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GLIN==> Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant News: Great Lakes Clean Up Pays Off for Communities
- Subject: GLIN==> Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant News: Great Lakes Clean Up Pays Off for Communities
- From: Irene Miles <firstname.lastname@example.org>
- Date: Tue, 11 Apr 2006 10:44:22 -0500
- Delivered-to: email@example.com
- Delivered-to: firstname.lastname@example.org
- List-name: GLIN-Announce
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 11, 2006
Source: John Braden (217) 333-5501
Contact: Bob Sampson (217) 244-0225; email@example.com
Extension Communications Specialist
Great Lakes Clean Up Pays Off for
URBANA-When faced with Superfund site clean-up costs
calculated in the tens or hundreds of millions of dollars, one school of
thought holds that the best thing to do "is just let the dead dog
stay where it is," said a University of Illinois environmental
John Braden, a professor in the Department of Agricultural and Consumer
Economics, is an expert in the economic benefits that can accrue from
cleaning up contaminated harbors, 31 of which surround the U.S. Great
Lakes. These sites contain dangerous levels of PCBs, heavy metals, and
other toxic industrial wastes.
Two years ago, he conducted a study on the benefits of cleaning up
Waukegan Harbor and is now working on similar underwater sites in
Sheboygan, Wisconsin and Buffalo, New York.
"These Superfund sites that are underwater pose not only a danger to
those living near them but also have an impact on the aquatic food
chain," he explained. "Contamination from these sites, plus
distresses from non-native species introduced into the Lakes, have
slaughtered the Great Lakes fisheries."
Contaminants trapped in the sediments in the harbor are absorbed by
smaller creatures which are, in turn, consumed by larger creatures and so
on--and the dangerous chemicals rise up through the food chain. Many of
the large fish valued for human consumption are so contaminated that
people are warned to consume limited amounts, if any.
"But since it costs many millions of dollars to clean up just one of
these sites, some have said maybe they should just be left alone,"
Braden explained. "I was asked to look at the economic benefits of
getting these pollutants out."
In Waukegan, Braden used two economic models to estimate the impact on
property values alone if Waukegan Harbor's PCBs and other pollutants were
removed. Property values reflect the danger that local residents attach
to the contaminated sites. The economic impacts on fisheries would be
over and above the property value impact.
"Both models produced an estimated benefit of $400 million in
improved property values," he said. "Clean up the harbor and
current residents will invest in their properties and an area that once
was avoided will become attractive for homes and other development. There
is more interest in the area and that generates higher prices for
"We concluded there was a huge economic potential there if the
community could figure out how to clean up the harbor."
Others agreed and last July Waukegan's congressman, Mark Kirk, announced
a $10 million federal grant to start the clean-up and referred to the
benefits outlined in the U of I study.
The Waukegan experience led to two more studies--Sheboygan and
"Each is a different kind of setting than Waukegan but the essential
problem is the same--what is the economic benefit to be realized from a
clean-up," said Braden.
A Presidential Task Force on the Great Lakes recently projected it might
cost between $1.5 billion and $4.5 billion to remove the pollutants from
all 31 contaminated harbors.
"I believe the economic benefits from such expenditure could easily
exceed $6 billion," said Braden. "And that figure doesn't
include the benefit to the fisheries if these pollutants are
"I think we're just seeing the tip of the iceberg in the value of
the economic benefits we're estimating. We're just looking at the impact
on property values which, in turn, impact property taxes. This fact alone
makes it worthwhile for affected communities to think about ways they can
accelerate the clean-up of their sites. It will pay off in increased
revenues for local governments."
Funding for the studies has come from the U.S. EPA's Great Lakes National
Program Office in Chicago, the U of I Experiment Station, and
Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant. The Northeast-Midwest Institute in
Washington, D.C. is a partner in the research
Braden expects to have results from the Sheboygan and Buffalo studies
late this summer.
Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant
1101 W. Peabody Dr.
Urbana, Il 61801
FAX (217) 333-8046