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One of the most famous and important examples of groundwater pollution in the U. Love Canal is a neighborhood in Niagara Falls named after a large ditch approximately 15 m wide, 3—12 m deep, and m long that was dug in the s for hydroelectric power. The ditch was abandoned before it actually generated any power and went mostly unused for decades, except for swimming by local residents. Army dumped waste from World War II there, including waste from the frantic effort to build a nuclear bomb. Hooker Chemical purchased the land in and lined it with clay.
Then, the company put into Love Canal an estimated 21, tons of hazardous chemical waste, including the carcinogens benzene, dioxin, and PCBs in large metal barrels and covered them with more clay. The school board promptly built a public school on the site and sold the surrounding land for a housing project that built or so homes along the canal banks and another 1, in the neighborhood Figure 1.
From the s to the late s, residents repeatedly complained of strange odors and substances that surfaced in their yards. City officials investigated the area, but did not act to solve the problem.
Local residents allegedly experienced major health problems including high rates of miscarriages, birth defects, and chromosome damage, but studies by the New York State Health Department disputed that. Finally, in President Carter declared a state of emergency at Love Canal, making it the first human-caused environmental problem to be designated that way. The Love Canal incident became a symbol of improperly stored chemical waste.
Clean up of Love Canal, which was funded by Superfund and completely finished in , involved removing contaminated soil, installing drainage pipes to capture contaminated groundwater for treatment, and covering it with clay and plastic. The Love Canal tragedy helped to create Superfund, which has analyzed tens of thousands of hazardous waste sites in the U.