Love Canal


Love Canal, An American Tragedy


On April 28, 1953, the Niagara Falls School Board acquired title to the Love Canal property from Hooker Chemical for the fee of $1. The deed contained this disclaimer:


". . . .Prior to the delivery (sale). . . the grantee herein (school board) has been advised by the grantor (Hooker) that the premises above described have been filled, in whole or in part, to the present grade level thereof with waste products resulting from the manufacturing of chemicals by the grantor at its plant in the City of Niagara Falls, New York, and that the grantee assumes all risk and liability incident to the use thereof . . . ."

from the deed recorded July 6, 1953

City of Niagara Falls

Niagara County Clerk's Office

Lockport, New York


Besides the disclaimer above, the School Board received advice from their own counsel that to purchase the land would place undue financial risk upon the city and school board. The construction company hired to build the school also advised against construction, but the school board was not to be dissuaded. A school was built and opened in 1955--with some buildings directly atop the waste-filled canal.




From 1942 to 1953, Hooker Chemicals and Plastics Corporation (now Occidental Chemical Corporation) disposed of over 21,000 tons of various chemicals including dioxin-tainted trichlorophenols at the Love Canal site.

In 1950, after the site was deeded to the city of Niagara Falls Board of Education, the 93rd Street School was built.

In 1954, a second school, the 99th Street School, was built adjacent to the mid-portion of the canal.

Before construction of the 93rd Street School, a drainage swale had crossed the site. In 1954, the site was graded to its present contours with approximately 3,000 cubic yards of fill materials including fill from the 99th street school.

  • The fill material is reported to contain fly ash and BHC (a pesticide) waste.

During the mid-1970's, contaminated leachate migrated to the surface of the canal, to some residential basements adjacent to the canal, and through sewers to area creeks.

  • In 1980, the 93rd Street School was closed because of public health concerns related to the potentially contaminated fill material.
  • Investigations conducted in 1988 revealed the presence of VOCs, other organics, and metals in the soil.
  • Those homes have been demolished, and the sewers and creeks in the Love Canal emergency declaration area have been remediated.
  • During previous investigations, it was determined that low level contamination present in the ground water compared to the ground water quality in the area and did not pose an exposure threat to the concerned population.

Expenses to date for the Love Canal remediation project total about $250,000,000.

Costs and Reimbursements:

  • Occidental Petroleum agreed to reimburse the EPA $102 million for cleanup costs

    the EPA had requested an additional $80 million in interest but agreed to forgo that reimbursement

  • Occidental Petroleum agreed to reimburse the EPA $375,000 for damage to wildlife
  • Occidental Chemical was not fined or otherwise penalized
  • The FEMA spent $27 million for relocation of the families
  • The federal government will contribute an additional $8 million to the EPA for dumping chemicals during World War II.


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Last revised 4/19/97