Love Canal: Neighborhood of Fear [The Story of Love Canal Pt. 2]


Love Canal: Neighborhood of Fear [The Story of Love Canal Pt. 2]


Two years into the battle for environmental justice in the Love Canal neighborhood of Niagara Falls, WIVB-TV presented a news special. The disaster had reached a crisis stage with homeowners demanding action by all levels of government. They had unknowingly moved into a neighborhood developed on top of a toxic dumpsite and were now suffering the consequences of harmful chemicals making their way into their homes and schools.

The half hour presentation, was written, produced and reported by Marie Rice, who co-anchored the special with WIVB anchor John Beard. It featured some of the most emotional testimony from Love Canal family members whose loved ones were sick and dying due to chemical exposure. More than seven hundred families were demanding that they be relocated and that their grievances be properly addressed.

Tests determined that residents had suffered “ominous” rare chromosomal damage. Lois Gibbs, who ultimately led the Love Canal Homeowners Association to victory, later attributed Buffalo news coverage to the successful outcome. The grassroots crusade has been credited with launching the environmental justice movement in the United States.

President Jimmy Carter came to Niagara Falls to sign legislation that met homeowners demands and led to the creation of the Superfund. Formerly known as the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act of 1980, the program is designed to provide emergency responses to sites contaminated by hazardous substances. By one count there are 40,000 federal Superfund sites across the United States.




Rich Newberg Reports Collection


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Good evening, everybody. I'm John Beard.

And I'm Marie Rice. The frustration and helplessness of two years of living a nightmare for over a 700 Love Canal family erupted Tuesday night and overflow crowd packed the Niagara County legislative chambers in hopes of persuading their elected officials to join the proposed Love Canal. Revitalization authority. The proposal had been rejected before and emotion filled the air as residents pleaded with the legislators before the vote carried a

child for nine months. Or little Julie was still born.

The loss of our child may be a direct result of the chemicals. Please don't allow this to happen to anyone else before you get them out. Don't let it happen yourself.

The proposal was turned down by a 16 to 15 vote and once again the Love Canal residents had their cause rejected but this was one rejection too many people were mad and they wanted answers.

Representatives are supposed to support as well. The nation is looking at you you're like damn fools and murder

because also do wrong pay sweetie. pay you. Pay

what you had this past weekend you got to sit there and both

residents once again rallied around Love Canal homeowners President Lois Gibbs the legislators were cheered and shouted at and finally sheriff's deputies were ordered to escort Mrs. Gibbs outside.

Please tell us why I am not moving until I get an answer why.

Residents decided they had done all they could went home to prepare for Wednesday's announcement from Washington. That announcement from President Carter was the Triumph presidents had fought too long years for

President Carter today declare an emergency to permit the federal government and the state of New York to undertake the temporary relocation of approximately 700 families in the Love Canal area of Niagara Falls

The good news was also mixed with feelings of uncertainty and sadness as residents wondered where they would go and if they would ever see any of their friends and neighbors again, Love Canal residents will be relocated, but the scars will never disappear. We'll take a look back at the last two years when Love Canal neighborhood and fear continues. The tragedy of the Love Canal has been a two year long story. Let's go back to the summer of 1978. The Love Canal the most infamous chemical dump in the nation. A distinction earned because the eyes of the country have been riveted on that small patch of land in Niagara Falls since 239. Families were moved at state expense two years ago, finally declared a federal emergency. It's the only hazardous waste site to be identified as such. The dream of William love turn nightmare. In 1894 the entrepreneur had a scheme or a giant model city and water canal to provide industrial power. The plan was aborted but for chemicals then use the dead canal as a dumping ground for industrial waste. From above it looked harmless enough, but only a few feet below the surface deadly chemicals were gurgling their way to the top finding their way into the basements of nearby residents. The prognosis was grim birth defects kidney ailments respiratory problems, possibly even death accompanied the path of the migrating toxins. August 2 1978, state health commissioner Dr. Robert Whalen declared a state of emergency at the Love Canal and advise pregnant women and children under two years old to be evacuated immediately.

Well, how dangerous is it for a person just standing there right now?

You have to take into consideration three or four variables. The first variable are the levels of air pollution in the individual homes, too. You have to take into consideration the relative risk for a particular individual children and unborn children being the highest risk three you have to take into consideration the duration of risk. And these are the issues that we tried to balance out among around scientific staff and with the nationwide expert panel and arrived at the conclusions that resulted in my honor.

