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March 19, 2004

HAZARDOUS WASTES

LOVE CANAL CLEANED UP
Site that triggered Superfund program now deemed safe by EPA

LOIS EMBER

Twenty-six years after President Jimmy Carter declared Love Canal in Niagara Falls, N.Y., an environmental emergency--sparking the creation of the Superfund program--the Environmental Protection Agency is proposing to remove Love Canal from the nation's list of most hazardous waste sites.

Cleanup, completed in 1998, took more than two decades and cost from $350 million to $400 million. Though EPA in a press release declares Love Canal "once again a thriving community," the agency couldn't propose delisting until after the first five-year review in September 2003. "That review validated that the remedies in place are protective of human health and the environment," EPA Region 2 spokesman Michael J. Basile explains.

From 1942 to 1952, the 70-acre canal served as a dumping ground for toxic waste products, mainly from Hooker Chemical, which is now Occidental Chemical. In 1953, the canal was filled in, and houses and a school were built around it. But in 1978, toxic chemicals oozed into the surrounding homes, prompting President Carter's action and the evacuation of the homes. These homes were eventually demolished.

Cleanup of the canal consisted of removal of the toxic waste, installation of a drainage system to collect and treat water runoff, and capping of the site with clay. Even when delisted, Love Canal will continue to be monitored by EPA, and it will remain eligible for further cleanup, if necessary.

Some 260 homes west and north of the canal--which also were evacuated--have been renovated and sold to new owners, and 10 new apartment buildings have been built. To the east, the now-defunct Love Canal Area Revitalization Agency sold land for light industrial or commercial redevelopment, Basile says.

In addition to Love Canal, EPA is proposing to delist two other nearby Superfund sites: the Hooker-102nd Street Landfill and the Niagara County Refuse site. Three other Superfund sites in the county remain on the list.



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