Lois Gibbs, Commemorates 35th Anniversary of Historic Love Canal Crisis

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NEWS RELEASE

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE CONTACT:

Wednesday October 30, 2013 Lois Gibbs, CHEJ, 703.627.9483 (cell) lgibbs@chej.org

35th Anniversary of Historic Love Canal Crisis

In 1978 near Niagara Falls, New York, Lois Gibbs was struggling to raise a family that included two children suffering from a variety of rare illnesses. As Lois soon realized, they weren’t the only ones: nearly every family in the now-infamous Love Canal neighborhood was facing its own medical nightmare. Lois soon discovered that her home and those of her neighbors sat beside 20,000 tons of toxic chemicals dumped by Hooker Chemical and other companies. The children’s school was also built next to the toxic dump. This shocking finding spurred Lois to lead her neighbors in a three year struggle to protect their families from the hazardous waste in their own backyards. The organizing of Lois and her neighbors led to the relocation of 833 Love Canal households and the creation of the federal Superfund program. To ensure that no other community would have to face a toxic health threat alone, Lois founded the Center for Health, Environment & Justice in 1981.

 

“Thirty five years after the first alarm was sounded at Love Canal I am excited about the changes that have happened, with protective laws and policies passed,” said Lois Marie Gibbs, former President of the Love Canal Homeowners Association and today is the Executive Director of the Center for Health, Environment & Justice (CHEJ). “At the same time I’m sadden by the on-going pollution. The lessons learned at Love Canal have not been heeded. Incinerators and industries belching out pollution, dumpsites continue to expand and take tons of toxic wastes, hydro-fracturing is moving forward at a rapid speed without regulator controls, and people in the Love Canal neighborhood once again crying out for help from chemicals that may have migrated to their homes.”

 

“Thirty-five years ago we felt that we had made people aware of the necessity to protect the environment by achieving evacuation, the formation of Superfund, the right to know bill , etc.” said Luella Kenny, a former leader with the Love Canal Homeowners Association and Board member of CHEJ. “However, we cannot become less vigilant. The fact that people who moved back to Love Canal are experiencing problems due to the presence of the 20,000 tons of chemicals that are still present, it’s a struggle to keep superfund and right to know in existence and the push to give a go ahead to hydrofracking are strong indicators that we have a long way to go.”

 

Despite strong opposition from CHEJ and Love Canal survivors, homes near the Love Canal dump were eventually resettled in the 1990’s, as others remained demolished. Residents who have moved to the community next to Love Canal have since been complaining about health problems in recent years. Some families even recently filed a $113 million lawsuit, claiming that toxic chemicals continue to leak from Love Canal and are harming their health.

 

“We are sick. My family and many others have suffered and we continue to suffer from Love Canal contamination,” said Keith Boos, a Niagara Falls resident who lives in close proximity to Love Canal. “When we bought our home, we had every reason to believe Love Canal was safe, and that is clearly not the case. I am afraid every day for my own health, the health of my family, and the health of my neighbors. The people responsible for this should be held accountable.”

 

“This community should not have to suffer anymore,” said Chris MacKenna, who lives near Love Canal today. “We have suffered enough, since our time as students at the 93rd Street School and today. Those responsible for poisoning us, for not cleaning up the contamination, and for not warning our community that our families, were and still are, in danger must be held responsible for their actions.”

 

An evening celebration and commemoration event is being held at the Carriage House in Washington, D.C. which will feature an exclusive preview of the Love Canal segment of the new documentary, A Fierce Green Fire, The Battle For a Living Planet, an exploration of the environmental movement – grassroots and global activism by Oscar-nominated filmmaker Mark Kitchell. Lois Gibbs will speak at the event about how much progress we have made in protecting our environment and today’s threats and risks.

On This Year in Love Canal History

35 years ago in 1978, the New York State Commissioner of Health declared a State of Emergency at Love Canal and ordered the 99th Street School to be closed and a clean up plan be undertaken immediately to address the leaking site containing over 20,000 tons of toxic waste. He also recommended that pregnant women and children under the age of two who lived in the area immediately surrounding the Love Canal landfill should move. For additional background on Love Canal, visit http://chej.org/about/our-story/love-canal/

About CHEJ

CHEJ mentors a movement building healthier communities by empowering people to prevent harm caused by chemical and toxic threats. Following her successful effort to prevent further harm for families living in contaminated Love Canal, Lois Gibbs founded CHEJ to continue the journey. To date, CHEJ has assisted over 11,000 groups nationwide. Details on CHEJ’s efforts to help families and communities prevent harm can be found at http://www.chej.org.

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