What is the Love Canal?
- The Love Canal is a block of land that cover 36 square blocks in the South-eastern corner of the Niagara Falls, in New York.
- The love canal is now known as 99th street
- The Love canal is named after Williams T. Love who envisioned a canal connecting Lake Ontario and Lake Erie.
- The canal was intended to provide hydroelectricity for the surrounding industries.
- In 1892 the plan was changed and Love wanted to add a shipping lane that would bypass the Niagara Falls
- The economic depression fell upon America and the plan failed
- Only one 1.6 kilometres of the canal was dug and the plan was abandoned leaving a 1.6-kilometre-long and 24-meter-wide canal behind
- In 1942 the Hooker Chemical and Plastic Company bought the abandoned site.
- The Hooker Company began digging further, in order to create a dump site for industrial wastes such as pesticide residues, processed slurries and waste solvents.
- Approximately 22,000 tonnes of waste were dumped in the pit over an 11-year period.
- It was found that there were 200 different chemical compounds, of which 12 of them were carcinogens.
- In 1979 the site was back filled with loose soil
- The site was originally chosen because the population was sparse at the time
History of the Problem
- Dumping began in the early 1940s but the contamination of homes was not recognised until 1960
- Whilst building the LaSalle Express way, they encountered, oily materials, noxious fumes and corrosive waters.
- During the construction of Read Avenue drums were damaged which released noxious fumes and hazardous chemicals
- A school close to the site reported children were handling phosphorous waste and were burnt from the chemicals
- In 1976 the New York Department of Environmental Conservation conducted several test from site directly adjacent to the site
- In the winter of 1978 New York experienced a record-breaking blizzard, which resulted in an irregular amount a precipitation
- This caused the ‘bathtub effect’
- The canal was contaminated prior to the ‘bathtub effect’
- The toxic chemicals infected directly adjacent homes and the contamination spread
- On the 2nd of August 1978 the Love Canal was declared a medical state of emergency
- Families with young children under the age of 2 and pregnant women were asked to relocate immediately
- The chemicals that were found in the basements of homes included chloroform, thrichloroethene, chlorobenzene and chlorotoluene.
- Skin diseases, acute Leukaemia, aplastic anaemia, several blood diseases, liver tumors, respiratory and cardiac arrest, paralysis of fingers, visual and hearing defects and death
- The highest quantity of dioxin that was found was 300 parts per billion (which is a measurement scale for example one inch in 16 miles)
- 6026 people were detected as contaminated both dead and living
- The expected rate of death from The Love Canals chemicals was 742 and the observed levels were 725
- there were a significant amount of suicide after the people in the area were told they had been living in an extremely toxic area for many years
- In the summer of 1979 the heat and the humidity of the air combined with the chemical fumes, made many of the residents very sick
- Hotels began filling will people
- The government of New York paid $7,500 each day for these expenses
- the Love canal was addressed in seven stages
- they began with initial actions and 6 major long term actions.
- construction began removing contaminated pipe bedding and replace it
- they excavated and disposed pesticide infected soil
- the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation created a system which collected contaminated soil
- The area was fenced off and an leachate treatment plant was enstalled
- Creeks and sewers were cleaned
- Several lawsuits were placed against Occidental Petroleum Corporation, which bought Hooker in 1986.
- Occidental agreed to pay New York $94 million in an out-of-court contract.
- The court case settled for 129 million, which left victims with an excess of $20 million
Heath Effects Today?
- Due to the extensive cleanup action, the site of the Love Canal poses no threat to human health today.
- In 2004 EPA removed the site from the Superfund program’s NPL
(superfund is a US federal government program designed to fund the clean-up of toxic waste)
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Love Canal 2017, SUNY Geneseo, New York, accessed 31 March 2017, <https://www.geneseo.edu/history/love_canal_history>.
Love Canal :: Start of a Movement 2008, Boston University School of Public Health, Boston, accessed 31 March 2017, <https://www.bu.edu/lovecanal/canal/>.
The Tragedy of the Love Canal 2006, Damn Interesting, accessed 31 March 2017, <https://www.damninteresting.com/the-tragedy-of-the-love-canal/>.