Well what is the ultimate status of this area going to be is it going to be leveled? Do you think ultimately, I think that what we're trying to do here is deal with First things first, the concerns of the people have to leave I think is our first concern. The second the question of trying to do something to reduce the immediate problems that the construction is the second one. The task force set up by Governor Kerry will continue to meet and we'll try to meet and determine other more long range suggestions and proposals as time goes on.

One of my three year old


where is the difference? What about the seven


Families with children under the age of two should be evacuated. I think that's a double standard and I don't believe that that's fair to anybody. I think any family that fears for their lives and that of their family should be given the same opportunity to be moved into quarters. That gives her family protection while the work continues of cleaning up this mess one off.

basis. Spend a return preserve backing this agree and I think you will be rad at this that the state

pursue the polluters.

We wanted most was security in our home and we don't have it. So I had Dr. Whelan suggested I picked up my wife and my two sons and I took them away from here. So what presumably safely I hope.

August 5 1978 William Wilcox administrator for the US federal disaster aid administration arrives from Washington to tour the contaminated area where they

make it a state. It's not in the paper anything about a remedial work. They weren't the funds for the remedial work but just forgetting about the people. We've suffered enough medically do have to die while they're cleaned it up. The police take that back to Washington.

Wilcox was ordered here by the White House. He was to report directly to the President on how bad the situation really was. He was personally escorted across the decades old chemical landfill. The Federal official wearing only shoes as he brings boots when he visits blood sites, but didn't know he would need them here today. A hole where waste had risen to the surface was pointed out. He went inside the residence homes to see and smell more waste that had entered through basements. Wilcox said he was most anxious to hear from the residents. None was bashful.

Everything started dying out here.

Let me ask you this question. I should have asked some of the others. Maybe you too if, if you were to leave this area for some period of time six months or something and the houses were boarded up and then this was all cleaned up. And you got assurances that there wasn't a problem. Would you come back? No. That's not what we're looking for.

We're looking for to be moved out of the area permanently. I don't care 10 years from now if they clean that back up, clean our property up. We're still no value to our homes, but the reputation is still here. Many people.

Mr. Wilcox, what's your impression of what you've seen so far this morning? Well, I

think both in scientific terms and in human terms, it's a very troublesome situation. And that's really about all I can say at the present time. I think that people are living here under very difficult circumstances. We'll be preparing a report pulling together all the information providing report to the White House tomorrow.

What chance do you think there is that these people might get federal aid?

Well, I think that there's going to be federal assistance in one form or another. The only question is, what is the best form of assistance and we'll want to be working closely with Governor Kerry and Mr. Hardy, his staff and others in formulating any federal program. That seems appropriate for the situation.

August 10 1978, the state of New York makes history it announces it will permanently relocate 239 families left behind, however, are more than 700 families. For some then there's jubilation for others despair. Still others clung to the belief that eventually they'd be moved stinks at nighttime Robin. And did you see the all the oils and stuff that are coming up? It's

really sickening. And um, you know, when I wake up in the morning, I have asthma real bad and I can't breathe. My eyes are all swollen. And you know, when I wake up in the morning and stuff like that, are you worried about your baby? Yes, because I don't want to deform baby or something wrong with it or something like that, you know,

February 8 1979. Another unsettling announcement from the New York State Health Department. New Health Commissioner David Axelrod recommends the temporary relocation of all pregnant women and children under two who lived within a six block area of the contaminated landfill.

When we examined all of the data and compared the effects which I've already enumerated on the wet areas with the dry areas, we found that there was indeed an increase in risk for the fetus that is that there was a small but significant risk higher than would be anticipated for those living in the wet areas. And these risks were manifested by increases of approximately two fold in congenital malformations in spontaneous abortions. And in an increase in low birth weight infants. The decision or recommendation that the panel made to the New York State Department of Health at a meeting held yesterday was that based on this information, we should recommend that the fetus in effect be removed from the source of exposure. That defines itself as meaning that pregnant women living in the so called wet areas should be removed from the canal areas.

In August two children two and under people from 99 to 97. To children that were a few months over two years old. They were advised to be because it houses their children. My daughter was only two that she's two years and four months now. Why does she have no importance now?

I wasn't as much danger in August with my baby as I am now. Why was I forced to stay here all this time? My baby soon almost a year and a half and myself started and now she's concerned about my three year old as I am on this baby are carrying.

Can he answer the question Please, ma'am?

What I what I said was at the age of two represented a reasonable assertion as to a point when the maximum impact from these chemicals would be diminished.

This was the first time the health department had given serious consideration to research gathered by the homeowners association. The women told us the state office had dismissed their studies connecting the pathways of OLED screen beds and increased health problems as useless housewife data.

