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The Tragedy of the Love Canal

Article #223 • Written by Marisa Brook

William T. Love came to 1890s Niagara Falls, New York, with hugely ambitious plans. The landowner and entrepreneur envisioned the creation of an enormous utopian metropolis. His city would be home to enviable industry, and housing for more than a million people. Thousands of acres would become "the most extensive and beautiful [park] in the world". He planned to power the city using hydroelectric dams on a new 11-kilometer canal between the upper and lower Niagara Rivers. Within a year, however, Love's plans failed, and would quickly have been forgotten if it weren't for one problem.

The one part of Love's city that had been built was a kilometer-long pit that would have been a part of the canal. After a few decades, this pit was purchased by the City of Niagara Falls, which had decided that it would make an ideal location for a needed chemical-dumping site. After the pit was filled with waste, a neighborhood was built directly on top of it. By the 1970s, the Love Canal became the site of one of the worst environmental disasters in American history.

Back in 1892, it seemed inconceivable that Love's plans would fall apart so dramatically. He was a driven and charismatic man, who filled his brochures with wild promises and other hyperbole. The idea of a new city "among the greatest manufacturing cities in the United States" drew many supporters and investors; the following year saw construction begin on the canal. Then Love's ideas were quashed fairly quickly by a combination of factors. The fluctuations of the economy scared off the investors; the discovery of how electricity could be efficiently transmitted over long distances made Love's canal seem unnecessary; and local politicians prohibited the diversion of the rivers' water altogether. And thus Love's ambitions evaporated almost overnight.

The pit remained, filling with rainwater and becoming a local recreation area: swimming in the summer, skating in the winter. In 1920 the land was sold to nearby Niagara Falls, a growing industrial town that immediately started using the pit as a dumping ground for chemical wastes. This continued for more than twenty years, after which the Hooker Chemical and Plastics Corporation (now a part of Occidental Petroleum or OxyChem) purchased the land for their own chemical disposal. By 1953, the company had buried nearly 22,000 tons of waste, and the pit was virtually full.

At that time, the dangers of chemical wastes were almost entirely unknown. Far from being alarmed or even wary of living next to a major chemical producer, the city's residents were delighted at the medical and other developments that the chemical industry was bringing in. No one thought that the same companies could engage in any potentially dangerous activities. The Love Canal was lined with clay and covered with dirt to supposedly seal it, and Hooker Chemical's experts declared it safe. Only the occasional scientist recognized the dangers of chemical waste in the 1940s. One, a Dr. Robert Mobbs, had explored the link between insecticides and cancer; he would later strongly denounce Hooker Chemical as not just careless but also aware of the potential for danger in its dumping ground.

It is not certain whether Hooker suspected the potential effects of its waste products. However, the fact that the company sold the Love Canal land for a single dollar is suspicious. So is the carefully-worded disclaimer that Hooker included with the sale, disclaiming any responsibility for side-effects from chemical exposure.

Either way, these subtle warnings were not the red flag they should have been. The Niagara Falls Board of Education, which was in urgent need of more classroom space, eagerly purchased the land and began constructing a new elementary school. In 1955, four hundred children began attending the school, as about 100 homes were built in the surrounding areas. Although most of the residents of Niagara Falls knew what the land had been previously used for, they were not cautioned about living on it.

Unsurprisingly, the direct effects of the pit's contents were soon felt. Strange odors and substances were reported by residents, especially those with basements. Pieces of phosphorus made their way to the surface; children in the schoolyard were burned by toxic waste. Local officials were alerted, but took no action.

In 1976, water from heavy rains and a record-breaking blizzard caused a significant amount of chemical waste to migrate to the surface, where it contaminated the entire neighborhood. In the following years the area was stricken with higher than normal rates of stillborn births and miscarriages, and many babies were born with birth defects. Informal studies at this time noted the frightening trend. One, by the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, observed more than 400 types of chemicals in the air, water, and soil, with some of them - such as benzene - already known to be carcinogenic.

One particular family that was affected was that of local mother Lois Gibbs. After reading about the history of the Love Canal in a local publication, she realized that her young son Michael had been constantly ill since starting at the new school. Gibbs asked for her son to be transferred; when this failed, she went from door to door in her neighborhood with a petition to close the school. The situation turned out to be even worse than she had thought; her rounds made it clear that the entire neighborhood was ill. Gibbs went on to lead the campaign to call attention to the neighborhood; she was joined by many other local parents as well as the editors of the Niagara Falls Gazette.

