NEWS RELEASE – July 29, 2003
Northeast-Midwest Institute, Washington DC
Lake County Homeowners to Benefit from Waukegan Harbor Clean-up
Contact: Nicole Mays, Northeast-Midwest Institute (202 544 5200)
Dr. John Braden, University of Illinois (217 333 5501)
Washington, DC and Urbana, IL. Residential property values throughout Lake County, Illinois could increase by as much as $333 million if sediment pollution in Waukegan Harbor is eliminated, according to a study conducted by the University of Illinois and the Northeast-Midwest Institute. The study also suggests that redevelopment of the Harbor area, improved shipping, and attraction of new residents and businesses could further add to the benefits of Harbor clean-up.
Final results of the study will be officially released September 17, 2003 at a community forum in Waukegan. The forum will be open to the public and publicized in advance. It is hoped that members of the greater Waukegan area will be in attendance, along with federal, state, local, and community representatives.
Pollution that was dumped or leaked during the 1950s and 1960s, earned Waukegan Harbor designation as one of 43 “Great Lakes Areas of Concern” by the International Joint Commission, the U.S.-Canadian government organization concerned with water quality. A major clean-up effort of Waukegan Harbor undertaken in the early 1990s removed over 90 percent of the poundage of PCBs, but more contamination has since leaked into the Harbor from surrounding industrial sites. The pollution includes PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls), which affect human reproduction, fetal development, and neurological functions, and harm fish and other aquatic species.
For the past two years, the Northeast-Midwest Institute in Washington, D.C. in collaboration with economists from the University of Illinois and San Francisco State University have been studying the economic benefits from further clean-up of Waukegan Harbor. Because Waukegan is the county seat and the site of a recreational marina that serves a wide area, economists are studying the benefits to all of Lake County, not just the City of Waukegan.
Early indications suggest that affected communities have much to gain economically from Waukegan Harbor clean-up. Eliminating the pollution would make the area a more desirable place to live and increase property values. The development of residential, commercial, and public areas around the Harbor could reinforce this trend.
The research is based on data collected from housing sales in Lake County in the years 1999 through 2001, as well as a survey of 954 recent home buyers in Lake County. Results of the study indicate that full clean-up of Harbor pollution would increase Lake County home prices by more than $18 million per year, including approximately $230,000 in annual increases for Waukegan homeowners1.
Not cleaning up the Harbor therefore would cost the region money. If the current pollution conditions were allowed to persist for ten to 25 years, Lake County would lose between $151 million and $333 million in potential gains in property value, including a loss of between $1.9 million and $4.1 million for the City of Waukegan. While the overall County gain is large, it amounts to less than 1 percent of the value of Lake County’s owner-occupied housing stock. Also, these estimates do not include benefits that might come from redevelopment of the Harbor area.
The study’s second part looked at benefits associated with both clean-up and redevelopment and because clean-up of the remaining contaminated sediment could change Waukegan harbor from an “Area of Concern” to an “Area of Recovery”, assumed that Waukegan Harbor clean-up and redevelopment would eliminate negative perceptions of the Harbor area and the property price effects of those perceptions. For City of Waukegan residents alone, the increase in property values is estimated to be $206 million. This is approximately 11 percent of the value of the City’s owner-occupied housing stock. Additional benefits would be realized throughout the County.
The estimated benefits of Waukegan Harbor clean-up generated in the study apply only to residential property owners currently living in Lake County. There would be additional economic benefits if Harbor improvements attract new residents, tourists, and businesses to the area. In addition, dredging the Harbor could reduce costs for local shippers. The pollution has restricted operations in the Harbor making the Harbor too shallow for fully-loaded commercial ships.
The study is being sponsored by the Great Lakes National Program Office, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
1 All dollar values are expressed in year 2000 (4th quarter) purchasing power. Subsequent inflation in housing prices would increase the current dollar values.
Disclaimer: Until the methods and results described here have been reviewed by qualified scientific peers and published in the peer-reviewed literature, they must be considered preliminary.