The Love Canal Incident of 1978

The Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act of 1980 was established due to two main environmental disasters: the Love Canal and Times Beach. Also called the Superfund Act, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency drafted legislation to clean up previous toxic waste sites that were presenting a clear and present danger to the environment or communities surrounding the area. The act also forces responsible parties for the pollution to take action in the cleanup process and fixing other damages to the environment.

In the early 1900’s, a canal was constructed that joined the lower and upper Niagara Rivers. This area was bought in the 1920’s and transformed into a municipal and industrial chemical dump zone. For decades it was used in this manner, not adhering to safety standards. In 1953, the site was covered and sold to the city of Niagara Falls. The area was made into a working community with over 100 homes and a school. In 1978, Love Canal exploded.

Due to heavy rainfall, the chemicals below the surface of the small town were released, infiltrating basements, appearing in the roads, and even present in the playground of the schools. Children would return from recess with burns after accidentally interacting with the chemical puddles. Birth defects were prominent in the town, with children being born with cleft palates, extra rows of teeth, mental retardation, and deafness. There were also abnormally high white blood cell counts in several of the residents which is an indicator of leukemia.

The government bought the houses within the community after evacuating the residents. The process of cleaning up the chemical spills is ongoing. These types of environmental disasters that endanger human lives are not uncommon. The town of Anniston, Alabama is still plagued with toxic Monsanto PCBs which are responsible for the prevalent diabetes and cancer in the families residing there. The Superfund Act sets out to hold manufacturers of these harmful chemicals accountable for the damage they cause to the environment and affected humans.


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