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Love Canal. History, Risk, Hydrology, Geology, Hazardous Waste Management & Air Pollution Jess W Everett Rowan University. L O V E C A N A L 1 9 7 8. Love Canal, ~2006. Love Canal, NY, USA. Canal turned Municipal Dump turned Chemical Landfill becomes

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love canal

Love Canal

History, Risk, Hydrology, Geology, Hazardous Waste Management & Air Pollution

Jess W Everett

Rowan University

l o v e c a n a l 1 9 7 8

love canal ny usa
Love Canal, NY, USA
  • Canal turned
  • Municipal Dump turned
  • Chemical Landfill becomes
  • Health Disaster leads to
  • US Superfund Program
  • Superfund
  • Purpose: clean up uncontrolled contaminated sites
  • Superfund: because it was so big (in the beginning)
love canal timeline
Love Canal Timeline
  • 1890s
    • Niagara Falls, NY
    • William Love starts hydroelectric project
    • Only completes short section of canal
  • 1920s
    • Canal turned into municipal/industrial dumpsite
  • 1953
    • Hooker Chemical Company closes dumpsite
    • Sells to city for $1
    • Eventually turned into neighborhoods & schools…


love canal 1927 aerial
Love Canal 1927 Aerial

Love Canal

love canal 1978 aerial
Canal is from upper left to lower right.

Bare white spots are where plants won’t grow.

Love Canal 1978 Aerial

love canal timeline continued
Love Canal Timeline (continued)
  • April, 1978, Newspaper series
    • On hazardous waste problems in Niagara Falls, NY including Love Canal
  • April, 1978, Residents
    • Concerned about health risks from Love Canal, call on local and state health authorities for answers
  • April 25, 1978, NYS Health Commissioner
    • Confirms public health hazard at Love Canal
    • Orders Niagara County Health Department to remove exposed chemicals and install fence
  • April, 1977, Lois Gibbs, resident and mother of two,
    • Canvasses neighborhood with petition to close school located near center of dumpsite
      • Gibbs’ five year old son attended kindergarten in school

(Love Canal, Center for Health, Environment and Justice,

love canal chemicals
Love Canal - Chemicals
  • Hexachlorocyclohexane, chlorobenzenes, chlorinated hydrocarbons, benzene, chloroform, trichloroethylene, methylene chloride, benzene hexachloride, phosphorous, and polychlorinated biphenyls
  • Dioxin (estimated 60 kg)


love canal timeline continued1
Love Canal Timeline (continued)
  • May 19, 1978, NY State Health Department
    • Meets with residents for first time to explain potential hazards
  • August 2, 1978, Small group of residents
    • Drives to Albany, NY to present petition to close school to NYS Health Department
  • August 2, 1978, NYS Commissioner of Health
    • Declares State of Emergency at Love Canal
    • Orders school closed and clean up plan to be undertaken immediately
    • Recommends pregnant women and children under two living in area immediately surrounding Love Canal landfill should move

(Love Canal, Center for Health, Environment and Justice,

love canal timeline continued2
Love Canal Timeline (continued)
  • August 7, 1978, US President
    • Declares Love Canal neighborhood an emergency
    • Provides funds to permanently relocate 239 families
    • Families in remaining 10-block area, including Lois Gibbs’ family, told they are not at risk
  • February 8, 1979, NYS Department of Health issues 2cd evacuation order
    • Pregnant women and children under age of two in 10 block area outside first evacuation zone of 239 homes should leave
    • Once child turns two years of age or pregnancy terminated, family is to move back into contaminated neighborhood
  • September 8, 1979
    • 300 additional families living within 10 block neighborhood temporarily relocated as a result of health problems caused by chemical exposures from the clean up activities

(Love Canal, Center for Health, Environment and Justice,


(Love Canal,

Center for Health, Environment and Justice,

love canal timeline continued3
Love Canal Timeline (continued)
  • May 17, 1980, USEPA
    • Announces results of blood tests showing chromosome damage in Love Canal residents
    • Residents told that this means they are at increased risk of cancer, reproductive problems and genetic damage
  • May 19, 1980, Love Canal residents
    • “Detain” (hold hostage) two Environmental Protection Agency representatives
    • Challenge US President to relocate all families by Wednesday (May 21st) at noon or “What we’ve done here today, will look like a Sesame Street picnic compared to what we’ll do then”

(Lois Gibbs, President of the Love Canal Homeowners Association)

(Love Canal, Center for Health, Environment and Justice,

health studies
Health Studies
  • LCHA’s study of ‘79-’80 found increases in
    • miscarriages, still births, crib deaths,
    • nervous breakdowns, hyperactivity,
    • epilepsy, and
    • urinary tract disorders
  • August, 1997 - NYS Department of Health
    • awarded $3 million to conduct follow-up health study of families

(Love Canal, Center for Health, Environment and Justice,

health studies cont
Health Studies (cont)
  • 2006 – Preliminary results (Caution – Small data set)
    • Mortality rates about the same
    • Cancer rates
      • Overall lower!, but higher rates of bladder, kidney and lung cancers
      • Bladder and Kidney especially higher amongst those w/ childhood exposure
    • Reproduction
      • More likelihood of having a girl
      • More birth defects (2x higher! but based on small numbers)
      • Mothers living near LC during pregnancy more likely to have premature or small babies; Not so if pregnancy occurred after moving away

love canal timeline continued4
Love Canal Timeline (continued)
  • May 21, 1980, US President
    • Agrees to evacuate all Love Canal families temporarily until permanent relocation funds are secured
  • October 1, 1980, President Carter
    • Visits Niagara Falls & signs appropriation bill providing funding for permanent relocation for all 900 families who wished to leave
  • December 20, 1983,Lawsuit filed by 1328 Love Canal residents
    • Settle for ~ $20M dollars with Occidental Chemical
    • $1M set aside for Medical Trust Fund

