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The team already knows having loons on a lake raises property values. Common loon adult and young. Photo: Nina Schoch
The team already knows having loons on a lake raises property values. Common loon adult and young. Photo: Nina Schoch

Clarkson researchers wonder how water quality affects property values

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Researchers from Clarkson University are gearing up to study the effect water pollution has on property values across 26 counties in upstate New York.

They'll study water quality data and correlate that with property sales over the past 10 years.

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Economics professor Martin Heintzelman is a co-leader of the research team.  He says there’s already evidence of a relationship. He said a recent study found that high acidity levels in the water lowered property prices in the Adirondacks by up to 24 percent.

Heintzelman said loons, on the other hand, raised values by around 10 percent. He calls them an “indicator” species: “they’re very much affected by environmental conditions, and so if you’ve got loons on the lake it’s also a signal to home owners that the lake is in relatively good ecological health.”

Heintzelman said mercury and acid pollutants that can affect water quality and fish ecosystems often come from coal-fired power plants in the Mid-West.

New EPA restrictions were introduced a year ago aimed at curbing those emissions.

Heintzelman said the study may balance out industry claims that the regulations have only harmful economic impact.  “When you’re then trying to make the argument that these regulations are in the best public interest, “he said,  “it’s helpful to have, to be able to put the benefits of these environmental regulations in dollar terms.”

He called property values “a very accessible metric.” And he said if lower levels of pollution correlate with higher property values, those statistics could help justify stronger policies on pollutant constraints.

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