Skip to main content Skip to Search Box
Summary Article: Love Canal
From The Columbia Encyclopedia

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 Encyclopedia, © Columbia University Press 2018

Related Articles

Full text Article Love Canal
International Encyclopedia of Environmental Politics

From the 1920s to 1950s, an abandoned canal in Niagara Falls, New York, USA served as a repository for both municipal waste, and hazardous...

Full text Article Love Canal
Encyclopedia of Environment and Society

FOLLOWING DISCLOSURE OF toxic dumping in a site that later became residential, the case of Love Canal demonstrated the hazards of buried and...

Full text Article Love Canal
Encyclopedia of Epidemiology

In the late 1970s, Love Canal—first a toxic waste site, then a neighborhood in southeastern Niagara Falls, New York—ignited national concerns on...

See more from Credo