Clarkson researchers receive $165,000 to study North Country water quality
Saturday, November 30, 2013 - 5:41 pm

POTSDAM -- A Clarkson University research team will investigate if pollution-related water quality issues in the North Country are impacting property values.

Professors Martin Heintzelman and Thomas Holsen received a two-year, $165,000 grant from the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) to study the economic impacts of water pollution across 26 counties in upstate and central New York.

Holsen and Heintzelman will examine property transactions over a 10-year period. They will compare those values with published data on fish tissue concentrations of mercury, lake water acidity, and other available water quality measures.

The team will be exploring whether lower levels of pollution led to higher property values, and vice versa.

“One role of environmental economists is to estimate the economic values of environmental problems," said Heintzelman. "In this case, acid rain and mercury deposition are harming aquatic ecosystems in New York, which in turn makes these areas less attractive as places to live and recreate.

“Economists are not just interested in problems that are traditionally thought of as economic, but also aid in creating environmental and other public policies," he said. "The goal here is to help estimate the damages from acidification so that these damages can be used, perhaps, to help justify stronger public policies to mitigate the problems.”

Heintzelman recently performed a similar analysis in the Adirondack region focused on acidification, invasive species, and the Common Loon.

Each factor had a significant impact on property values in the Adirondack region; highly acidic water reduced property values by between 21 and 24 percent while the presence of loons increased property values by about 10 percent.

Coal and other types of power plants are a major reason behind the mercury and acid rain present in upstate New York, Heintzelman said.

The findings will help the scientists predict how property values in upstate New York would change if the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency imposed further regulations on those plants, based on various deposition scenarios.