What Have We Learned? [The Story of Love Canal Pt. 4]


What Have We Learned? [The Story of Love Canal Pt. 4]


During the decades that followed the Love Canal disaster, WIVB-TV reporters have sought to gain a big picture perspective of the disaster that laid the groundwork for the environmental justice movement in the United States.

In this series of reports presented ten to forty years after the evacuation of an entire Niagara Falls community due to toxic chemical exposure, a sad truth emerges. History appears to be repeating itself.

Viewers learn that the losses of life and property that received international attention beginning in the late 1970s failed to prevent others from establishing homes in close proximity to where 20,000 thousand tons of toxic chemicals remain buried in the ground. The industrial and military waste was capped and continues to be monitored by the federal government, which has insisted the area is safe.

However, new lawsuits have been filed claiming that chemicals have migrated from the site, again taking a toll on human health. Lois Gibbs, the environmental rights crusader who organized fellow homeowners when the Love Canal story first broke, revisited the neighborhood in 2013. She couldn’t understand how anyone could move anywhere near the Love Canal site.

“We said it so many times, don’t bring people back here,” exclaimed Mrs. Gibbs during a walking tour of the site. She added, “they bamboozled them into believing it was safe…and they innocently went in and bought what I bought thirty-five years ago, ‘the American dream.’”




Rich Newberg Reports Collection


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10 years ago, August 2 1978, the lives of Love Canal residents would never be the same. When Health Commissioner Robert Whelan advised pregnant women and children under two to be evacuated immediately panic kit.

Why not my three year old?..

It was a new crisis one society knew little about and even less on how to handle it. The administrator for the US disaster aid administration arrives from Washington and sees chemicals bubbling to the surface. New York State makes history deciding to evacuate everyone, all 239 families who live next to the old Booker chemical dump site. The story of Love Canal began nearly a century earlier. When entrepreneur William Love had a dream of building a canal connecting the upper and lower Niagara River for cheap hydroelectric power. The project was abandoned, the canal was used by bunker chemical in the 40s and 50s to dump 22 tons of industrial waste. In the mid 70s, heavy rainfall melting snow and rusting drums brought the buried chemicals to the surface and into backyards and basements. After the first evacuations, Love Canal homeowners President Lois Gibbs led the residents left behind a two year battle with government, even at one point holed into Washington officials hostage to bring attention to their cause.

What they have seen here today is just a Sesame Street picnic.

President Carter decided to allow 700 More families to move. CBS Television told the story of a Love Canal struggle in a two hour Docu-drama, starring actress Marcia Mason as Lois Gibbs.

It's historic weather we want to be or not. We're just historic you know, just like the falls. Luella Kenny's little boy died from a rare kidney disease she believes is linked to chemical contamination.

You have to look back with with so much sadness and just just a very difficult day for me to remember.

Here at home they're asking, Has the Love Canal sprung a serious leak? News Four's Michelle McClintock reports nervous neighbors are waiting for answers in Niagara Falls.

I can't remain silent. I'm not I'm not.

Joanne Avila Radley has lived in the LaSalle area of Niagara Falls all her life, say Love Canal and she can rattle off a list of people she knows directly affected by that environmental disaster. These are the images that can haunt anyone who calls the Cataract City home.

Now because of the sensitivity about one canal the problem that we have is that anytime anyone goes to fix a pothole or do any routine sewer work in the neighborhood, people are getting concerned.

And that's why many residents off Colvin Boulevard were concerned when a foul smelling substance was discovered during routine work on a sewer line. Department of Environmental Conservation officials tested the material at first and found it was tri-chlorobenzene substance found at the occidental chemical site.

This is the corner of 96 and Colvin. It's the exact spot where the substance was found a month ago by a contractor who was working on the sewers. It is quite literally a stone's throw from the Love Canal containment facility.

The Bradley's live blocks away from that site, but they're still concerned because hazardous waste workers have been in their neighborhood. They've been snapping photos of the work as it gets closer to their home, even at the end of their street.

Who knows even back 35 years ago. Do we get all the truth?

96 Ben Coleman Boulevard is the only location where the substance was found. According to the DC officials are expected to release the findings as soon as the lab results come in. Stay with news for as we continue to follow this story. Reporting live Michelle McClintock for the 10 o'clock news.

