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Monday, January 04, 2010

Whitewater Neighborhood Facing Property Value Uncertainty

In a confusing article titled, Whitewater family worried about drinking water, the Janesville Gazette reported on a neighborhood in Whitewater whose property values are now in limbo because they happen to be unlucky enough to be downstream from a toxic contamination plume.
JG Excerpt:
The houses in the Five Points neighborhood now are listed in a database of closed environmental remediation sites, which essentially lets future property owners and construction companies know there might still be some contamination in the area and that they must take caution in drilling wells or handling soil.
According to DNR science and statements made in the article, the contamination does not pose a health risk great enough to warn residents about...but is great enough to list the properties in a database warning developers or future buyers of "handling" risks?

One blog entry under the name "chkmrk" at the Gazette put what is really at stake for the homeowners in sharp focus.
"Your home is the largest investment that you will probably make in your life. Now, your major investment is on a list of "closed remediation sites," which would be something you would be required to disclose to potential future buyers." -- chkmrk
One of the things the DNR has done across the state of Wisconsin is document, define and categorize contaminated land. All well and good. But, while the DNR tested acres and acres of privately owned land "in" to their "contaminated" databases, the stigmatizing designation nearly always stands into perpetuity OR until each individual land owner can show scientific proof the contamination no longer exists. To do so, land owners (usually out of their own pocket) have to "test out" by hiring state licensed water and soil specialists usually costing hundreds of dollars per test, while the state usually requires a battery of these tests over a period of time to establish consistent and reliable results. Without court action or an amicable settlement between the parties, the homeowners are left footing the bill for actions not of their own doing, just to restore the land to the status and value it was before discovery. While the known responsible "polluting" party just walks away.

Those affected property owners should not let the gas station owner or the DNR wash their hands clean of this situation. The quality of their property (land, soil, etc.) has been severely diminished. There is little doubt that the resale value of their property has plunged dramatically. Of course it'll be up to the homeowners to decide how important this is to their quality of life and property values. If they decide to do nothing, the only good and safe advice I could give them is, "don't eat the tomatoes."

Note: Despite being hooked up to city water, today's Gazette editorial continues to allude to a drinking water problem as the focus of the resident's concerns regarding the contamination issue.

MSM latest Buzzword "regulate"
In a short article about new environmental rules governing the safe disposal of highly toxic electronic products and appliances, the Janesville Gazette incorporates right-wing scare tactics to raise public outrage with the title New state law regulates household electronics. Expect the inappropriate use of the word “regulate” along with its variants to be trending high in stories not involving the capital markets in right-wing publications.

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