despite federal, state efforts, dicamba complaints continue

Investigate Midwest — August 27, 2019

For the third straight year, a volatile pesticide is damaging crops across the Midwest and South, despite federal and state efforts to lessen the drift. Since 2017, farmers have sprayed an increasing amount of the weed killer, called dicamba, on soybean and cotton crops genetically engineered by agribusiness company Monsanto to withstand being sprayed by the herbicide. But each year, dicamba has drifted off-target and damaged millions of acres of non-resistant soybeans, specialty crops and other plants. Previously from Wisconsin Watch: Strict pesticide rules fail to erase threat to Wisconsin’s drinking water

Cook County, Code for America aim to speed up marijuana expungement as legalization nears

The Chicago Reporter — August 28, 2019

Three months ahead of the legalization of marijuana in Illinois, the Cook County State’s Attorney Office announced a partnership aimed at streamlining the process of clearing convictions for pot possession. The project would help clear tens of thousands of convictions in Cook County, State’s Attorney Kim Foxx said at a press conference Tuesday. Governor J.B. Pritzker said that marijuana legalization will give “hundreds of thousands of people a chance at a better life” when the bill was passed and policy advocates have claimed the bill’s equity provisions could extend to as many as 770,000 people. The move could inform Wisconsin lawmakers as they consider expanding expungement and legalization of marijuana

The nonprofit Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism (www.WisconsinWatch.org) collaborates with Wisconsin Public Radio, Wisconsin Public Television, other news media and the UW-Madison School of Journalism and Mass Communication. All works created, published, posted or disseminated by the Center do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of UW-Madison or any of its affiliates.

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