Love Canal Déjávu – Ground Hog Day?

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I couldn’t believe what I was hearing and seeing when I clicked on a link that connected me with a news story about Love Canal by the local ABC TV station in Buffalo. There in front of a camera was a young woman who reminded me of myself 35 years ago. Christen Morris talked about chemicals that have become visible, about trees dying, pets with cancer and growths, and many people who are sick.

I can remember saying those same words, making that same case in 1978 to EPA and the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation. Wow. At the same time as Ms Morris and others were speaking out about problems in the neighborhood, classmates who attended the 93rd Street School were sharing notes. 93rd Street School was located in the northern part of the community, and also demolished due to contamination. Former students, at a class reunion, began exchanging notes about how sick they were finding common concerns and disease. They believe their health related problems might be linked to exposure to Love Canal chemicals during their elementary school years.

Former student Laura Racine said, “I went to the reunion and decided to seek out all the kids that went to the 93rd Street School with and see if they were having health issues as well. And nine out of ten of them were having health issues.”

It is so hard to watch these news stories. It has never made any sense to me or other former residents of the area, why the state and federal government insisted on repopulating the northern part of the evacuation area or why they refused to follow the young children from both 99th and 93rd Street Schools. These are innocent people who were children and whose parents were assured that no long term health problems were likely. The public was assured that Love Canal was cleaned up, when actually the 20,000 tons of chemicals are still there, still in the center of the dump. Only a clay cap and trench system to capture anything that might move out horizontally was put in place. There’s absolutely no science that supports the government’s theory that the chemicals will stay put. All landfills leak and Love Canal is no exception. In fact, the Love Canal dump has no bottom. So, it leaks chemicals out the bottom every time the Niagara River levels drops . . . like in August for example.

The families living around the dump are not to blame. So many people want to – blame the victims. People were assured by every imaginable government agency that everything is fine. The most frequently used phrase to people who inquired was, “Love Canal is the most tested neighborhood in the country.” Of course that doesn’t mean its safe but those words along with assurance of safety people became convinced.

It will be painful to watch the new effort unfold as families with sickness and questions struggle to get those answers. I plan on helping where I can. To see recent news story click here.

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