Finally, in the spring of 1978, state health commissioner Dr. Robert P. Whalen declared the area around the Love Canal hazardous. The school closed, the land was sectioned off, and more than 200 families in the immediate area were evacuated. By August of that year, the hazardous site was receiving national attention. On 7 August, President Jimmy Carter called upon the Federal Disaster Assistance Agency for its help. In September, Dr. Whalen released an intensive report on the disaster, which read in part:

The profound and devastating effects of the Love Canal tragedy, in terms of human health and suffering and environmental damage, cannot and probably will never be fully measured...[w]e cannot undo the damage that has been wrought at Love Canal but we can take appropriate preventive measures so that we are better able to anticipate and hopefully prevent future events of this kind.

Evacuation from the Love Canal neighborhood.
Evacuation from the Love Canal neighborhood.

Lawsuits were quick to arrive, and Hooker Chemical found itself being sued for more than $11 billion. The corporation denied its involvement through this series, even when faced by the Federal Justice Department in 1979 and New York State in 1989.

Still, a great deal of damage had been done, and eventually more than 1,000 families had to be moved out of the Love Canal area. An EPA study revealed that of the thirty-six people tested, eleven had chromosomal damage; and that of fifteen Love Canal babies born between January 1979 and January 1980, only two were healthy. Agencies at the state and federal levels spent hundreds of millions of dollars trying to clean up the pollution. Of that, Hooker Chemical has eventually been persuaded to contribute about $130 million.

One good thing that came out of the disaster was the creation of the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act, more commonly known as the 'Superfund' law. Its aim is to collects taxes from gas and chemical corporations to be used directly to clean up any sites similar to the Love Canal. OxyChem now lists 'making chemical plants safer and more environmentally sound' as one of its goals.

Houses in the area today.
Houses in the area today.

There is a sad irony in the fact that the site of William T. Love's "most perfect city in existence" became home to such a disaster. In the last fifteen years, however, there has been some gradual resettlement of the Love Canal site. In the early 1990s parts of the area were declared safe again, and now make up a neighborhood known as Black Creek Village. The area was taken off the Superfund list in September 2004 at the announcement that certain clean-up goals had been reached. Much of the Canal itself, however, remains sectioned off by a chain-link fence, which to any local passersby must serve as a poignant reminder of the whole catastrophe.

Article written by Marisa Brook, published on 18 October 2006. Marisa lives in Toronto, Canada. She collects postcards, fridge magnets, lapel pins, interesting rocks, and linguistics degrees.

Article design by Alan Bellows. Edited by Alan Bellows.

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Posted 18 October 2006 at 04:02 am

It's really interesting to actually see the backstory for this event and how it came to be.

another viewpoint
Posted 18 October 2006 at 04:57 am

"It is not certain whether Hooker suspected the potential effects of its waste products. However, the fact that the company sold the Love Canal land for a single dollar is suspicious. So is the carefully-worded disclaimer that Hooker included with the sale, disclaiming any responsibility for side-effects from chemical exposure." ya think? Of course "they" knew what they were dealing with. Sell property for $1...carefully-worded one would go to that amount of trouble to shed responsibility and/or liability is the waste site could be deemed SAFE.

When you're a large chemical corporation, you have high paid scientists (some of them probably had PhD's) on staff for product developement. Research bears not only advantages, but disadvantages as well. They may not have fully understood or known the long term affects, but they were probably well aware that their buried "witches brew" was a recipe for disaster.

Besides...we all know that everything kills laboratory rats and mice eventually...when administered in 1 ton doses. Remember...cyclamates, saccarhin, lead based paints, insecticides, etc.?

Posted 18 October 2006 at 05:05 am

Location, location, location........ It is unfortunate the ramifications of the site was not fully realized. Kind of reminds me of the use and acceptance of asbestos. Congratulations to Lois Gibbs for her persistence. I am sure there are more, questionable land sites with secrets. Hopefully, none as damaging as Love Canal.

Posted 18 October 2006 at 06:49 am

There is another exploration of the events here . The matter of Love Canal's low price comes further into play, as does the quality of Hooker Chemical's ground treatment. Many aspects of the story that are not often covered get their due in this article.

Posted 18 October 2006 at 06:51 am

This story reminds me very much of a similar situation that happened in Australia almost 20 years ago, just a short walk from where I used to live...

In the early settlement days, when gold mining was a flourishing industry, the area was very heavily mined for gold and other precious metals. The mines were tunneled for miles in all directions and as was the practice in the day, unused shafts were closed off and filled with waste materials. These waste materials often included general waste as well as known toxic byproducts such as mercury and arsenic.

