Where is love’s channel?

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Love Canal, a residential neighborhood in Niagara Falls, New York, was used as a dumping ground for toxic waste for much of the 20th century. Hooker Chemical and Plastics Corporation buried nearly 22,000 tons of toxic waste products there. The harmful effects of chemicals on nearby residents brought toxic waste to the forefront of global consciousness. Love Canal was removed from the EPA’s Superfund cleanup list in 2004 after cleanup work was completed.

Love Canal is a 36-block residential neighborhood in the southeast area of ​​the city of Niagara Falls, New York. Beghotz Creek borders the neighborhood on the north side and the Niagara River borders it on the south. Part of Love Canal was a dumping ground for toxic chemicals and waste for much of the 20th century. The harmful effects of chemicals on nearby residents have brought toxic waste and its potentially devastating dangers to humans to the fore of global consciousness.

The district is named after William T. Love, who proposed building a canal to connect the two different levels of Niagara to help the local economy. Only 1 mile (1.61 kilometers) was completed and the plan was scrapped due to economic problems. The City of Niagara Falls purchased the land in 1920 and it was repurposed as a chemical waste disposal site. The US military is also said to have dumped waste from chemical experiments at Love Canal.

From 1942 to 1953, Hooker Chemical and Plastics Corporation, which bought the land from the city, buried nearly 22,000 tons (20,000 tons) of toxic waste products in Love Canal. By 1953 the site was deemed to have reached maximum capacity and was closed.

The Niagara Falls school board needed land to expand and lobbied Hooker Chemical to sell an area of ​​the landfill. They were interested in building a new school on a part of the property that hadn’t been used as a landfill, but bordered it. Hooker Chemical sold the entire property for the low price of $1 US dollar (USD), but included a brief disclaimer releasing them from potential liability. 99th Street School was built for elementary school students partially on the landfill site.

In the late 1950s, homes were being built on Love Canal, bordering the landfill, and unfortunately buyers were not advised of the site’s potential dangers. Over the next few years, residents of Love Canal reported strange odors and substances appearing on their properties. Local officials responded by covering the substances with clay and further “securing” the landfill.

It wasn’t until nearly 20 years later that the Love Canal Homeowner’s Association, led by President Lois Gibbs, mother of a 99th Street Elementary School student, began bringing the neighborhood’s woes to the nation’s attention. It would be a three year battle to have the situation rectified by the government and Hooker Chemical. Love Canal residents suffered from high rates of cancer, birth defects, and unexplained illnesses. In previous years, they had had a hard time proving that the landfill was to blame.
The New York State Department of Health began a study in 1978 that evaluated the air, soil and health of a sample of residents. On April 25, 1978, the New York State Commissioner of Health issued a public health hazard warning, declaring the area dangerous. Residents still had health problems and could not sell their homes to move away from the site.

President Jimmy Carter intervened on August 7, 1978, when he issued a declaration of a federal emergency. The residents were immediately relocated. After much testing and investigation, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) determined that the chemicals had indeed seeped into residents’ basements and homes and caused irreversible chromosomal damage and reproductive problems. This damage has contributed to a higher risk of developing cancer, as well as other serious health problems.
On May 21, 1980, a state of emergency was declared and more than 800 Love Canal families were permanently relocated and paid for their properties. Superfund was created in response to the catastrophe, and as a result, Hooker Chemical’s parent company, Occidental Petroleum, was forced to pay $129 million to fix the problem.

Love Canal was removed from the EPA’s Superfund cleanup list in 2004 after the agency said all cleanup work was complete. The landfill itself is still cordoned off, surrounded by fences, but the northern neighborhood has been renamed and repopulated.

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