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Love Canal as a toxic waste dump. Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Love Canal was a neighborhood that was built in Niagara Falls, New York in the mid-1950s. The  site of a former toxic waste dump, it was later abandoned when inhabitants experienced high rates of cancer, birth defects, and other diseases.[1] The incident is seen as a landmark case in the ethics of environmental sustainability, pollution laws, and liability.[2]

The CaseEdit

Love Canal had been used by the Hooker Chemical Company as a toxic waste dump from the 1920s to 1953, after which it was sold the Niagara County School Board for a nominal cost of $1.[1] In the sale deed, Hooker Chemical explicitly listed all the chemicals that had been dumped on the lands and a clause stating the dangers of the chemicals at the site.[1][3] Nonetheless, the Niagara County School Board built a school on the site, and the remaining land was used to build a subdivision. By the mid-1970s, it was apparent that children born in the area were experiencing abnormally high amounts of birth defects and cancer. In the end, the Carter administration evacuated the remaining inhabitants through the newly-founded Environmental Protection Agency, but not before hundreds were sickened by living on the premises.[4][5] The Hooker Chemical Company was eventually found negligent in disposing the chemicals, but not reckless in the sale of the site.[5]

Ethical ImplicationsEdit

Environmental sustainability and pollution are covered under the law as cases of nuisance and public welfare.  The EPA in response to this case passed the Clean Air Act and Clean Water Acts, which are upheld in court as such cases.[2][6] However, in this case, the laws were passed ex post facto, which enforcement in this case is forbidden under the US Constitution, thus Hooker Chemical could not have been found reckless in the sale of the property due to the contract deed which specified the chemicals and dangers of building on the site, or reckless in the disposal, as no statute or law existed, however a lower charge of negligence did succeed in court.[5][6] Since then, engineers have to deal with new laws and regulations that work to ensure both environmental sustainability and pollution which works towards protecting the common good and public welfare.[1][2][4]


Works CitedEdit

  1. Beck, Eckardt. “The Love Canal Tragedy” EPA Journal - January 1979. http://www.epa.gov/history/topics/lovecanal/01.html. Retrieved March 6, 2013


  1. Pritchard, Michael. “Case Study 6: Love Canal” Ethics in the Science Classroom: An Instructional Guide for Secondary School Science Teachers. http://www.onlineethics.org/cms/9721.aspx. Retrieved March 6, 2013
  2. Reilly, Bill. “Reilly responds to Lois Gibbs on Love Canal habitability and related issues”

EPA press release - May 15, 1990. http://www.epa.gov/aboutepa/history/topics/lovecanal/07.html. Retrieved March 6, 2013

  1. Stoss, Fred; Fabian, Carole. “About the Love Canal” August 1998. University of Buffalo. http://library.buffalo.edu/libraries/specialcollections/lovecanal/about/. Retrieved March 6, 2013


  1. Moorman, James. “U.S. Sues Hooker Chemical at Niagara Falls, New York” EPA press release - December 20, 1979. http://www.epa.gov/aboutepa/history/topics/lovecanal/02.html. Retrieved March 6, 2013


  1. Gorsuch, Anne. “New York State and U.S. EPA Sign $7 Million Love Canal Cleanup Agreement” EPA press release - July 15, 1982. http://www.epa.gov/aboutepa/history/topics/lovecanal/08.html. Retrieved March 6, 2013
  2.  Porter, Winston. “Love Canal Record of Decision Signed” EPA press release - October 26, 1987. http://www.epa.gov/aboutepa/history/topics/lovecanal/04.html. Retrieved March 6, 2013

Image Source(s)Edit

1.    “Toxic Exposure Prevention: ATSDR Priority” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. November 29, 2010. http://www.cdc.gov/Features/PreventExposure/. Retrieved March 6, 2013

External linksEdit

Wikipedia:Love Canal

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