Skip forward to the late 1980's, the mines had been closed for many years, houses had been built all around and it had become a well established suburban area. After years of lurking deep beneath the surface, in the maze of tunnels beneath the area, these toxic materials had mixed together, fermented and finally began to ooze through layers of clay and top soil. Bubbling and oozing its way to the surface was a thick, black, tar-like substance which came to be known as the "Toxic Ooze".

Residents in the area began to notice this "Toxic Ooze" emerging in their back yards and under their houses. Household pets began losing hair where they had come into contact with the substance. Children began falling ill with long lasting health issues. Residents who complained to the local government were met with the usual staunch denials that the substance was dangerous or that it could be causing any kind of health risk.

Eventually, after a barrage of media coverage, tests were performed on the substance to determine the cause, the potential health risks and long term effects. After many years of battling the government, residents of houses in the immediate area where the ooze had emerged were finally relocated. Other nearby residents were made no such offer despite the potential risk to their health from possible contamination in the air or ground water, only residents who lived on land where the ooze had reached the surface were relocated.

After the relocations, the area was levelled and capped with a thick layer of cement and clay, topped off with a layer of topsoil, seeded with grass and was turned into a park. To this day, much of the waste material still lurks in the miles of tunnels spread out like a giant web beneath the entire suburb and lies dormant in areas far from the original site waiting for a time to emerge once more. With many of the tunnels being unmapped, no one knows how far they extend or where the ooze might pop up next. Fortunately there haven't been any further incidents since the first toxic scare but it's a time bomb waiting to go off!

I'm glad I moved, though you never know what lies beneath...

Posted 18 October 2006 at 07:02 am

I love Love Canal. Oh ,wait. No I don't. I love french toast.

Posted 18 October 2006 at 07:39 am

i can't believe i'll be the first to mention it, but am i the only one who had a chuckle upon reading "love canal?"

Posted 18 October 2006 at 07:45 am

So wait...
1. The school board repeatedly asks to buy the land from the chemical company, and after being rejected by the company on all occasions finally gets them to sell after threatening government action.

2. The company specifically told the school board of the risks involved with building on a chemical waste dump.

3. The construction project had to be moved twice because when they dug for the foundation, they ended up digging straight into the chemical pits.

4. The company had a liability waiver in the sales contract, and pretty much gave away ALL the land (Not wanting to be associated with any of it at all)

So am I the only one who thinks everyone sued the wrong people?

Posted 18 October 2006 at 07:53 am

It's truly amazing how luck (?) came to be so against Love iin this story. First, his ambitions here failed practically overnight, and then the city has one of the worst environmental disasters in American history.

Sounds like a curse to me.

I find it amazing that the land was put up for sale at the price of a single dollar.

Posted 18 October 2006 at 08:57 am

"... hardly ever has there been a more blatant example of Big Brother successfully hiding the skeletons in his closet or of a gullible investigative reporter and compliant major media going along with the cover-up so that a bunch of bureaucrats can pass the buck to some bewildered private interest. " Eric Zuesse explains in detail at

I'm afraid DamnInteresting has to be classed as "compliant media" in this case.

Posted 18 October 2006 at 09:00 am

Sounds a lot like the book/film A Civil Action, written by Johnathan Harr/starred by John Travolta. It follows the events of a lawsuit filed by residents of Waburn, MA. that also had suffered from chemical poisoning from local chem plants and a tannery or something (I forget). If you're looking for more insight on to how the legal processes of how the Love Canal went, you could read this book (or if lazy, see an inferior movie) and you'd probably get some idea of how it went. Though I'm not really familiar with the how the Love Canal case finally ended (the DI just states that they have been persuaded to contribute 130 mil, not sure if this is from the first legal cases or government intervention in leiu of lawsuits), the residents in Waburn just pretty much got shafted. Good read to get you riled up against chemical companies and why it's a good reason to know what is located around the place you are looking to live (I lived within a kilometer of a place that burned trash in Japan without knowing it until Mondays started to smell really bad and burn my lungs).

wiki's A Civil Action entry (only for the movie, dammit)

Posted 18 October 2006 at 01:16 pm

I live less then 3 miles from Love Canal. I drive by it whenever I need to go to Sears or something at the Summit Park Mall. When you go past it, your reminded of the past, and all the pictures and stuff, when you see the tall grass, single trailer on top of a hill, and all fence around it. It is also all fenced in on the other side of the expressway, but less of a reminder, looks more of a large lawn, as it is all mowed and green grass.