One of the worst environmental disasters in American history and it happened right here in our own backyard. It's now been 35 years since the emergency declaration at Love Canal the infamous neighborhood in Niagara Falls became the center of a crusade against toxic waste. And the housewife who you see here who spearheaded this nationwide mission has returned to where those homes once stood. News for senior correspondent rich Newberg joins us live from Niagara Falls. Good afternoon, Rich

Good afternoon. And you know, it's not quite over yet. This is a rather bizarre situation. 35 years later, I remember covering it 35 years ago, after the disaster, people were told that the chemicals were contained. It was safe to move back here and hundreds of families did just that. Well that brings us to this morning. This morning. Lois Gibbs, who led the three year fight to have residents evacuated from the Love Canal neighborhood returned for a walking tour of the area where 20,000 tons of toxic waste were buried 35 years ago was a battle that led to a state of emergency here at Love Canal and the eventual evacuation of over 800 families. Many residents had health disorders back then and they attributed that to chemicals seeping into their homes and their neighborhood. Well now families that moved into this same neighborhood, they were told that it was safe to say that they are suffering from major health disorders like the family of Keith Boos.

They're my they're my family because every day is contaminated and life threatening. Our family has been affected by the contaminants in our home, emotionally, physically and mentally.

We said it so many times, don't bring people back here. Just don't bring them back here. And they did and they bamboozle them into believing it was safe and gave them the data and god knows what else these folks got. And and they innocently went in and bought what I bought 35 years ago, the American dream.

So now there's $113 million lawsuit filed claiming that Love Canal may be leaking and harming people here. We're gonna have to relive what happened 35 years ago and bring you back up to date with many more details. Tonight at five and six and on our website@wivb.com reporting live in the falls. Rich Newberg news four news.

Love Canal remains one of the most talked about chemical catastrophes in this country. Dozens of groups toured the site every year helping to better understand how it happened and hoping History doesn't repeat itself

And I just don't want to do I'm disgusted.

I don't want to be here. I don't want to read all that air.

Memories of the pain and the panic of the late 70s haunt this neighborhood nearly 40 years later, it was leaking into their. Their sump pumps.

There were smells people were complaining of skin irritation and rashes.

Mike Messio was a young employee at the time working at the nearby Niagara Falls airbase. He remembers stories from people like Bonnie Schneider

I had some physical problems that I hope is not related to anything here but if they are I want to know about it.

What are those physical problems?

I have in the rheumatoid arthritis and I have severe headaches others complained of miscarriages and urinary and kidney problems.

Our concern was to was to relocate these people. We wanted them out of harm's way it took it took some years to relocate 900 families and buy them out

And there was no precedent for this.

There was no we were we were we were kind of flying by the seat of our pants today. Today Massio is the EPA is regional spokesperson. He helps share the story of one of America's worst environmental disasters, a disaster that decimated this neighborhood. Only the streets, sidewalks and streetlights remain

This is the east side of the canal yet we count only a handful of homes left families who for whatever reason refuse the EPA spy on offers.

This was a big black eye on the City of Niagara Falls Massio says there's still enormous interest in Love Canal you get requests for tours of Love Canal all the time, all the time. Probably I have to say that. This year alone probably 40 tours,

People from all over the world.

The actual canal was only 16 acres in length was about 18 feet wide. It was like a bathtub. A canal Dug as a dream for entrepreneur William love in the late 1890s and then abandoned

This was shot in 1938. Prior to disposal hooker chemical bought it and started burying barrels of chemicals 21,000 tons of toxins. Sold to the school board for $1 and words of warning they said don't build the school right over the top of the 16 acre landfill. The blizzard of 77 accelerated the nightmare that followed.

What do you gonna do for my kid? What are you gonna do?

The EPA eventually allowed hundreds of families to move back into the homes north of Colton Boulevard. Those families today are some of the ones involved in the lawsuits.

We said it so many times. Don't bring people back here. Just don't bring them back here. Louis Gibbs, who led the Love Canal relocation fight returned in 2013. This was one of the areas that was most contaminated.

Gibbs has long argued families should never have returned. We fought very hard to stop the resettlement of Love Canal.
We lost that battle.

Our family has been affected by the contaminants in our home emotionally, physically and mentally. Keith Boos spoke with news Four in 2013 he and other families can't talk to us now. Their lawyer has ordered them to stay quiet. The government told us it was safe to come back

And they innocently went in and bought what I bought 35 years ago. The American dream

Today the area looks more like a golf course just a chain link fence. That's all we've got. Oh yeah, but seal insist it would even be safe to walk on the site.

All that debris from those homes in the school Sit, sit make up the 70 acre cap

More than 200 monitoring wells dot the area offering the only real clues to the trouble it's buried below.

How do you respond to people who say why didn't the EPA move any of this stuff?

