Real Cost of Pollution Kept Hidden

Oped on externalities of pollution.

Published: 02-Jan-2003

By Curt Andersen
News-Chronicle

The price we pay for some things is occasionally much less than their actual cost. There are numerous examples of such "external costs" or "externalities."

The example most familiar to Fox River Valley residents is the cost of papermaking. The price of paper is lower because instead of treating pollution, or not polluting in the first place, mills pass pollution costs to the consumer. This immoral shortcut has led to the pollution of the Fox River and the ruination of the fishing and tourism industries in Northeast Wisconsin.

Operating a mine in Crandon would have external costs. The ore is contained in sulfurous rock. Sulfuric acid is created when sulfurous rock comes in contact with oxygen and water. The mining companies have not proposed building a wastewater treatment plant, so the external cost of mining would include the destruction of the fish habitat in the Wolf and Fox rivers, which would lead to the thumping of the tourism industry and a reduction in property values. Those external costs would be borne by the public, not by the mining company. The use of cyanide in the mining operation would give us a cocktail of trouble for local citizens.

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