Posted 18 October 2006 at 01:33 pm

Pfft...only a fool would settle down there. I guess they're eligible for a Darwin award, though.

Posted 18 October 2006 at 01:44 pm

1c3d0g said: "Pfft…only a fool would settle down there. I guess they're eligible for a Darwin award, though."

i'd move there and declare myself king of the love canal.. i like the way that sounds.

Posted 18 October 2006 at 02:18 pm

Interesting for sure, but not danm interesting. Now what will I ponder over until the next story? Guess I'll just have to read older articles to get my fix. Maybe ill get lucky and find one I haven't read yet.

Posted 18 October 2006 at 03:11 pm

I went to a junior college called San Jacinto before going to U of H. San Jacinto's South Campus was located directly accross from a Superfund site called "The Brio Site." In the years before it was declared a disaster area, it was a populated subdivision located over 58 acres of land and reportedly held more than half a million cubic yards of measurably contaminated soil. The site became contaminated when the Brio refinery stored products in open pits, which leaked the contaminants into the ground. The EPA suposedly cleaned it up, but anyone at San Jac will tell you: "Don't drink the water."

Posted 18 October 2006 at 03:35 pm

I have seen John Stossel's television special concerning Love Canal. He showed a similar situation in Italy where the people just covered the "toxic" dump over and made a park of it. No ill effects at all. No malformed infants, no early, terrible deaths, nothing unusual.

Also, we should be aware that there has been no proof that dioxin is toxic to humans at all, only suspicions. NO PROOF that it is carcenogenic, 0nly "studies" showing people living near such areas have this affliction or that.

In Marion, Ohio, the local high school was in such an area with incidents of people affected in such ways, but the news and the scare mongers did not ever mention there were lower incidences of some cancers along with the higher incidences of others.

Co-inky-dinky ????

Don't buy antedotal evidence as proof.

Posted 18 October 2006 at 03:52 pm

I lived near the Love Canal in the late 70's. I had friends whose homes butted up to the fenced off area. They couldn't afford to sell her homes and move. They ate the produce from their gardens. I remember one who, when someone said in disgust that she shouldn't do that, said "Hey, no big deal. Want to turn out the lights and watch me glow green?" I haven't talked to them in years. Wonder what the long term effects for those just a few blocks away that were not moved.

Posted 18 October 2006 at 07:26 pm

so the modern neighborhood is called 'Black Creek'... wow, that name isn't ominous at all. reminds me of silent hill. creepy.

Posted 18 October 2006 at 10:04 pm

Mourningblade: Thanks for linking to that article. It tells a side of the story that is usually ignored by the anti-corporate types who are eager to bring up Love Canal as an example of corporate greed & corruption.

Dave Group
Posted 19 October 2006 at 02:56 am

Good article. Ignore the critics-- the situation was just as bad, if not worse, than what you described. I know-- I live several miles away and had relatives who lived in Love Canal (albeit for only a short period of time). In fact, I think you downplayed the chemical stews that surfaced in people's yards and basements, and didn't mention the family pets with chemical burns that did not heal. John Stossel is a &%#@ing idiot (He once did a piece on how teachers have it easy: they only work six to seven hours a day and have a few months off in the summer. Hah! Let him teach in an inner-city school for a few months and see why teachers have stress levels equal to that of combat soldiers.) Stossel conveniently ignores such disasters as Minimata, Japan in the '50s or the Soviet Union's huge roster of environmental catastrophies. Thank you, Marisa Brook, for this well-balanced-- if brief-- article.

Posted 19 October 2006 at 07:46 am

moonwick said: "Mourningblade: Thanks for linking to that article. It tells a side of the story that is usually ignored by the anti-corporate types who are eager to bring up Love Canal as an example of corporate greed & corruption."

Yes, I agree. If you have not yet done so, read the article. Here's the link again for those who missed it.

Posted 19 October 2006 at 07:56 am

Dave Group:

You are either not remembering correctly or are intentionally trying to distort what he says. I have that teacher special you are talking about, along with one of his books. No where in there, not once, did he say that a teacher's job was easy. The whole point of the special was that a government run school has no incentive to be a good school, since the parents are locked into the district and have to send their child there if they can't afford private school, and the teacher's unions have made it almost impossible to fire even a bad teacher (The unions strawman this into "OMG HE HATES TEACHERS"). In the end, he was recommending a voucher program for public schools so they would have to compete with each other for students, and therefore, money.

