Good Example Of Love Canal Disaster Research Paper
Love Canal is situated in the city of Niagara Falls and is named after William T. Love, the original developer of the site. Although the Canal began as a utopian vision, it has ended as one of the most disastrous environmental disasters. Love’s vision was to develop a canal for harnessing energy with a hydroelectric power plant and had hoped that the project would encourage development in the area. However, the vision was never fulfilled.
When the land was sold to Hooker Chemicals and Plastics, the company began using the excavated area as a landfill for chemical wastes. Thus, over a decade, the site became the dumping ground for 21,000 tons of toxic wastes. The toxins that covered the 16 acres included pesticides, dioxin, organics, chlorobenzenes (Angelo, 2008).
The discovery of the disaster
When NFBE began development in Love Canal in1953, there were residencies and an elementary school built in the area that was close to the landfill. The residents started complaining strange odors in the 1960’s, and those complaints rose in the 1970’s. The toxins from the landfill were now leaching into surface, and the groundwater brought those toxins into basements and backyards. The seeped chemicals were alleged to be carcinogenic. It was later found that the poisonous wastes had polluted the landfill and the sewer system as well as the surrounding creeks and the Niagara River. Niagara River is the source of drinking water for thousands of people (Angelo, 2008). Residents complained of lesions and burns and also suffered chronic effects such as birth defects and leukemia.
Things happened quietly at Niagara Falls. There were no alerts and no evacuation plans. Most people first heard about problems when they saw scientists from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on the streets, who were there to look at the source of chemical contamination in Lake Ontario (Library buffalo, 2013). The residents became aware that their neighborhood built above the deserted toxic waste landfill with the appearance of the EPA scientists. The Love Canal chemical disaster had just started.
Most infamous hazardous waste site
Today Love Canal is looked upon as the most infamous hazardous waste location. More than 22, 000 tons of chemical wastes have bene released into the Love Canal between 1942 and 1953. Hundreds of families live in the blue-collar neighborhood of the Love Canal. The basements released noxious chemical odors, and there was an oily residue in the area. President Jimmy Carter ordered the area to be evacuated, and a health emergency was declared at Love Canal. Federal Disaster Assistance Agency was asked to look into the site of Love Canal and find a solution. The Community groups became active and concerned about the situation and how the chemical contamination and toxins would impact the health. (Library buffalo, 2013). During and after WWII and ever since the beginning of the twentieth century, Niagara Falls has been a home to a thriving chemical industry. The two different elevations of the Niagara River were linked by William Love to generate electricity. Love’s project left a mile long trench approximately that was about forty feet deep in some places. The spot became a municipal dumpsite and was used by Hooker Chemical to dispose of tons of industrial chemical waste (Hay, 2015).
The environmental calamity at Love Canal was of a different kind. Here, the pollution was mostly invisible and odorless and the hazards uncertain. The toxic waste was seen as a new species that ushered in specific problems for residents and the public health scientists. The residents were naturally concerned about their health with the discovery of hazardous chemicals that lied buried in their otherwise innocuous looking neighborhood. The neighborhood was now looked upon as a contaminated landscape that was unfit for families (Hay, 2015). Love Canal offered new challenges for public health departments as well as incited environmental justice movements. Unlike other disasters, this was a contamination of the natural environment that was caused by human beings. This further broadened the perceptions of the crisis.
Impact on health due to the toxins
There have been limited studies on the cancer incidence in former residents of the Love Canal neighborhood. The seriously contaminated site drew attention in 1978. When former residents were interviewed to study the excess risks due to the exposure to the landfill, there were certain limitations. However, studies have linked cancers of the bladder and kidney to chemicals found at Love Canal. There were higher rates of bladder cancer among those residents who were exposed top those toxins as children. Although the incidence of total cancers in the general population and the Love Canal residents were similar, there was an observed elevation of bladder and kidney cancers (Gensburg et al., 2009).
