A series of stories point to a health emergency around Love Canal. By spring, state and federal health and environment agencies move in, fencing off the canal itself and testing air and water samples and in August, New York declares a State of Emergency, closes the school and evacuates pregnant women and infants. President Jimmy Carter declares it a federal disaster area, the first time in that country for a disaster created by humans. The governments evacuate 255 families in what is called the “inner ring” of homes nearest the canal. When dioxin, a highly dangerous substance, is found in the Love Canal wastes, more homes are evacuated.
The Early Process
William T. Love came to 1890s Niagara Falls, New York, with hugely ambitious plans. The landowner and entrepreneur envisioned the creation of an enormous utopian metropolis. His city would be home to enviable industry, and housing for more than a million people. Thousands of acres would become "the most extensive and beautiful [park] in the world". He planned to power the city using hydroelectric dams on a new 11-kilometer canal between the upper and lower Niagara Rivers. Within a year, however, Love's plans failed, and would quickly have been forgotten if it weren't for one problem.
The sad irony in the fact that the site of William T. Love's "most perfect city in existence" became home to such a disaster. In the last fifteen years, however, there has been some gradual resettlement of the Love Canal site. In the early 1990s parts of the area were declared safe again, and now make up a neighborhood known as Black Creek Village. The area was taken off the Superfund list in September 2004 at the announcement that certain clean-up goals had been reached. Much of the Canal itself, however, remains sectioned off by a chain-link fence, which to any local passersby must serve as a poignant reminder of the whole catastrophe.