I don't know the specifics for the Italy toxic dump, but I wouldn't find it surprising that it was safe if it was covered properly. The chemicals were properly contained at Love Canal, it was the digging and sewer work for the school and neighborhood that broke that containment. He did not mention the other two incidents/countries for good reason: They were not comparable to Love Canal. The Japanese disaster was chemical waste being dumped directly into a river, and the soviet union also did very similar. Love Canal had its waste properly stored underground with impermeable clay. Heck, the company didn't even want to sell the land until it was threatened with legal action to acquire it. Anyway, I don't want to drag this out, but it seems pretty obvious that in this case the cause of the tragedy was the school board and not the chemical company.

Posted 19 October 2006 at 07:56 am

Foxster, where in Australia did the events you describe happen? I live in Perth, where do you live?

Posted 19 October 2006 at 03:01 pm

Interesting read, but I went searching for more pictures and information on the site and found this article:

Which seems to debunk much of the horror of Love Canal. Also interesting. The article suggests that much of the blame lies with city officials and planners who disrupted the site and built upon it with full knowledge of what lay beneath, that no statistical cancer increases were found, and that Hooker Chemical tried to get have the canal zoned so that it would not be built upon.

Where does the truth lie? I've always contended that in cases like this, the truth is somewhere in the middle.

Posted 20 October 2006 at 01:05 am

Mez.. I'm a Perthite too. I believe that happened on the East Coast though.

Posted 20 October 2006 at 04:08 am

Ahhh !! My child ate pickles and now he has cancer ! We should do SOMETHING ! Ban pickles ! No, that isn't enough, we should take Heinz to court, make them pay.

Beware ! If your child eats pickles, he, too, could suffer as mine has done.

BTW...for those who do not realize it, over 99.9% of all prison inmates have eaten pickles in their lifetime.

PICKLES, the food of DEATH !!

Dave Group
Posted 20 October 2006 at 04:39 am

Reply to Sparky TWP:

I checked back and, oops, I did accidentally misrepresent John Stossel. Shows what happens when you rely on memory. Still, he did dump a lot of blame on teachers and did not have one nice thing to say about them, and I think that was intentional, not relying on memory. :D From my experience, most teachers work very hard and are very dedicated, and have to put up with a lot of *&%# both from students and their parents.

As for comparing environmental catastrophes, remember that all it took to penetrate this "properly contained impermeable" was some heavier-than-normal precipitation and possibly some human incompetence. Need I mention that this area is somewhat geologically unstable and, though we haven't had an earthquake in recent memory, the possibility DOES exist. As for the Italian dump, who's to say that human incompetence or corruption couldn't compromise a supposedly fail-safe solution ( the Mafia is still a considerable force in that country, I believe). Not to mention that Italy is home to some very active volcanoes.

Dave Group
Posted 20 October 2006 at 04:40 am

The word "container" should appear after "impermeable".

Posted 20 October 2006 at 08:17 am

Dave Group said: "As for comparing environmental catastrophes, remember that all it took to penetrate this "properly contained impermeable" was some heavier-than-normal precipitation and possibly some human incompetence."

the fact that the city was able to penetrate the dump sites does not mean that they were not properly contained. according to the author of the reason article posted above, individual sections of the canal were created by clay barriers, filled to within 4 feet of the top, then covered with 4 feet of clay. left alone, these would not have leaked, but as we all know, anything people can build, they can break.

Posted 20 October 2006 at 09:54 am

I still don't see how he blamed teachers. To me, it looked like he was blaming the system in place. Teachers are only as good as the management system running them, and that's the intention I think he was trying to show. Also, there ARE some bad teachers, and the problem now is that they don't get fired, they don't quit, they just stay and suck the system dry, and it's hard to get rid of them. They make everyone look bad.

I'm still not sure how it was the chemical plant's fault. What could they have done to prevent someone from doing that? They wanted the land zoned so it could never by developed (Building a park is incidentally a great way to do this, since there is no digging and it's unlikely that any chemicals would have seeped through the clay). They repeatedly warned people of the consequences. The rainfall make the chemicals bubble up AFTER the clay seal was broken. Can you tell me what you would have wanted Hooker to do?

Posted 20 October 2006 at 11:04 am

After carefully reading the entire Reason article (fascinating by the way), I've come to the conclusion that this disaster was primarily the result of the overzealous and possibly unscrupulous school board, city planners and engineers.

Had Hooker Chemical had their way, the site would have been permanently zoned as a park and forbidden from development and intrusion and likely would not have leaked.

If it had leaked under THESE circumstances, THEN and ONLY THEN can you lay some blame at the feet of Hooker.

