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Control of Toxic and Hazardous Substances. Love Canal . In August 1978 President Carter declared a federal emergency at the Love Canal due to contamination by toxic chemicals in the area. Love Canal focused attention on hazardous waste issues and led to the passage of the federal Superfund Act.

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love canal
Love Canal
  • In August 1978 President Carter declared a federal emergency at the Love Canal due to contamination by toxic chemicals in the area.
  • Love Canal focused attention on hazardous waste issues and led to the passage of the federal Superfund Act.
love canal background
Love Canal -- Background
  • The Love Canal neighborhood is in the city of Niagara Falls, New York.
  • In 1978 the neighborhood included about 800 homes, 240 low-income apartments, and the 99th Street Elementary School.
  • The neighborhood was located over and around a landfill that had been active in earlier decades.
love canal some history
Love Canal – some history
  • The canal was to be built in the 1890s for ship navigation, but it was never completed.
  • Early 1900s: the unfinished canal was used for swimming and boating.
  • The land was sold in 1920 and became a municipal and industrial dump site.
  • From 1942 to 1953, Hooker Chemical dumped about 21,000 tons of ‘toxic chemicals” at the site.
love canal some history6
Love Canal – some history
  • In 1953 the landfill was covered with layers of dirt.
  • The Niagara Falls Board of Education bought the site from Hooker Chemical.
  • As the city started to grow into the area, the 99th Street Elementary School was built over the landfill, and homes were built around the site.
love canal some history7
Love Canal – some history
  • From the late 1950s into the 1970s, residents reported foul odors and complained that “substances” were seeping into their basements, yards, and the school playground.
  • The city assisted by covering up the seeping “substances.”
  • Tests found high levels of PCB’s in storm sewers and toxic chemicals in wells.
slide10
Love

Canal

in 1980

love canal environmental damages
Love Canal: Environmental Damages
  • Reports suggested that there was an unusually high rate of birth defects and miscarriages among Love Canal families.
  • In 1980 the EPA announced that chromosome damage had been found in 11 out of 36 residents tested in the area.
  • There has not been conclusive proof of a link between Love Canal and any illness.
  • The health of residents of the Love Canal area is being monitored in a number of ongoing studies.
love canal today
Love Canal today
  • The canal itself has been fenced, and groundwater flow from it has been blocked.
  • The surrounding area, now called Black Creek Village, is home to hundreds of families.
  • About 260 homes abandoned in the late 1970s have been renovated and resold.
  • Chemical wastes were left in a 70-acre site, but it was capped and fenced.
love canal regulatory impact
Love Canal – Regulatory Impact
  • The Love Canal disaster spurred the passage of the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) – The Superfund Act – by Congress in 1980.
  • Remediation efforts at Love canal took more than twenty years, with a large share of the costs being paid by the chemical company that bought Hooker Chemical.
  • Love Canal was removed from the federal government’s Superfund list in 2004.
sources
Sources
  • http://ublib.buffalo.edu/libraries/projects/lovecanal/introduction.html

History of the site from the local perspective.

  • http://www.epa.gov/region02/superfnd/site_sum/0201290c.htm

An overview from the EPA.

toxic waste problems like love canal are especially hard to handle
Toxic waste problems like Love Canal are especially hard to handle:
  • It may be hard to identify the polluter.
  • Pollution might be the result of an improbable accident rather than an on-going activity.
  • It might be unclear how liability should be shared between two or more possible polluters.
  • Remediation must be completed quickly, but it might take a long time to decide who should pay.
  • It’s hard to measure the amount of pollution or the likely damages.
  • Health problems might have a long latency period.
federal responses resource conservation and recovery act 1976
Federal responses:Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (1976)
  •  “Cradle to grave” management of hazardous wastes
    • Established standards for storage and transport of hazardous materials.
    • Required hazardous waste handlers to track and report all movements of wastes.
  • Established tough standards for landfills.
federal responses resource conservation and recovery act 197617
Federal responses:Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (1976)

