A Mojo Nature Hall of Fame Superfund Bedtime Story
A neighborhood so toxic it had to be evacuated.
The 20,000-plus tons of chemicals buried at Love Canal are there to this day; EPA deemed it too dangerous to try to remove them.
In 1978, the Niagara Falls subdivision/neighborhood known as Love Canal was condemned and the residents relocated at government expense. Another way to phrase “government expense” is “at your expense”. But you didn’t cause the problem at Love Canal. It was caused by a toxic soup of chemicals and nuclear waste seldom equaled on this planet. And the people who did it and then covered it up never paid.
Most disaster areas are the result of sudden acts of nature, such as hurricanes and floods. This one, however was man made and was preceded by literally decades of criminal coverups on the part of chemical companies and the government.
An early example of grass roots activism that paid off to some extent, this story is both inspiring and depressing. The depressing part is how little the regard for human life on the part of corporate america and their government atavars has changed.
In September 1988, the Love Canal was declared “habitable,” not to be confused with “safe.” The 239 homes closest to the canal have been demolished and the remaining homes may be sold to new families. The homes that will be re-inhabited are still contaminated, still unsafe. There have been no cleanup measures taken around the homes, which were found to have several toxic chemicals in and around them. Only the creek and sewer systems were cleaned.
In the case of Love Canal, history will most likely repeat itself. The deeds will contain a clause stating that if the new owners become sick, harmed, or die due to the Love Canal wastes, the city, state or federal governments will not be responsible. This clause is similar to the “Hooker Clause” in the earlier land transfer in 1950.
In conclusion, it is important to add that canal families did not know that they were being exposed to poisonous chemicals, nor were they aware that chemical wastes were being dumped in our rivers, soil, and air. Love Canal awoke a community to the unpleasantness and unfortunate realization of how toxic wastes affect out lives, and destroy our environment. Residents at Love Canal always believed that the government would automatically protect them. They were wrong; in some cases dead wrong!
Today, nearly half of the U.S. population lives within 10 miles of one of the EPA’s 1,304 active and proposed Superfund sites, according to the Center for Public Integrity, a nonprofit group dedicated to investigative journalism.