The New York Times, August 1978
https://www.geneseo.edu/history/love_canal_history, Dr. Jordan Kleiman
by Eckardt C. BeckEPA Journal – January 1979
Love Canal Disaster
Love Canal is a canal project branching off the Niagara River just south of Niagara Falls. It is also the name of a working-class neighborhood of around 800 family homes built directly next to the canal. 1942 to 1953, the Hooker Chemical Company, with government sanction, was using the not finished dug canal as a chemical waste dump. The contents of the canal consisted of around 21,000 tons of toxic chemicals, including at least twelve that are known to cause cancer (halogenated organics, chlorobenzenes, and dioxin among them). Hooker Chemical buried the 16-acre hazardous waste landfill in clay and sold the land to the Niagara Falls School Board for One Dollar, attempting to absolve itself of any future liability by including a warning in the property deed. Which, I might add, didn’t work for them, because of the dedication of local activists, and angry homeowners.
The public finial found out about this incident in the late 1970s when a investigative newspaper coverage and door-to-door health surveys began to reveal a series of illnesses—epilepsy, asthma, migraines, and nephrosis—and abnormally high rates of birth defects and miscarriages in the Love Canal neighborhood. Wet winters in the late 1970s raised the water table and caused the chemicals to seep (via underground swales and a sewer system that drained into nearby creeks) into the basements and yards of residents, as well as into the playground of the elementary school built directly over the canal. After a series of frustrating encounters with apathetic NYS officials, who were quick to dismiss the activists (most of whom were working-class women who lived in the neighborhood) as a collection of hysterical housewives.
On August 7, 1978, New York Governor Hugh Carey announced that the residents of Love Canal, that the State Government would purchase the homes affected by the toxic chemicals. The next day, President Jimmy Carter declared a state of emergency and had the federal government relocate 239 families. This left 700 families who federal officials viewed as being at insufficient risk to warrant relocation, even though tests conducted by the NYS Department of Health revealed that toxic substances were leaching into their homes. After another hard battle, activists forced Carter to declare a second state of emergency in 1981, during which the remaining families were relocated. The total cost for relocation of all the families was $17 million plus. According to Dr. Jordan Kleiman, love Canal: A Brief History.
Love Canal came to symbolize the environmental disaster represented by untold numbers of toxic waste disposal sites scattered throughout America. On the level of public policy, lawmakers used the national publicity generated by the Love Canal disaster to push for new legislation to hold Hooker Chemical Company and many like them, financially responsible for cleaning up their toxic waste sites. The result was the 1980 Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act—better known as Superfund. A less well-known but equally important outcome of Love Canal was the emergence of a militant, grassroots “environmental justice” movement. This movement, which was fueled by mounting frustration with mainstream environmentalism’s failure to address the disproportionate impact of toxic pollution on working-class and minority communities. As stated by Dr. Jordan Kleiman.
There are hundreds, if not, thousands of illegal dump sites of toxic wastes all over the United States and around the world. When or where the next disaster happens is anyone’s guess. It’s very scary to see what we as humans have done to our planet, our home, our lives. Slowly we are poisoning ourselves to maybe extinction if we don’t wake up and stop the deadly things we are doing. What I do know is that the Love Canal incident won’t be the last toxic waste disposal disaster the USA has seen.
NIAGARA FALLS, N.Y.–Twenty-five years after the Hooker Chemical Company stopped using the Love Canal here as an industrial dump, 82 different compounds, 11 of them suspected carcinogens, have been percolating upward through the soil, their drum containers rotting and leaching their contents into the backyards and basements of 100 homes and a public school built on the banks of the canal – According to The New York Times, August,1978.