Love Canal, New York
Love Canal in suburban Niagara Falls is the site of a major environmental disaster and was the original Superfund site. When I was passing through the area I had to stop and have a look even though I knew there wouldn't be much to look at. Love Canal in the 1970s symbolized everything that was wrong with how we were treating our environment. The disaster helped key pieces of environmental legislation pass. I'm sad to report that there is no memorial of any kind there. I really think there should be. A small monument to the stupidity of the people who thought that it would be a good idea to develop a neighborhood on top of a toxic waste pit or a memorial to the victims would be appropriate. I didn't see a single thing when I was there in 2013. No sign or marker. Not even a historical plaque.
In the late 1800s William Love began building what he hoped would be a canal from the Niagara river to Lake Ontario. The project was abandoned after a few miles of canal were dug. In 1942 Hooker Chemical began dumping toxic chemical waste in the pit that had been dug for the canal. Niagara Falls at that time had a booming chemical industry located along the Niagara River east of downtown. The industry still exists although it has greatly diminished since it's peak in the 60s-70s. In 1953 after dumping chemicals in the pit for 11 years Hooker covered the site. The city of Niagara Falls and the army had also used the site as a dump at various times. Shortly after the dump was covered, the city of Niagara Falls which was experiencing a population boom pressured Hooker chemical to sell the site for the construction of a new school.
The city and school board of Niagara Falls were aware that the site had been used as a chemical waste dump but proceeded to build one and then two schools on the site anyway. The surrounding land was then sold to developers who built streets and houses. The area was fully developed by the late 1950s. Over the next 16 years around 1,000 residents of the area noticed foul smelling, oddly colored water bubbling up in pools in their yards and basements. Residents had numerous health problems and according to some sources more than half of the children born in Love Canal had birth defects. In the late 1970s journalists, especially Michael Brown who worked for the Niagara Falls Gazette worked to uncover and publicise what was going on in Love Canal. Eventually in 1978 the residents of the area were evacuated and the Federal government purchased their houses and demolished them.
The area contaminated by the Love Canal dump is a little less than a square mile. Many efforts have been made over the years to clean up and contain the pollution. Today it's mostly empty. It's crossed by a few deteriorating roads. Almost all the homes in the effected zone have been torn down. 100th Street from Frontier to Colvin passes the most contaminated area which looks like nothing more than a fenced field.
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