The Love Canal, State of New York Hazardous Waste Site

Table of Contents


Love canal is in New York neighboring Niagara Fall. It was being constructed to connect Niagara River with Niagara Falls. Its vision was to provide electricity and the industries in the area. This initiative was started by William T. Love and was named after him. The initiative did not succeed due to a lack of funding. When his vision failed he started envisioning a perfect urban area but this never came true. He later abandoned the project. The canal was later filled with water. Later the canal became dumping for waste chemicals from industries of Niagara fall municipality. The reason was to pour the chemicals there and bury them underground as seemed no hope of constructing hydroelectricity. According to Beck (1979), “By 1940, a company by the name of Hooker Chemical and Plastic Corporation began a search for a dump to store the increasing amount of chemical waste it was producing. Finding Love Canal ideal, it made arrangements with the local power company, the owner of the site, to dump its waste there. They prepared the canal for the waste by draining it and lining it with clay. Into this site, Hooker began placing fifty-five gallon metal barrels”. Later schools like Niagara Falls schools were constructed and living houses to rent. This led to public health concerns as development led to the place being full of hazardous waste. All through, health issues have become a great concern to health institutions. The waste is associated with cancer, reproduction problems, and also genetic. The purpose of this paper is to find out how health issues can be solved.


In April 1978, Michael Brown wrote an article cautioning of the problems of hazardous waste in Niagara Falls. This led the community to call upon the authority and health institutions to provide a solution. This led to New York Health commissioner to order the county to remove the waste and fence the area.

In April 1978, Lois Gibbs who was a resident petitioned for the closure of 99th street School which was near the dumpsite, and her son was studying there. In May New York State Health Department met due to exposure to hazardous waste. Later in August, the commissioner declared a state of emergency of Love Canal. He ordered the school to be closed and plan for the area to be put in place.

On August 7, 1978, the president gave out money to relocate families that lived in the area. Gibb and her neighbors were told not to be at risk and therefore no need to relocate. Followed year pregnancy women and children under 2yaers were removed from the area due to their health and returned afterward.

May 17, 1980- Environmental protection agency performed a blood test on residents and announced chromosome damage which put them at high risk of getting cancer and reproduction problem. This led one of the agencies to question the white house to relocate all residents.

According to Beck (1980), the president toured Niagara Falls with an idea to sign a bill that will lead to the relocation of all 900 families. From 1994 to 95, occidental Petroleum was at the forefront to give out money to clean the area. In 1998, Congressman John J. LaFalce led to the destruction of houses in the Love canal as he declared them unsuitable for leaving.


It is a great problem to let people continue to live in a place that is dangerous to their lives. Therefore as more solutions to the problem are worked, the best way is to relocate residents from the region to another area. Although some have been evacuated, those who neighbor’s the area, the government should come up with a strategy of relocating them and demolish all residential houses. According to Gibbs, Levine (1982), “At the time of the first evacuation order in August of 1978, the state established the Love Canal Interagency Task Force to coordinate the many activities undertaken at the canal. The task force had three major responsibilities: the relocation of evacuated families, the continuation of health and environmental studies and the construction of a drainage system to prevent further migration of toxic chemicals”. This is because those within its environment were at risk due to polluted air and the only way was to relocate them.

Clean up process act. This is because the water level would change. As a result, water contaminated with chemicals would move out to the land and affect the community. Also, an old stream that is within the sand layers would flow to adjacent homes and residents. The cleanup method consists of how to drain the waste and prevent the flow of chemicals. To fulfill this, a trench was dug around the canal to protect flow and as a drain system. The trench was re-emptied by pumping to a treatment plant to filter and remove chemicals from waste. Chemicals such as mercury could not be filtered and were drained into the Niagara River. To mitigate this, rainwater was minimized from flowing into the canal by the use of a clay cap placed on top of the canal. Up to now, more waste is still buried and people are still living there. The act also ensures that millions of hazardous wastes are disposed of in the right way. These include the control of hazardous waste from the time it is produced to the time of its disposal.

Another method that can be used is to take on coordinated actions to protest against human health and the environment. This is purposely for the government to have attention to the areas’ residents. The goals according to Fletcher (2003), “To legitimize toxics and community protests, to encourage stepped-up organizing and action, to move toward racial unity and geographic solidarity, to help guardians of the status quo to overreact and err, to stop some poisoning and save some lives, to set the stage for more comprehensive achievements.” Also according to Beck (1979), “If it had not been for the large, strong citizen organization, families would still be living at Love Canal with the health authorities saying there were no health problems.”


After the evacuation of the residents, research done showed that those who remained in the Love Canal environment had cancer. According to Gibbs, Levine (1982), “More than 75% of the homes outside the fenced area were included in the study. The 239 families who lived closest to the canal were not included because they were already evacuated. Thus, the results were an underestimate of the total health damages in the community.”

Also, when people are relocated from the area it leads to loss of property as houses are demolished. The figure below shows buildings in the area that has to be demolished or the owners used to sell them at a loss as no one was ready to live there.

Governments act to clean up the area has helped establish safe ways of handling and disposal of hazardous waste. Also, it has assisted the government to be able to make an assessment of dangers associated with chemicals before they are disposed of. This has dramatically cut the cost of environmental risks although the residents of Love Canal have suffered.


Although more is being done to secure people who live near and in Love Canal, one of the biggest problems is changing of owners over time it is becoming difficult to determine the cost in case of a problem. This is because there is no means of determining such problems when they occur. Also, all done by the government on Love Canal was for political purposes which include health studies and evacuation and groups organized by residents, people could still be living in the area. The recommendation is that when any environmental matter is announced government should move faster and send its specialist in the area to conduct research. If any risk is found, people living in the area should be evacuated as the solution is looked for without involving it with politics. This is to avoid more harm to people as in Love Canal. Also, whenever industries are looking for a dump site to indicate how dangerous the chemicals are by associating government officers. Lastly, in any place that was once a dump site of hazardous waste, people should never be around to reside under any circumstances.


Beck, E. C.,(1979). The Love Canal Tragedy. London: Broadview Press.

Bryan, N.(2004). Love Canal: Pollution Crisis. Washington: World Almanac Library.

Gibbs, L. M. (1982). Love Canal: My Story. New York: State University of New York Press.

Fletcher, T. H. (2003). From Love Canal to Environmental Justice: The Politics of Hazardous Waste on the Canada-U.S. Border. London: Broadview Press.