Unnatural Disaster No. 1: Love Cannal Incident


*For those who don’t want to read this. There is a summary of this event in the form of an infographic at the end of this post.

William T. Love came to Niagara Falls, New York, in 1890. His vision was to create an enormous Utopian city. He planned to power the city using hydroelectric dams on a new 11-kilometer canal between upper and lower Niagara Rivers. Within a year his plan failed as Tesla discovered A.C that could provide electricity to larger area than D.C current. All that was left of the dream was a partial ditch where construction of a canal was began. The ditch became a dumping site for industrial and municipal waste.

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In 1953, Hooker Chemical Company covered the ditch and sold the area to the community for one dollar. A school was then built nearby which then attracted people and in the end a community was formed.

The explosion of this burial site was triggered by a record amount of rainfall. Shortly thereafter, the leaching began. Corroding waste disposal drums were seen breaking up through the grounds of backyards. Trees and gardens turned black. Basements were filled with black colored liquid. The air had faint, but choking smell. One of the chemicals released was benzene, a human carcinogen. More than 20 health problems were found. In soil, traces of Dioxin were found which a known carcinogen is.  Moreover,

  • Birth defects were observed,
  • The community had high white blood cells count, a possible precursor of leukemia.Love_Canal_protest

Finally, in the spring of 1978, state health commissioner Dr. Robert P. Whalen declared the area around the Love Canal hazardous. The school was closed, the land was sectioned off, and more than 200 families were evacuated. Lawsuits arrived, and the Hooker Chemical Company found itself being sued for more than $11 billion. Later on about 1,000 families were evacuated. The EPA’s final action on Love Canal came on October 28, 1987, in the form of a federal grant of $30 million the money was to be used for on-site thermal destruction. A portable thermal destruction unit was installed.

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A mobile thermal destruction unit.

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One good thing that came out of this disaster was the creation of the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA), more commonly known as the ‘Superfund’ law. Its aim is to collects taxes from gas and chemical corporations to be used directly to clean up any sites similar to the Love Canal.

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