The Environmental Protection Agency reported last week that it has taken Love Canal off its Superfund list, declaring clean-up work in the area complete. The contamination of soil and groundwater in the Niagara Falls, New York neighborhood spurred Congress in 1980 to pass its landmark Superfund legislation mandating clean-up of industrial pollution sites across the U.S.
“By taking the Love Canal site off the Superfund list, we will mark a turning point for the nation,” said Jane Kenny, EPA's regional administrator. “This was the site that really started Superfund.”
The Niagara Falls neighborhood had been built on and around a former chemical dump, and by the 1960s and 1970s, contaminated groundwater was leaching into back yards and school grounds.
In 1978, President Carter declared a federal emergency which led to the evacuation of some 900 families and the bulldozing of an elementary school and two streets built on the canal, which was harboring some 21,000 tons of World War II-era chemical byproducts as a result of irresponsible industrial dumping. Passage of the 1980 Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act, known as Superfund, soon followed.
Occidental Chemical, formerly Hooker Chemical and Plastics, used the abandoned canal for its waste in the 1940s and 1950s. The company has paid more than $233 million since 1995 to cover cleanup costs and medical expenses for victims of the contamination and continues to pay for the site's monitoring.