Lois Marie Gibbs and the Love Canal
Exposing the Hidden Health Dangers of the Site
Who are we talking about?
Where is this located?
1892 when William T. Love proposed to connect the upper and lower Niagara
River, by digging a canal six to seven miles long. This was in hopes of eventually creating a man-made waterfall on the Niagara River, supplying cheap power. But once the country entered the Panic of 1893, the partially completed project kept being pushed back and back.
Almost 30 years later, in 1920, the site became a municipal and chemical disposal site for Hooker Chemical Corporation, a subsidiary of Occidental Petroleum. The city of Niagara Falls began to use it as a landfill too. In 1953, however, the company covered the land with dirt, and sold it to the Board of Education for a dollar. Even though they clearly stated a "warning" of the chemical wastes buried on the property, the Board of Education paid no attention to the potential risks of these chemicals, and started constructing the 99th Street Elementary School on the site in 1954. That's when it all began...
Exposing the Truth with a Little Research
The Shocking Results
Follow-Up Study of Levels of Various Chemicals in Landfill Area (2006)
What Happened Next?
The LCHA presented these findings to the state health authorities, who quickly dismissed the study. They called it "useless housewife data," saying residents' illnesses were all in their heads, the birth defects were genetic, and the urinary disease as the result of sexual activity (in young boys...). So, the community went to the streets and explained their problems to the public in order to gain the support needed. Soon, thousands of people began to write letters and send telegrams to the Governor, to legislators and even to President Carter. Finally, the health authorities were forced to investigate the claims.
On February 8, 1979, after the health department looked at the reproductive problems in the outer community, they confirmed the homeowners' findings and issued a second evacuation order for pregnant women and children under the age of two. But it wasn't until October 1980 that a total evacuation of the community was ordered by President Carter. Everyone who lived at the Love Canal had the option of moving away, with the government purchasing their homes at fair market value.
As the Director, she has traveled around the country working with citizens dealing with similar issues, and she quickly found that, although Love Canal is the most famous, it is not the only serious environmental problem. In fact, the effects of chemical wastes and emissions continue to threaten thousands of communities across the country. But we can all attack these problems, one step at a time.