Love Canal: An American Tragedy

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Merely three ounces of the chemical dioxin can kill in excess of one million people and has been deemed by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as the "most potent animal carcinogen." (The Love Canal Disaster 1). In the 22,000 tons of chemicals detected as leaking in the Love Canal neighborhood in New York, the 130 pounds of dioxin was just one chemical among 248 found. Love Canal was an abandoned canal that Hooker Chemical Company used to legally dump their toxins. (Love Canal, An American Tragedy 1).The toxins were discovered as hazarous in 1978 (Affleck 1) and people were evacuated as medical tests showed mutations resulting from the disaster. (Rachel's Hazardous Waste News #182 1). Although this site happens to be America's most famous toxic waste disaster, it is just one of many. If you look beyond the chemical companies legal dumping that has been highly overplayed as "as fault" and trace back to how this disaster originally began it is quite clear who is responsible. The government is truly at fault for allowing the legalization of dumping toxins and not regularly monitoring the sites and their potential problems. The entire disaster basically comes down to one issue, the government allowing legalization of dumping toxic wastes. Allowing chemical companies to dispose of toxins may be convenient and cheap for the government, but as Love Canal has proved, it has cost America life and land. Truly that amounts to a sum much larger than the government is willing to give. The government had never looked into the effects of the chemicals that were being disposed of and simply continued to let companies discard their wastes although they were hazardous. The governments legalization shows how little they cared about what could potentially happen with toxic wastes. Had the government closely monitored this site as required in the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act then possibly this disaster could have been prevented. The leakage was detected in 1978 by state officials in the basements of homes. (Love Canal, Is it the exception or the rule? 1). If the government would have monitored the love canal toxins for the past 30 years, surely the toxins would have been discovered prior to the 1978 sighting and possibly the destruction of land and lives could have been prevented. If the government was going to take on the responsibility of allowing toxic wastes to be dumped, then they should have been aware of what could happen and been monitoring Love Canal all along. At some point responsibility needed to be taken, not by the chemical company but by the government who allowed this type of disposal to go on. The Love Canal area was evacuated by the government in 1980 when it was proven scientifically that genetic mutations like respiratory and kidney problems, cancer, birth defects, liver disease and the many other medical problems that developed as a result of the Love Canal disaster. (CNN). When toxic chemicals were first found at Love Canal the government did very little to help for quite sometime. People desperately wanted to relocate with government help and only a few were able to do so. After evacuation the government declared homes "100% safe" and refused to study the health of the remaining residents. (Rachel's Hazardous Waste News #182 2). Residents who knew that something was wrong went out on their own to have their health assessed because the government refused to help them. The government is now renaming Love Canal as "Sunrise City" and selling homes on the "now-safe" contaminated land for 10%to 15% below market value. (Rachel's Hazardous Waste News #182 2) They say that the land is safe even though the chemicals will not decompose for approximately 20,000 years. New York state environmental officials covered chemicals with a temporary clay cap to keep rain out and installed drain pumps to divert the flow of chemicals. President Bush and the EPA said that these all were temporary measures which will eventually fail. (Affleck 2). They are running chemicals in the same direction Love Canal did, into the basements of homes being sold as "safe." The EPA hired a scientist to compare the Love Canal land with two other New York neighborhoods. (CNN). Conveniently, the two neighborhoods were contamined also so the tests showed up no different than the other neighborhoods. Apparently profiting off selling land is more important than concentrating on solving this toxic waste problem. It comes down to convenience. If the government lets others dump chemicals and then they just sell the "habitable" land to poor families and prosper from the sale, why not? It is necessary that America is aware of how the government has treated the ill and taken advantage of civilians by reselling contaminated land. The government is truly at fault for allowing the legalization of dumping toxins and not regularly monitioring the sites and their potential problems. In 1980 the Superfund was established by the EPA as a national toxic waste cleanup fund. The fund has spent over 10 billion dollars claiming they would cleanup 1,000 chemical dumps and since then only about 50 sites have been cleaned up. (The Love Canal Disaster 5). The government still allows industries to dump while a fund just sits there waiting to spend money to clean up the mess. There is no need to continue a fund that will be doing nothing to solve the problem except eternally cleaning up sites. The only solution to ending the toxic waste disaster is to make it illegal to dump and put energy and money into developing ways to safely dispose chemicals. Who knows how long it will take the government to realize that this is a huge problem. Possibly it will take another Love Canal incident to uproot for this ongoing fight for protection from toxins to be addressed. Although the government allows the dumping of toxic wastes, ethically Hooker Chemical Company should have looked deeper into dumping the hazardous wastes. Just because it is allowed doesn't necessarily mean that it is right. Obviously the toxins disposed into Love Canal were harmful. However, the government is basically forcing the companies to dump in such ways. Because the government hasn't come up with any ingenious ways to safely dispose wastes the chemical companies can't do so. Hooker Chemical Company was only doing their job. They acted legally when dumping toxins and did the best they could in properly disposing the chemicals. Hooker Chemical Company sold the land to the government knowing it was contaminated. A school

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