An Economic Analysis of Lead Abatement Solutions in South Bend

Joshua Brooks

Lead Abatement

There is a major problem in the community of South Bend stemming from elevated blood lead levels among children, and a lack of an infrastructure to support these struggling residents. The Notre Dame Lead Innovation Team (ND LIT) has worked very hard to improve this infrastructure through testing, investigation of lead sources, and identifying hotspots in the area. I have seen their work so far and  been inspired to contribute in my area of study. Through my environmental economics class, I have seen the way economics can play a key role identifying market inefficiencies and devising economically viable solutions to implement change.

My goal for this project is to explore the existing literature on lead abatement and employ benefit transfer methodology that is used extensively in the CBA literature to gauge market and non-market valuations of environmental and health damages specific to St. Joseph County.  Due to differences in demographics, property values, and other key methodological variables, the value of benefits and costs will differ in South Bend compared to other geographic locations where previous studies have been conducted. This presents the opportunity for a gap analysis comparison of such differences and can be utilized to draw economic conclusions.

The takeaways from this cost benefit analysis will lay the foundation for further communication, awareness, and consultation to the ND LIT team, residents of South Bend and the local government. I plan to designate hours over the spring semester to work directly with South Bend residents (or virtually if needed) in order to help families sign up for federal and state grants available to them. Through my work, I will also explore different innovative processes of lead abatement in order to work towards a solution that is cost-effective and keeps local residents healthy. I feel this issue which has existed in South Bend for many years may continue to be overshadowed by larger happenings such as COVID-19, and I hope that my contributions can shed light and facilitate the implementation of solutions.