It didn't make much sense to excavate 21,000 tons of waste where it's located now and transport someplace else to put it back in the ground again,

Massio says the area is among the safest in western New York because of constant monitoring. Paid for by Occidental Petroleum, a company that bought Hooker chemical runoff from the site gets treated here before it's pumped underground to the city's wastewater facility.

They did not clean up canal at best. They put a trench around it. There was there's still 20,000 tons of chemicals in the center of that site.

That's a sentiment shared by many of this dissection of the falls families who fear the toxic waste isn't entirely contained. And that one day it may seep back into their lives.

These new lawsuits may take years to get resolved. I sat through a hearing last week and State Supreme Court and Niagara County depositions haven't even been scheduled in the 18 lawsuits. And we would like to hear from you if you have a story to share about Love Canal. You can email us investigates a wivb.com Trent Williams News Four.

It was 40 years ago this week that a working class neighborhood in Niagara Falls became the center of a national health crisis. Toxic chemical waste seeped into backyards and playgrounds the Love Canal neighborhood news for us Jen Sean spoke to residents who say even decades letter later these wounds still feel fresh.

Jackie hundreds of families were eventually evacuated from the Love Canal area. After it was discovered the waste dumped there by hook or chemical was toxic. If you ask dozens of people who grew up or raised their kids there they'll tell you the company's actions lead to long term health disasters. 40 years later, they are still fighting for answers.

He was a sweet little boy, who I think would have contributed so much to society and yet he was cut down at seven John Allen Kenny was a victim of his own backyard, His mother says. Doctors in the late 70s said the seven year old boy died from kidney disease. Well, Kenny always thought there was something more that turned out that the chemical had been coming down the storm sores and empty out into the backyard. Where the children played. That backyard she says made her son's sick. The Kennys lived on 96th Street and Niagara Falls the Love Canal neighborhood years before they moved in

Hooker chemical dumped 22,000 tons of toxic waste in the canal. You're talking about organic compounds the reactions there's a lot of pesticide products hooker chemical, was using this site as a permanent landfill to deposit drums and lamp packs.

It was black was a deep black with like blue and purple colors that kind of ran through it.

Patricia Grimsey used to play near the dump site.

If you drop something in that it bubbled up and then disappeared, so we call it a quicksand

By the late 1970s. The toxic chemicals Grimsey and our friends were mesmerized by started getting national attention. People were getting sick residents wanted answers

Our little Julie was stillborn

At one point then the head of the Love Canal homeowners association Louis Gibbs wouldn't let an EPA representative leave her office without action from the federal government.

I was asked to come out to talk with a group of citizens about their medical test results.

Now you've been taken hostage

once quiet housewives became members of an organized play

when people were burning their deeds and their mortgages as it was like a movie scene

In 1978, President Carter declared Love Canal a federal health emergency. Eventually the neighborhood was evacuated and there was a federal buyout. Many families including the Kenny's and the Grenzies settled with a chemical company out of court after spending months living in motels. This is the Love Canal neighborhood now 70 acres of emptiness. A school and 239 homes were demolished. It's an emotional graveyard for Luella Kenny seen here at the site in the 80s

We took every precaution I mean we wouldn't let him go swimming. We wouldn't let him do all these things. But we did not know about chemicals.

After John died she joined the fight alongside other mothers demanding justice.

I really never had a chance to grieve because all of a sudden I was thrust into this whole arena of trying to get out of Love Canal trying to protect the rest of my family.

They did get out of Love Canal but closure never came and the settlement did little to comfort Kenny.

We have over 100 mandatory wells not only on the site and off the site in the community.

According to the EPA, the toxic waste is now capped and contain

You don't believe that?


Grenzey and her family are battling long term illnesses, illnesses she's convinced our courtesy of the Love Canal no doctor has ever confirmed so with certainty right across from the toxic wasteland is a neighborhood Black Creek.

What would you say to those families who don't buy that this is Captain contained?

Well, everything that we do at the agency is based on science. Our monitoring continues to show us today that the remedy is in place and continues to be protective. of human health and the environment.

40 years after a sitting president admitted this place was toxic Louella Kenny, now in her 80s says she's not done fighting.

I thought well, you know maybe it's time to stop but I can't do it. I can't bring John back. That's for sure. But I worry about all the other children.

For more than 30 years now. Louella Kenny has helped distribute money to families of the original Love Canal lawsuit through the Love Canal medical fund. Keep in mind there are still more than a dozen civil suits in litigation connected to the Love Canal, Jen Schanz, News Four.

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