Love Canal Disaster 1978



From 1942 to 1953 a landfill in the Niagara Falls area known was the love canal, was contaminated by Hooker Chemical and then sold to the city after being covered up by layers of dirt. The city then allowed homes and schools to be built over the landfill and people started to feel the effects of the hazardous waste. The people living on top of the landfill were 


Love Canal was named after the late 18th century entrepreneur William T. Love who envisioned a canal connecting the two levels of the Niagara River which is separated by Niagara Falls. His plan attempted to incorporate a canal and would provide hydroelectric power to the Niagara area. His plan ultimately failed due to the economic collapse of 1892 after only 1 mile - at fifteen feet wide and ten feet deep - had been dug.

Love's Canal was sold in 1920 at a public auction to the city of Niagara Falls which began using the land as a landfill for chemical waste disposal and later the U.S. Army began burying waste from chemical warfare experiments.

Hooker Chemical and Plastics Corporation acquired the use of the site for private use in 1947 and buried 21,000 tons of toxic waste there over the next five years. After the site was filled, Hooker filled the canal in 1952.

During this period the Niagara population was rapidly expanding and the city was desperate for land. The city bought the Love Canal for $1 (the corporation added a caveat highlighting the prior use of the site).

The subsequent construction of the school punctured a copper barrier Hooker had used to contain the chemical waste. Additionally, sewers were constructed around the site as well.

Health reports and strange odors were reported the following years, but not until the President of the Love Canal Homebuilders Association, Lois Gibbs, investigated was the severity of the situation realized.

The homeowners, many sick, were fought by both Hooker's parent company and government and were not allowed to relocate with compensation until national attention on Love Canal intensified. In 1978, President Jimmy Carter declared the site a federal emergency area.

Scientists were brought in and were able to determine that the chemicals dumped seeped into basements and the air and were responsible for the ill health of the residents. Over 800 families relocated and the Environmental Protection Agency sued Hooker's parent company then Occidental Petroleum, for $129 million.

The clean-up site was the flagship of the Superfund program. The Environmental Protection Agencycleaned up 21 tons of toxic chemicals on the 16 acre site.



Schmidt, Charles W. "Not so Superfund: Growing Needs vs. Declining Dollars." Environmental Health Perspectives (Vol 111, no 3). Retrieved on 12-11-06 from here.