Another study on the mortality experience of the former LC residents was done, and the mortality rates and survival analysis was compared among the Niagara County and New York State residents. As compared to New York State, the standardized mortality ratio was for death from acute myocardial infarction was elevated for Niagara County. However, given the limitations in such studies, the role of exposure to the landfill cannot explain these excess risks. This is because there is no data on deaths prior to 1978. . However, direct neurotoxic effects due to landfill chemicals or cannot be ruled out (Gensburg et al., 2009).
Who were responsible for the Love Canal disaster
Love Canal site is one of the first and most dangerous waste sites in the history of the United States. There are a several reason behind that point to the unplanned development and ignoring essential facts that led to the subsequent haphazard development of the area. Hooker Chemicals and Plastics Corporation that bought the Love Canal and disposed of chemical wastes into it. The City of Niagara and the Board of Education too should be held responsible for buying the site from Hooker in 1953 and thus making them freeform any liability. The parent company of Hooker Chemicals, Occidental Petroleum, had a role to play. It did agree to pay some $250 million in damages. What added to the problems were the unusual heavy rains and snowfalls between 1975 and 1976 that further contaminated the ponds and other surface water area. (mhhe, 2013)
The Judicial Reaction to the Love Canal Disaster
Because of the incident at Love Canal, in 1980, the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act was enacted. The disaster exposed the need to not only how to manage environmental accidents, but also for a concerted and well-coordinated legislation. CERCLA was established to create a fund to amend forthcoming sites of uncontrolled hazardous wastes. Also referred to as Superfund, it lists contaminated sites across the United States that need further investigation or clean- up. If the location is no longer considered a hazard to human health or the environment, then it is taken off the list.
In 2004, Love Canal was removed from Superfund’s listing. It has been more than two decades ever since the identification of the hazardous site that forced the evacuation of over a thousand families. Although the site is declared safe for human habitation and has been redeveloped, it will still get monitored on an annual basis (Angelo, 2008).
It is ironical that Love Canal, which was meant to be a dream community, has turned into the most dreadful environmental tragedies. Moreover, the worst part is that such tragedies can strike anytime and anywhere. Landfills used for disposing hazardous waste disposal, need to be properly managed and monitored. Love Canal will always remain a powerful reminder of the risks involved regarding chemical dumpsites in general. The New York State Health Department is still observing and investigating the population who had been exposed to the contamination or had lived in Love Canal neighborhood.
There are hundreds of such chemical dumpsites across this Nation. The local, State, and Federal authorities are working together and monitoring those dump sites that are situated close to human settlements and are slowly leaching out. The environmental disasters involving toxins can lead to nervous disorders and cancers. EPA proposed a system recently to see that most chemical wastes get disposed of safely and all the hazardous wastes need to be controlled and monitored from point of generation and till their ultimate disposal (Beck, 1979). Love Canal was the first waste site that got extensive coverage in TV news and major newspapers and magazines nationally. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency got involved in the case when a vast range of toxic chemicals was found to be present in the environment.
Beck, E. (1979). The Love Canal Tragedy. EPA Journal.
Gensburg, L. J., Pantea, C., Kielb, C., Fitzgerald, E., Stark, A., & Kim, N. (2009). Cancer Incidence among Former Love Canal Residents. Environmental Health Perspectives, 117(8), 1265–1271. doi:10.1289/ehp.0800153
Gensburg, L. J., Pantea, C., Fitzgerald, E., Stark, A., Hwang, S.-A., & Kim, N. (2009). Mortality among Former Love Canal Residents. Environmental Health Perspectives, 117(2), 209–216. doi:10.1289/ehp.11350
Hay, A. (2015). Everyone’s Backyard: The Love Canal Chemical Disaster. Disasters in Modern American History.
Library buffalo (2013). Love Canal collections Retrieved from http://library.buffalo.edu/libraries/specialcollections/lovecanal/about/background.php
mhhe (2013). The Forgotten Wastes of Love Canal Retrieved from http://www.mhhe.com/Enviro-Sci/CaseStudyLibrary/Topic-Based/CaseStudy_LoveCanal.pdf