Love Canal, section of Niagara Falls, N.Y., that formerly contained a canal that was used as chemical disposal site. In the 1940s and 50s the empty canal was used by a chemical and plastics company to dump nearly 20,000 tons (c.18,000 metric tons) of toxic waste; the waste was sealed in metal drums in a manner that has since been declared illegal. The canal was then filled in and the land given to the expanding city of Niagara Falls by the chemical company. Housing and an elementary school were built on the site. By the late 1970s several hazardous chemicals had leaked through their drums and risen to the surface. Investigations confirmed the existence of toxins in the soil and determined that they were responsible for the area's unusually high rates of birth defects, miscarriages, cancer, illness, and chromosome damage. Families were evacuated from the area in 1978, and in 1980 the Love Canal area was declared a national emergency.
The disaster led to the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency's "Superfund," which makes responsible parties liable for the cleanup of environmental hazards. More than $20,000,000 in settlement damages was paid by the chemical company and the city of Niagara Falls to a group of former residents. The company also agreed in 1994 to pay New York state $98 million and in 1995 to pay the federal government $129 million toward the costs incurred during the cleanup of the area. The evacuated neighborhood was repopulated in the 1990s after the cleanup was completed.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.