(Love Canal, Center for Health, Environment and Justice,

love canal 1980 aerial
Love Canal 1980 Aerial

Taken from almost directly over Love Canal

love canal timeline continued5
Love Canal Timeline (continued)
  • September 1988, NYS Department of Health
    • Completes 5 year Habitability Study
    • Concludes some portions of Love Canal “as habitable as other areas of Niagara Falls”
  • September 15, 1989,People from across US
    • Join former Love Canal residents at NY capitol to protest decision to move new families back to Love Canal
  • January 19, 1990, Lois Gibbs and others
    • Meet with E.P.A. Administrator in attempt to block resettlement of northern portion of Love Canal

(Love Canal, Center for Health, Environment and Justice,

love canal timeline continued6
Love Canal Timeline (continued)
  • April 1, 1990 - Community leaders from across state/nation & one-time residents of Love Canal
    • Hold major rally in Niagara Falls to protest resettlement
  • August 15, 1990, Love Canal Revitalization Agency
    • Renames portion of Love Canal, Black Creek Village
    • Announces 9 homes available for sale to general public
  • November 28, 1990, First new family
    • moves into Love Canal, but further efforts to sell homes move slowly
    • Regional banks unwilling to accept mortgages for Love Canal homes

(Love Canal, Center for Health, Environment and Justice,

love canal timeline continued7
Love Canal Timeline (continued)
  • April, 1992, Federal Housing Administration
    • Agrees to provide mortgage insurance to families who wish to purchase Love Canal homes
  • June 22, 1994, Occidental Petroleum
    • Agrees to pay $98 million to cover New York State’s cleanup costs
  • January 5, 1995, Occidental Chemical
    • Takes over full operations and maintenance of chemical waste treatment plant at Love Canal.
  • December 22, 1995 - Occidental Petroleum
    • agrees to pay $129 million to cover the federal government’s cleanup costs at Love Canal.

129 + 98 + 20 = $247M

(Love Canal, Center for Health, Environment and Justice,

love canal initial engineering
Love Canal – Initial Engineering
  • Original Dump Site
    • Hooker Chemical followed then law
      • Lined dump with concrete
      • Capped it with porcelain and clay
      • Tried to keep city from building on site
      • Probably would have failed eventually even if left alone
      • Damaged by various building activities, including sewer construction


love canal exposure
Love Canal - Exposure
  • Water table in the canal rose and fell, rain infiltrated, creating leachate
  • Leachate moved out through
    • Topsoil to homes built nearby
    • Old stream bed that crossed canal and underground sand layers into the basements of adjacent homes
  • Significant health impacts in families
    • Living near site, or
    • On old stream beds near site


love canal cap and collect
Love Canal – Cap and Collect

(Love Canal, Center for Health, Environment and Justice,

love canal site remedation
Love Canal – Site Remedation
  • Initial Actions – 1978, NYS
    • Leachate collection system and treatment plant
    • landfill area covered and fenced
  • 1981, EPA
    • Fence around Black Creek
    • Environmental studies
  • Landfill Containment - 1982, EPA
    • Barrier drain
    • Leachate collection system
    • Replaced temporary clay cap with synthetic
    • Demolished contaminated houses & school adjacent to Canal
    • More studies
    • Monitoring (4 years later!!!)

love canal site remediation
Love Canal – Site Remediation
  • 1985, NYS
    • 40-acre cap
    • Improved leachate collection
    • New leachate treatment facility
  • Sewers, Creeks, and Berms - 1985, EPA ROD
    • Cleaned / inspected sewers (>60k ft)
    • Removed / stored contaminated sediment (>40k cu-yd)
    • Last of sediment thermally destroyed and disposed of in 2000
  • 93rd Street School - 1988 EPA ROD
    • Excavation and off-site disposal of contaminated soils completed 1992
    • Demolished school subsequently

love canal site remediation1
Love Canal – Site Remediation
  • Properties
    • Federal government & NYS purchased affected properties
    • Maintained and rehabilitated properties
    • ~ 260 homes have been resold
    • A new senior citizen housing development constructed in habitable section
  • Portion of cap required liner replacement and regrading in 1993
  • Love Canal deleted from National Priorities List in 2004

love canal 20111
Love Canal 2011
  • Toxic chemicals found in sewers in the “habitable” section of Love Canal in Feb. 2011
    • Center for Health, Environment & Justice, CHEJ
superfund program usa
Superfund Program - USA
  • Clean up uncontrolled hazardous waste sites
  • Started 1980
  • 25 years later
    • construction work complete at 966 (62%) private and federal Superfund sites
    • work underway at additional 422
  • Still, 1 in 4 Americans live < 5 km from a Superfund site
  • There are thousands of Non-federal sites



superfund and landfills
Many sites are old municipal landfills that also accepted industrial wastes

We need to make sure current and future landfills don’t become dangerous sites…

Superfund and Landfills


what are your experiences
What are Your Experiences?
  • Spend a few minutes talking in groups of 3 about waste sites in your hometown or county
    • Landfills or other types
    • Health impacts?
    • Clean up attempts?