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Algae Blooms Cost Buckeye Lake Homeowners More Than $100 Million

Sam Hendren
Algae blooms like this one on Lake Erie last year have led to big property value losses for homes on Buckeye Lake and Grand Lake St. Mary's.

Ohio officials have long stressed the issues toxic algal blooms can cause for the state’s tourism industry. A new study says the blooms have also cost homeowners on two of Ohio's largest lakes more than $150 million in the past six years.

The new study conducted by researchers at Ohio State University’s College of Food, Agriculture, and Environmental Sciences says the toxic green sludge has pushed down property values at Buckeye Lake by $101 million since 2011.

“Our biggest takeaway is that efforts to prevent and mitigate algal blooms have real, tangible benefits for Ohioans, including property values,” said Allen Klaiber, associate professor of agricultural, environmental and development economics at Ohio State.

Researchers calculated property value losses using what's known as the hedonic property model, which measures the economic affect of environmental events.

The study also took into account repairs of the Buckeye Lake dam, which had to be rebuilt after the Army Corps of Engineers deemed it at risk of failing. The repairs also forced homeowners to remove their docks, and the new dam pushed their homes farther from the water's edge.

Property value losses from algae blooms at Grand Lake St. Mary’s in western Ohio were a more-modest $51 million, but only because there were fewer homes within the study region. Average per-home value losses were similar to those at Buckeye Lake.

David Wolf, an Ohio State doctoral student who helped conduct the study, says there is a silver lining: The losses are reversible.

“In fact, our researcher finds if we were to completely remove these algal blooms, then the entirety of these losses would be recouped,” Wolf says.

State lawmakers have taken steps to limit fertilizer runoff, the main cause of algae blooms, but the green slime has returned on a consistent basis, especially on Lake Erie.

Wolf says the property value study should serve as a message to state lawmakers.