Chapter 19: Public Preferences Toward Environmental Risks: The Case of Trihalomethanes
* Richard T. Carson and Robert Cameron Mitchell 19.1 Introduction This chapter presents the results of an in-depth study conducted in Herrin, a small Illinois town with a population of about 10 000 people.1 Our study focused on the issue of the beneﬁts of a town installing a carbon ﬁltration system to remove trihalomethanes (THMs) from its drinking water system. The removal of THMs from drinking water has long been a controversial issue and the class of chemicals has a number of properties that make them an interesting topic for those interested in risk analysis. We examine the public’s preferences toward a proposed policy that would reduce the level of THMs in the town’s drinking water supply. The process of explaining the key characteristics of the risks associated with THMs and the policy decision whether to reduce that risk are explored in the context of a contingent valuation (CV) survey designed to measure willingness to pay (WTP) to implement the policy. A variety of tests are conducted to assess the properties of the WTP estimates for use in policy decisions. THMs are a class of chemicals created during the process of chlorinating drinking water (Culp, 1984). They have been consistently shown to be carcinogenic but represent a low-level risk (Culp, 1984; Attias et al., 1995). In November 1979 the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) under the 1974 Safe Drinking Water Act set an interim Maximum Contaminant Level (MCL) for total trihalomethanes (THMs) of 0.10 mg/l as an annual average (44...
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