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EGLE funds first-of-its-kind economic study of groundwater contamination management

Contaminated groundwater -- failed drainfieldIn a first-of-its-kind study, Michigan State University's Institute for Water Research has been chosen to conduct an economic study of the Long Run Risk management strategies for groundwater contamination under a $349,808 grant from the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE).

The research team will use case studies to better understand the long-term implications, risks and costs of using institutional controls and other restrictions — such as limiting the use of an aquifer — when managing risks associated with groundwater that is unusable. The team will also develop a framework to guide future decisions.

"Institutional controls are often the management strategy with the lowest upfront costs, which creates a strong short-term incentive to select them," notes Emily Finnell, Great Lakes senior advisor and strategist in the Office of the Great Lakes. "However, we do not know what the long-term costs have really been, and we think that this is important information to have as we consider how to best manage Michigan's water resources."

Michigan's environmental laws do not provide guidelines or limits on the appropriate use of institutional controls and restrictive covenants, nor do the laws account for potential complications. The Long Run Risk research project is intended to help state and local decision-makers to better understand the effects of current management strategies for contaminated groundwater and inform and improve decision-making about future uses of institutional controls.

Institutional controls and other restrictive covenants are used by state and local governments to manage the risk of exposure to contaminated groundwater. The controls and covenants allow for limits to be placed on using an aquifer instead of removing contamination at more than 2,000 sites across the state.

Funding for this study is provided by EGLE's Office of the Great Lakes through the Michigan Great Lakes Protection Fund (MGLPF). For more information, contact Emily Finnell, Office of the Great Lakes, at or 517-599-1330.

The Institute of Water Research(IWR) at Michigan State University is dedicated to developing science-based technology, research, educational programs, and partnerships to help understand and address critical water issues.

Photo caption: Failed drainfield (groundwater contamination)


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