The Love Canal Site is a 16-acre landfill located in an abandoned power canal originally excavated in about 1894 by William T. Love. From 1942 until 1953, Hooker Chemicals and Plastics Corporation (now OCC) disposed of over 21,000 tons of various chemicals in the canal. These chemicals included acids, chlorides, mercaptans, phenols, toluenes, pesticides (including lindane), chlorophenols (including dioxin-tainted trichlorophenol), chlorobenzenes, and sulfides. The area was then covered and deeded to the Niagara Falls Board of Education in 1953.
From the mid-1950s through the early 1970s, the area was extensively developed for residences and a public school. Development included construction of sanitary and storm sewer lines across the waste-laden canal. These storm sewer lines would later be implicated as a primary pathway of contaminant transport from the Site to streams adjacent to the site and the Niagara River.
As a result of unusually high precipitation in 1975 and 1976, a very high groundwater level apparently developed in the Love Canal area, causing drums to surface and contaminated water to appear in backyards and basements of homes. In August of 1978, the Commissioner of the New York State Department of Health declared a health emergency at Love Canal and about 950 families were evacuated from their homes.
Remedial activities at the Love Canal Site have included construction of a perimeter drainage system to collect contaminated leachate, capping of 40 acres of the landfill and adjacent area, cleaning 65,000 linear feet of storm and sanitary sewers, and dredging 3,000 meters of Black and Bergholtz Creeks to remove about 14,000 cubic yards of sediment contaminated with 2,3,7,8-TCDD.
Tern habitat, Credit: FWS