I'm not a scientist. I am a housewife is as important in the paper many times. My date is not useless. It is not pointless. It is not valid. Every one of these people in this audience last gave me that say they don't like what you're doing in the house pocket. is going to take six months, eight months, 10 months you prove that pregnant women are in danger. You prove and children under two are in danger. I know my own family experience that there are other children in this area that are not even in danger, but I'm damn right I died. And if we sit and wait for six more or less the the blue ribbon panel with Laura Lee knows who they are, meet and decide on this. We're going to have dead children.

October 26 1979 New York announced agreement on legislation to remove and additional 550 families the details of that plan have yet to be carried out December 20 1979. The federal government's use over chemicals for $117 million. And on April 28 1980, the state of New York's use over chemicals or $635 million. From the beginning hooker disavowed any legal responsibility. The company says the property was deeded to the City Board of Education in 1953 for $1 and the school system was warned about the site. Hooker says it was contractually agreed that the board could make no claim against Hooker when it took possession. May 16 1980 rarer chromosomal damage is found in a sampling of Love Canal residents.

We found two particular characteristics in this study which are ominous one that there were more ring chromosomes than one would expect to find. But secondly, and more disturbing was the presence of what we call extra fragments. And that is a very rare observation in any population.

We have got abnormalities in our chromosomes and we've known it all along that on our street alone, there has been already eight cases of cancer on a 15 How Street and it's really had me scared all along but they told me it was a national average. And now I have found proof that probably I will even get it again.

May 1919 82. EPA officials are held hostage for six hours

If we do not have a disaster declaration Wednesday by new then what they have seen here today is just a Sesame Street picnic.

Homeowners President Lois Gibbs has fought for relocation long and hard over the last two years. She's with us tonight. This is give 700 families can now be relocated. How far away from the canal do they live?

Well they live on this map you can see buffalo Avenue to the south vertical Street to the north 93rd Street on the west and 130 on the east side.

And how wide are blocking areas that

Exactly that's a 10 block area.

This is good. You said the federal government said it would take them from six to nine months to buy up the homes. I'd love canal residents now. And the last two years you've done some pretty good sources of your own in Washington. How long do you think it might take?

I think it's just a matter of days. I don't think it's going to take 120 160 days that they're quoting. You're dealing with EPA officials and Health Studies. The politics are mainly what's controlling Washington and the relocation of Love Canal residence.

What if there is no federal aid coming? Well, then the entity will take over and purchase the home so regardless, we have a backup for the purchase. It's not like there's nothing there. There's something on the side that the federal government does fall through.

But what do we do that about Niagara County because they decided again the other night that they wouldn't join the authority.

That's true, but they can still form the authority with the city and the town of Wakefield alone without the county. Why do you feel

the federal government took so long to make this declaration this emergency declaration? Do you feel it was a political decision because they were afraid it might be precedent setting? And it might have to move many, many other people from around the country at various dump sites.

Definitely a political decision. That's one reason and the reason I decided now I think is more because of the presidential election this year. And President Carter and Neil take votes and one way to do it is pleased New York State residents and the governor.

How's the relocation coming right now? Are people happy with the people we talked to yesterday? Not many of them were very jubilant. I know you figured that it was a victory. But many of them told us they were very disappointed because it was temporary and not permanent.

Yes, that's true. And because many of them had to give up in Canada by the hotel room themselves tonight. And then have them wanting to do so. And because it was temporary and they they've seen temporary time and time again and they're tired of moving on the short term and moving back to the contaminant houses. They want to move somewhere for once a clean environment and stay put and raise their family somewhat normally for change. Are we

gonna see trouble if they move into another location and then they're told that they have to move

back? You are definitely going to see trouble. Yes, the residents are going to move back. They're fearful for their lives.

What do you think may happen? Anything's possible, Marie, anything.

All right. Mrs. Gibbs, thank you very much for joining us. If there's a hero or a heroine to come out of this, you're certainly Rihanna. We'll be back with closing comments from when we turn with Love Canal neighborhood and feed. From a quiet unassuming residential neighborhood to a chemical Ghost Town normal everyday people over the last two years have come out fighting when their lives and the lives of their loved ones are endangered. By a silent unseen chemical threats.

The fight for the Love Canal homeowners isn't over yet. The federally ordered relocation is only temporary. The families want to move someplace permanently, where they can live without fear. of chemical poisoning.

House I want to know the answer to your first question is can you go back and live in your parents house? Yeah, yeah, the answer? The answer is yes. You can go back to your parents number the second question that you get. The second question you asked me was are you what are the chances that you'll grow up to be a normal man?

Not much.

The answer to that question is that you have as much likelihood as growing up to be a normal man. Is someone living on 100/10 Street

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