It appears that for the time period in question -- the 1930's and 40's-- Hooker made greater than was common efforts to safely store the waste. Further, Hooker wasn't the only enitity to store waste in the canal-- the city and the US Army also added waste and no one knows if they covered their waste to Hooker's specs.

Brian Carnell
Posted 20 October 2006 at 01:10 pm

1. Was Hooker forced to sell the land or did it dump the land?

I agree with the original author -- the inclusion of the liability release and the sale for $1 is suspicious. There is some dispute over whether this "we were forced to sell the line" is real or just Hooker's backpedaling. Certainly the company has been cited for numerous improper disposal of chemicals at a number of sites -- this is not the first site it had that led to contamination problems.

2. Did Hooker take proper precautions as some here have alleged?

In 1958, leaking chemicals caused chemical burns to three children. Hooker and the Board of Education were notified. Hooker carried out its own investigation and concluded that the landfill could no longer contain the chemicals, but it never bothered to notify residents or public health officials of that. That sort of inaction clearly exposed it to liability despite its earlier attempt to transfer that liability to the Board of Education.

Posted 20 October 2006 at 01:34 pm

I too grew up a few miles from Love Canal. Alan Caruba (Love Canal Revisited) debunks nothing. I asked him why he said that love canal "was and is a lie" and "incredibly benign". He responded that what he was really trying to say was that its just another "cause-celeb" for enviromentalists use for their anti-chemical company crusade. Lie = cause celeb. He openly admitted he was saying one thing yet meant something different then refused to say comment any further. Its called PR which to me equals lack of journalistic integrity. I would have more respect for him if he completely ignored me as opposed to feeding me the ignorant PR garbage that he did.

So a study says there is not a higher risk of cancer among the residents. Good, they relocated in time. Thats not an indicator thats its benign however. What about the kid who died of kidney failure? The children with burned skin from playing in the schoolyard. High occurrence of localized birth defects? how could anyone be such a fool to think that a lack of cancer means you are safe. What happens when you mix bleach and household cleaners then breathe in the fumes. Will you get cancer? No, you will suffocate. Or you will have brain damage depending on how long you breathe it in.

I knew a guy whos house was dozed into what is now the new sludge pit. He told me about how it was hard to breathe especially in basements and that the whole neighborhood smelled like sulfur or rotten eggs. The black sludge was in their backyards and grass would not grow in many areas. Sounds ok to me. A good friends uncle was employed by a company that worked on the cleanup. They had to open up the pit to doze in the houses and dredged soil. He told me that the heavy machinery needed to have oxygen pumped in so they would run. Thats called highly volatile. Its probably completely benign though.

Anyone who knows the story can eassily conlude that the NF school board caused the problem and left residents (aka anti-chemical company environmentalists) holding the bag. Hooker dumped the waste legally and tried to prevent its sale. You cant have a contract for less than $1. Its so sad to me that this story of overwhelming failure on the part of elected officials and heavy contamination in Anytown USA has become a cause cleb for liberal anti-chem enviromental wackos as well as neo/paleo conservative pro-chem wackos. This story is about the people who got the short end of the stick from those who were to blame.

And yeah the neighborhood still smells a little funky. Caruba told me that I can buy a house there and its safe but I already knew that.

Posted 20 October 2006 at 03:03 pm

Brian Carnell said: "1. Was Hooker forced to sell the land or did it dump the land?

I agree with the original author — the inclusion of the liability release and the sale for $1 is suspicious.

It appears that the School Board was in the process of acquiring several parcels of land around the canal through use of eminient domain, and it was clear to Hooker that they would be forced to cede the land through same. The liability release is not particularly suspicious as much as it is prudent-- they did not WANT the School Board to take the land, but if they were forced to (and the land's use was no longer under their direct control) they should not be responsible for the consequences of the land's development.

Furthermore, the $1 transaction price makes it clear that Hooker did not intend to profit from this "sale."

2. Did Hooker take proper precautions as some here have alleged?

In 1958, leaking chemicals caused chemical burns to three children. Hooker and the Board of Education were notified.

The burns discussed here occured several months after a gravel bed sewer line was laid through the canal. The coincidence of this is too obvious to overlook.

Posted 20 October 2006 at 03:15 pm


I side with your concern for the residents 100%. They got the shaft-- but there should never have been homes or a school, sewer lines or anything below ground built within a quarter mile of that place. Period.

I wouldn't have even advocated a park over the lot as Hooker suggested-- but I think we can all agree that hindsight is 20/20.

Posted 20 October 2006 at 04:31 pm

I side with your concern for the residents 100%. They got the shaft– but there should never have been homes or a school, sewer lines or anything below ground built within a quarter mile of that place. Period.

