Between 1942 and 1952, Hooker Chemicals & Plastics Corp. buried more than 21,000 tons of hazardous chemical wastes there - right near romantic Niagra Falls - in a 3,000-feet long trough. Over the next 20 years, chemicals from the site seeped into people’s basements, contaminating underground sewer pipes and soil, and polluting the indoor air. The government found an unusually high number of miscarriages among women living near Love Canal, and an elevated number of birth defects. As the Retro Report/New York Times piece shows, after a out-and-out organizing and public relations brawl between the EPA, the state and area residents, who demanded that families be relocated, the community won. Approximately 950 families were finally evacuated from a 10-square block surrounding the landfill.
By February 1982, more than 600 personal injury cases had been filed against Hooker (which was bought by Occidental Chemical Co.). In January 1985, 1,336 residents agreed to a $20 million settlement with Occidental that established a $1 million medical trust fund. Thirteen years later, the last of the Love Canal cases brought by 899 victims settled for $6.75 million. (See more in the Center for Justice & Democracy's report.) Funds from the settlements have helped pay medical expenses of former Love Canal residents who have illnesses that have been linked to the contamination.
What's more, Love Canal spurred passage of the Comprehensive Environmental Remediation, Liability and Compensation Act (CERCLA), also known as “the Superfund law,” which mandates cleanup of toxic sites. But in March 2004, the EPA declared cleanup at Love Canal "complete," despite the fact that the site was never cleaned up, and removed Love Canal from the “Superfund list” of hazardous waste sites.
Actually, the site was merely capped with some clay and a big tarp. The area was renamed “Black Creek Village.” And then, the state resold all the homes for cheap, assuring residents that the pollution was contained and that it was safe to move back! (For more about this, check out the pretty funny video from the 1994 television show, TV Nation, below.)
But sure enough, as AP reported earlier this month:
New residents, attracted by promises of cleaned-up land and affordable homes, say in lawsuits that they are being sickened by the same buried chemicals from the disaster in the Niagara Falls neighborhood in the 1970s.
"We're stuck here. We want to get out," said 34-year-old Dan Reynolds, adding that he's been plagued by mysterious rashes and other ailments since he moved into the four-bedroom home purchased a decade ago for $39,900.
His wife, Teresa, said she's had two miscarriages and numerous unexplained cysts.
"We knew it was Love Canal, that chemicals were here," she said. But when she bought the house, she said she was swayed by assurances that the waste was contained and the area was safe.
Six families have sued over the past several months. Lawyers familiar with the case say notice has been given that an additional 1,100 claims could be coming.
The lawsuits, which don't specify damages sought, contend Love Canal was never properly remediated and dangerous toxins continue to leach onto residents' properties.
Yup. Sad. Wish they'd seen TV Nation, I guess. Full segment below: