It’s Been 42 Years Since The Love Canal Disaster Was Declared
It was 42 years ago this week that former president Jimmy Carter declared the Love Canal site in Niagara Falls, New York a national health emergency (August 7th, 1978).
It was then when residents of the community built on or near toxic waste dump site, along with the rest of the nation, learned all about the damaging chemicals that made the site uninhabitable.
The canal was originally built to connect the upper and lower Niagara Rivers in the early 1900s. That never materialized and the site was eventually used for a waste dump site and landfill.
The Hooker Chemical Company dumped nearly 22,000 toxic chemicals into the site. They eventually covered the site they sold it to the city of Niagara Falls in 1953.
By the late '50s, nearly 100 homes and even a school were built at the site.
Residents were suspicious for years about what was going on in their neighborhood but it all was uncovered 42 years ago.
This was a lead paragraph in the New York Times about the Love Canal disaster.
"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."
Residents would be evacuated but there were reports of birth defects and serious health problems from the families of the residents at the old Love Canal site. A past resident's son died in 1978 from a rare kidney disease, she believes was caused by the Love Canal site.
According to PBS, in 1988 the EPA and state concluded that areas directly east of Love Canal were not safe to live, but areas north and west were.
Some residents close to the old site are still worried about the site to this day and the toxic waste is still buried at Love Canal because it would be too dangerous to excavate and move to another site. Monitoring wells keep an eye on the site today.
I wasn't born yet when Love Canal was a huge story in the '70s and '80s but it's a name most Western New York natives know and serves as a reminder to the rest of the country how serious toxic waste dumping is.