Casing out Contaminants: Avoidance Behavior Along the Hydrogeologic Gradient
If deeper aquifers have cleaner water, we would expect homeowners near water pollution sources to drill deeper groundwater wells. This form of rural avoidance behavior highlights that the social cost of water pollution includes direct exposure and private defensive investments to avoid exposure. Among our nation’s 15 million homeowners relying on private wells, the relationship between private groundwater well depth and local surface contaminant risk remains undocumented because private well construction specifications and corresponding water quality testing data are seldom available. Establishing a causal link between a homeowner’s proximity to surface contaminants, groundwater quality and well depth is also complicated by the geographic sorting of households, along socioeconomic lines, in response to environmental exposures. We examine well drilling behavior and water quality results among homeowners in the rural North Carolina (NC) counties of Duplin and Sampson that lead the nation in pork and poultry production and store animal waste in uncovered surface lagoons vulnerable to breach and surface-to-ground runoff.
To-be presented at Cornell University’s Workshop on Integrated Assessment Models and the Social Costs of Water Pollution from April 3-5, 2019