Love Canal

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  • Topic: Love Canal, Occidental Petroleum, Niagara Falls
  • Pages : 7 (2601 words )
  • Download(s) : 373
  • Published : December 2, 2010
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The case of Love Canal is one of the most tragic and well-known instances of environmental injustice in the history of the United States. Historically, blame has been placed upon the company that has since been held legally responsible for the wastes present in the area. Once one dives deeper into the issue, however, it can be seen that there are various deceptions that lie underneath what the media has reported regarding the disaster. In addition to discovering where true liability for the disaster lays, this can lead to developing strategies within the country to guarantee that this type of disaster does not happen again. Ironically enough, this disaster began with a dream for a better future. In the late 1800’s, William T. Love, a wealthy businessman at the time, had a dream to build a model industrial city in his hometown of Niagara Falls. He wanted to provide the city with a source of cheap power, so he decided that he would dig a canal to connect the upper and lower banks of the Niagara River, to provide space for a hydroelectric power plant. Unfortunately, an economic downturn caused abandonment of the project, and only about one mile of the canal was ever dug. From 1920 to 1943, the city of Niagara Falls used the small amount of canal as a municipal waste dumpsite. In 1943, Hooker Chemical and Plastics Company bought the canal, and began dumping toxic waste chemicals into the water in big chemical drum containers. They continued to pollute there until 1953, when they filled the canal with earth and sold it to the city of Niagara Falls for just one dollar. The city built one hundred new residential homes and a public school there. When residents began occupying the houses, they were oblivious to the toxic chemicals that were buried underneath the ground right in their backyards and directly underneath the school that their children attended. Eventually, the chemicals rotted entirely through the drum containers, and began leaching into backyards, basements, and even the school’s lower floor. Then the inexplicable increase in illnesses began. By the 1970’s, there was a massive rate of birth defects (5 of the 24 children born had defects), miscarriages (50%), and congenital defects being found in the residents of the town and their children (Regenstein). Children who attended the public school were becoming very ill with symptoms stemming from neurological problems, some of which the doctors even had a hard time diagnosing. One housewife of the town, Lois Gibbs, began noticing that her 7-year-old son was coming home from school sick more than ever before, and discovered that he had developed symptoms while at school. She began doing research on the area, and discovered the Love Canal’s past. She pleaded for the city to evacuate residents. Although ignored by officials, she drew up quite a large base of supporters, many people also noticing that their children had become ill since they began attending the school. Eventually, after many cases of illnesses and much public opposition, the city began evacuating young children first, and then families who lived in the residential houses. The media found Lois Gibb’s story very appealing. They followed her journey from starting as a housewife in a small town in New York State to becoming an outspoken leader for a movement to hold the Hooker Chemical Company responsible for what had happened there two decades before. She felt that the Hooker Chemical Company should be liable for cleaning up the site and reimbursing families who had been affected by the pollution. Although Lois Gibbs shared an opinion with many people, there was just not enough concrete evidence to convict the company of being responsible. One person that found Gibb’s story worthy of public attention was Michael Brown, who wrote a book called Laying Waste: The Poisoning of America by Toxic Chemicals, in which he laid all blame directly on the Hooker Chemical Company for the disaster. This book was adopted as the...
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