Toxic Dumpsite "Love Canal" on EPA's National Priorities List

The Love Canal dumpsite located in Niagara Falls, New York, was first declared a state emergency on 2 August 1978 and then a federal health emergency five days later, after it was discovered that mothers in the area experienced an abnormal rate of miscarriage and many children were born with birth defects. The Love Canal, previously owned by William T. Love and bought by Elon Hooker in 1948, was used as a dumpsite for toxic and carcinogenic chemical waste produced by Hooker Chemical Company beginning in 1942, and remained open as an active dumpsite for almost 10 years. When the site was closed in 1952 and the chemicals were buried deep into the Canal, Hooker sold the land to the Niagara Falls City School District, explicitly noting the dangers of building on the site. Despite the warnings, the school district built two schools, a children’s playground, and residential areas on the land. After numerous health incidents, President Jimmy Carter allocated federal funds for the cleanup of the toxic chemicals left underground. In 1981 Love Canal was placed on the Environment Protection Agency’s National Priorities List to receive federal cleanup aid. Until 1999 site remediation continued, and in 2004 Love Canal was removed from the list; however, it remains part of the Inactive Hazardous Waste Disposal Site Program of the State of New York.

Contributed by Colleen Alexander
Course: Global Environmental History
Instructor: Andrew Stuhl, Ph.D.
Bucknell University Lewisburg, US

Further Readings: 
  • Brown, Michael Harold. "Love's New Model City." In Laying Waste: The Poisoning of America by Toxic Chemicals, 5-27. 1st ed. New York, NY: Pantheon Book, 1980.
  • Gibbs, Lois Marie. "The Problem at Love Canal." In Love Canal: My Story, 1-46. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1982.
  • Mazur, Allan. "Love's Canal, Hooker's Account, The School Boards Account, Digression: Growing Concerns about Trace Poisons, The Health Department's Account." In: A Hazardous Inquiry: The Rashomon Effect at Love Canal, 8-58, 89-113. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1998.