Yup. What happened in short was Niagara Falls says to Hooker sell it to us or else, Hooker finally says ok but do not build, NF builds anyway, crap comes to the surface after 20 years and people say to NF please help us, NF (after ignoring the people for some time) eventually turns to Hooker which is then OxyChem to point the finger 'this is your fault you said not to buld but never said it was dangerous'. Local officials refused to accept it as their problem and they got their way in the end. It might be worthwile to note that for a small city, Niagara Falls is and has been quite politically corrupt for generations.

Hazlett - regarding dioxin, there are many types but a handful are among the most toxic substances. Read about it, there isnt much doubt. It doesnt need to be carcinogenic to kill you. Its not completely clear what exactly is in the Love Canal pit since its a mixture by now but an estimated 2000 tons of it is dioxins. I believe the boy who died of kidney failure (he was like 5) has specific toxins in his system that were also found in the creek where he recently played. Its so sad. The guy I knew who lived in the inner relocation circle said to me and I quote "It was a f%$#ing mess."

Check out the aerial infrared picture. White patches are where vegetation will not grow, especially in the upper left corner which is downhill. The other side of the road at the top is the Niagara river. Incredibly benign... people are tougher than grass right?

Posted 21 October 2006 at 06:25 am

Hum... Reminds me of a movie I once saw, Very good article!

Posted 23 October 2006 at 05:22 am

Was I the only one quite distressed to discover the last image was a .bmp and not a nice small .jpg? (I've been studying image formats far too much .. the second I see an image loading bottom to top I'm like "bmp!" ..*sigh* ..oh yeah, there was another point to this article, wasn't there?) ;)

Posted 23 October 2006 at 08:06 am

TKO said: "Was I the only one quite distressed to discover the last image was a .bmp and not a nice small .jpg? (I've been studying image formats far too much .. the second I see an image loading bottom to top I'm like "bmp!" ..*sigh* ..oh yeah, there was another point to this article, wasn't there?) ;)"

I too lament the passing of efficiency in info systems.

Posted 24 October 2006 at 12:05 pm

Sold for a $1 in 1955, what is that in terms of $'s today in 2006, 50 years later.... is $642.70. Hey it's still a good deal and with cutbacks in the education department....

Posted 26 December 2006 at 08:18 pm

Ask any Viet-Nam vet who is suffering from the results of Agent Orange. (Dioxin) Or the North Vietnamese, who knew the effects of dioxin because it was in the water supply. The chemical company who sold it to the US government also sold it to farmers here as a defoliant, but here it had to be labeled with a poisonous toxic warning. According to the Vietnam vets I knew, and I knew quite a few including my former husband, the agent orange that was sold to the army for use in Nam didn't even rate a skull and crossbones. However, in the case of Love Canal, I don't think that Hooker is 100% to blame. Who else could afford to make restitution to all those families. the local government? At that point in time some of us were just beginning to see the effects of Dioxin on our servicemen (and it got worse as time went on}. If the local government was held responsible, even if they knew (and they probably did) than the federal government could be leaving itself wide open for lawsuits relating to chemicals used in warfare. Agent Orange was capable of defoliating thick jungle growth in an extremely short period of time. Dioxin supposedly is one of the most toxic substances known to living organisms.

Posted 15 January 2007 at 06:11 am

I have renewed interest in my old homesite, the Love Canal as well as a student of the 99th St. School in the 50's. I have a relatively rare cancer, RCC. What makes it even more interesting is the occurance of this "rare" cancer was found to be higher in this area then the norm. Really makes one wonder what the future holds as the children of the Love Canal age.

Posted 05 July 2007 at 10:34 am

In New York State, it is common practice to transfer real property for $1.00 consideration on the deed. Otherwise, how much you paid for your home would be public knowledge. The only transfers that are required to disclose the actual consideration involve those from estates. Also, in NYS, one cannot disclaim their liability. Could be the reason the chemical company was sued despite its liability disclaimer?

Posted 26 July 2007 at 02:22 pm

We lived in the projects that were close to Love canal during world war two and moved away in 1952. during that time we played and swam in the canal. It was the recreational spot for the kids that lived around the canal. We all knew that at the north end of the canal there were chemical barrels but as long as they stayed there we were OK, not! I quit swimming there when I came to the top of the hill by the canal and the water was turing various shades of color, the best thhing I could have done.

Friends that lived on the other side of the canal from the projects had black goo filtering into their basements.

