Love Canal by Courtney Hafner and Ashlei Lovell

In New York, about four miles south of Niagara Falls, there was a canal that was not completely finished. William T. Love had a dream that creating a canal would generate electricity at a low cost, so work began on digging the canal. The project was abandoned and the canal was later used for a chemical waste dump (EPA). Between 1942 and 1953, Hooker Chemical Company buried over 21,000 tons of deadly chemical waste in the canal (Geneseo). In 1953, the Hooker Chemical Company covered the land with a clay cap and it was sold to the city for one dollar (EPA).

Houses were built and families moved in to the area. A community began to take shape directly on top of the chemical waste site, including a public elementary school, roads, and sewer lines. In the 1970s, residents began to notice a bubbling sludge coming up from the ground. When it began flooding their basements they contacted the city (SIRS).

In 1978, triggered by an abnormally large amount of rainfall, the Love Canal exploded and released chemical waste. After the explosion there were drain pipes exposed and coming up out of the ground, swimming pools popped out of their foundation, and gardens became black and dead. Children came home from playing with burns on their hands and faces (EPA).

Investigative newspapers discovered an increasing rate of birth defects (56% of children), miscarriages, and illnesses such as asthma, epilepsy, migraines, cancer and more (Geneseo). After realizing the intensity of the chemical waste, 239 families were relocated. The cost of relocating all 239 families was approximately 17 million dollars.

In the creeks near the canal there were many species of fish such as largemouth bass, rock bass, sticklebacks, minnows, and more. The chemicals near the area caused young fish to die and the rate of reproduction to decrease. Similar to fish, many birds inhabited the creeks such as mallards, black ducks, and more. The dabbing ducks used the creeks for feeding and because of the chemicals in the creeks they did not survive (FYS).

The cleanup process for an environmental disaster such as the Love Canal was a long process that took a great amount of time and money. Over 250 million dollars was spent on cleaning up this chemical disaster. Most of the clean up efforts were used on the main landfill portion of the site, which consisted of 11,000 cubic yards of waste that had to be removed and taken far away. In addition to this, the EPA decontaminated storm drains, cleaned out and emptied 3,000 ft of contaminated creek beds, and excavated three small isolated areas of tainted land (Hoffman). In the future, polluters will have to learn to be more responsible about disposing their chemical waste, and the government should sanction this behavior and impose fines. The EPA should have to pay for each disaster themselves. Also, the EPA can monitor the amount of waste produced by companies so that waste management isn't a problem in the first place.


Hoffman, A. J. (1995). An uneasy rebirth at love canal. Environment, 37(2), 4. Retrieved from

"Love Canal." Environmental Encyclopedia, edited by Deirdre S. Blanchfield, Gale, 2011. Science in Context, Accessed 10 Apr. 2017.

"Love Canal-A Brief History.", Accessed 10 Apr. 2017.

"Love Canal: A Special Report to the Governor & Legislature: April 1981." New York State Department of Health,

"The Love Canal Tragedy." US Environmental Protection Agency,

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Worden, Amy. &quot;After 25 Years, Love Canal Still Haunts.&quot;<i> Philadelphia Inquirer (Philadelphia, PA)</i>, 01 Aug, 2003<i>, SIRS Issues Researcher</i>, <a href="" target="_blank"></a>.

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