Superfund Site: LOVE CANAL
NIAGARA FALLS, NY
Superfund Site Profile
he Love Canal site (Site) is located in Niagara Falls, New York. It was one of two initial excavations in what was to be a canal to provide inexpensive hydroelectric power for industrial development around the turn of the 20th century. The abandoned excavation, partially filled with water, was used largely for recreational purposes. The canal was about 9,750 feet long and ranged in depth from 10 to 25 feet. Hooker Chemicals & Plastics Corporation (now Occidental Chemical Corporation, or OXY) disposed of over 21,000 tons of hazardous chemicals into the abandoned Love Canal between 1942 and 1953, contaminating soil and groundwater. In 1953, the landfill was covered and leased to the Niagara Falls Board of Education (NFBE). Afterwards, the area near the covered landfill was extensively developed, including construction of an elementary school, as well as many residential properties.
The fenced 70-acre Site includes the original 16-acre hazardous waste landfill and a 40-acre cap, as well as a drainage system and leachate collection and treatment system that are in place and operating.
Beginning in the 1970s, local residents noticed foul odors and chemical residues and experienced increased rates of cancer and other health problems. In 1978 and 1980, President Carter declared two federal environmental emergencies for the Site, and approximately 950 families were evacuated from their homes within a 10-square-block area surrounding the landfill. This area was eventually referred to as the Emergency Declaration Area (EDA) and was subsequently divided into seven areas as related to habitability concerns.
The severity of the Site’s contamination ultimately led to the creation of federal legislation to manage the disposal of hazardous waste. This legislation was titled the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA) (Superfund Law) of 1980.
In September 1983, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) listed the Site on the Superfund program’s National Priorities List (NPL) and began to work with New York State (NYS) to clean up the Site. In 1999, the EPA and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) completed remedy construction in 1999. The EPA deleted the Site from the NPL in 2004.
As a result of the extent of the contamination at the Site, the response action was addressed in several stages focused on landfill containment with leachate collection; treatment and disposal; excavation and treatment of the sewer and creek sediment and other wastes; cleanup of the 93rd Street School soils; the purchase, maintenance and rehabilitation of properties; and, other short-term cleanup actions.
As a result of these cleanup actions, the Site no longer presents a threat to human health and the environment. In September 2004, the EPA removed the Site from the Superfund program’s NPL. As a result of the revitalization efforts of the Love Canal Area Revitalization Agency (LCARA), new homeowners have moved into the habitable areas of the Site. More than 260 formerly abandoned homes in the affected area were rehabilitated and sold to new residents, creating a viable new neighborhood.