All of this occurred in the 1950's

It is also interesting that we also played in the fields where the new school was built, don't remember the street but it has since been torn down. The interesting point is the school was built over what was described as a low level radioactive dump. You had to be very careful riding your bike to stay on the path or you would sink into black goo that would come up to your knee!

I can not understand why anyone would want to go back to that area.

Posted 12 November 2008 at 03:13 pm

kinda reminds me of Erin Brockovich.

Posted 16 January 2009 at 01:29 am

Most logical people can see that humans will reap devastating effects for ruining the environment. Love Canal is an obvious example of this. Interestingly, there are always the few who will defend the environmental polluters and blatantly state that such toxic waste neighborhoods are safe, but would they themselves move those they love to that neighborhood? I doubt it, unless they have no love and compassion in them. It is clear that they have very little compassion to say that these people moved for nothing, that their lives turned upside down for nothing, that the many many serious adverse health effects they and their families suffered did not occur. Either no compassion and no fellow feeling, no natural affection, or they truly are very stupid. No scientist, no well-educated person can ever honestly say that there is no chance of ill effects of living on land that seeps highly toxic carcinogenic chemicals. One of the facts that came to light was that out of 22 pregnancies in the neighborhood during the Love Canal crisis, only 4 babies were not both with birth defects. That translates to approximately 80% of the babies born had birth defects. Love Canal, along with thousands of other toxic dump sites poses a real threat and real danger to humans and no matter what company, what government, what illogical person tries to say otherwise, they are only fooling themselves because thanks to the outspokenness of people like Lois Gibbs, there are many more wise people around. People who don't fall for the blatant lies of those who say toxic waste is safe.

Posted 01 March 2009 at 03:02 pm

The love canal was a seriously bad boner

Posted 29 August 2009 at 01:55 am

to everyone here has something to say about this unspeakable environmental disaster. But how many of you were actually conceived, born , and grew up there? I was one of those children who was "lucky" enough to survive. What did the actual VICTIMS of that toxic wasteland receive? Disgusting amounts were given to those who stuck it out up until the very end, because it was either be homeless without a penny to their names or have something to try and restart a life with. Those of you who have actually read all the facts on all that toxic waste and what some of the chemicals could possibly do or create when introduced to a human fetus. Doesn't it make you curious as to what the children (at least the ones who lived) got out of all it. Well I'll tell you I personally didn't receive even an appology, let alone restitution, or even lifelong medical care !!!
And in my opinion that seriously BLOWS!!!

Posted 31 May 2010 at 06:05 pm

If only Love's ideas had been finished. Then maybe Niagara Falls wouldn't be the screwed-over shithole that it is now. Rest in peace, William Love, whose dreams of a utopia were screwed over to a toxic waste dump/ghost town.

Posted 25 July 2010 at 03:57 pm

Sadly, the Chinese are creating "Love Canals" all over China. From both ignorance and intent, sadness awaits the many parents of their only child.

Posted 10 November 2011 at 04:12 pm

John Stossel is a tool, which is sad, because I used to have some respect for him. No PROOF that dioxins cause cancer?
This is a summary of finding on dioxins and furans. I'm a geologist that has met the company founder of the engineering firm that did the Love Canal cleanup, Frank Rovers. I really don't think Hooker Chem was trying to hide anything - at the most there was probably some willful ignorance of side effects - but you have to understand this was the era of "better living through chemistry". The science of toxicology had only been invented 25 or 30 years ago as an offshoot of criminal forensics, and cancer-slope factors and LD50 doses weren't even thought up yet.
I do think there's an overreaction these days to perceived human health risks, but at the same timethe RECOGNITION that these chemical dumps were toxic is a benefit in itself. We're a hell of a lot more careful with what we dump - although we don't seem as yet to have any controls on MAKING the stuff.

Posted 04 August 2014 at 11:47 am

1c3d0g said: "Pfft...only a fool would settle down there. I guess they're eligible for a Darwin award, though."

Reality is....the fools you state...were our grandparents who didn't know anything about this stuff until it was too late. We are the generations from the after effects who have to deal with the consequences from this mess.

Posted 07 September 2014 at 04:56 pm

The Love Canal must have been so tragic... i wish it had not have blown up with the massive explosions and deaths and all that because it sounds like it would have been a cool place

Alan Brandon
Posted 07 December 2014 at 11:27 pm

kilranian said: "First?
It's really interesting to actually see the backstory for this event and how it came to be.

It's all in the legal loopholes of the time.

This has me thinking of the Bhopal,India stunt from Union Carbide or how about the Shell Oil spill in San Francisco, Cal.

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