Efficiency and cost-effectiveness of the RCRA approach

  • Efficiency: Rules (such as the designation of certain wastes as hazardous) are based on factors such as toxicity, with no consideration of the costs of control.
  • Cost-effectiveness: RCRA is an another example of the use of uniform standards to control pollution.
federal responses cercla the superfund act 1980
Federal responses:CERCLA – the Superfund Act (1980)
  • Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act established a fund – Superfund – to facilitate cleanup of hazardous waste sites.
  • Authorized the federal government to clean up hazardous waste sites and recover damages from responsible parties.
  • Established a tax on oil and chemical companies to fund cleanup costs at abandoned sites; but this funding ended long ago.
  • Tightened legal liability standards for hazardous waste problems.
superfund
Superfund
  • The National Priorities List (NPL) includes sites that pose the greatest threats to human health; these are supposed to get immediate attention.
  • NPL Sites in the US, NPL, Superfund, US EPA
  • Construction Completions at National Priorities List (NPL) Sites - by State, NPL, Superfund, US EPA
  • Deleted National Priorities List (NPL) Sites - by State, NPL, Superfund, US EPA
progress under superfund21
Progress under Superfund

Summary of Superfund Program Accomplishments (End of 2006)

  • 1006 Superfund sites have had all cleanup construction completed.
  • There were 1557 final NPL sites, so construction has been completed at 65% of them.
  • The EPA was conducting 653 cleanup projects at 414 sites.
  • In 2006 the EPA obtained commitments from “potentially responsible parties” in the private sector to provide $391 million for future remediation work and $164 million to reimburse the EPA for past costs.
what legal standard should apply
What legal standard should apply?

The choice of a legal standard can determine:

  • Who pays for remediation?
    • Whenever possible, we want it to be the case that “The polluter pays.”
  • What level of precaution will be chosen by waste handlers and other possible hazardous waste “sources”?
    • Waste handlers will choose a higher level of precaution if that reduces the risk of a lawsuit later.
    • Therefore the threat of legal action can provide significant incentives.
what legal standard should apply23
What legal standard should apply?

Possible standards:

  • Negligence standard:
    • Waste handler has a duty to exercise “due care.”
    • If it can be proved that damages were caused by the waste handler’s negligence (or lack of “due care”), then the waste handler can be forced to pay compensation.
    • An example: One rule that’s sometimes applied in the courts is that the defendant is guilty of negligence if

(damages) × (probability of contamination) > cost of preventing contamination

what legal standard should apply24
What legal standard should apply?

Possible standards:

  • Negligence standard (cont.)
    • Who pays?
      • If negligence can be proved, then the polluter pays.
      • But it can be hard to prove negligence!
    • Incentives?
what legal standard should apply25
What legal standard should apply?
  • Strict liability
    • Courts have determined that this can be applied in Superfund cases
    • Definition: if an activity causes damage, the defendant is liable for damages, even if the defendant was not negligent and was not breaking any laws.
    • Who pays?
    • Incentives?
what legal standard should apply26
What legal standard should apply?
  • Joint and several liability
    • Courts have determined that this standard also can be applied in Superfund cases
    • Definition: if several parties are responsible for damages, each of them individually is potentially liable for all the damages.
    • Who pays?
      • The government can choose to sue only a few parties who might be responsible.
what legal standard should apply27
What legal standard should apply?
  • Joint and several liability (cont.)
    • Incentives?
      • In principle, each responsible party has an incentive to turn in other responsible parties.
      • But this also provides an incentive for defendants to appeal decisions, leading to lengthy and costly court battles.
        • In the 1980s, legal costs accounted for more than 50% (and perhaps as much as 90%) of remediation costs.
      • The government tends to sue larger firms, so:
        • Smaller firms have little incentive to take precautions.
        • Larger firms have an incentive to choose a higher level of precaution than would be economically efficient.