Love Canal, NY: How a Single Environmental Disaster Changed America

Richard Newman – Rochester Institute of Technology

One of the most famous environmental disasters in the last fifty years, Love Canal still echoes in the American mind. A subdivision outside of Niagara Falls, NY, that was built on top of a chemical waste dump, the neighborhood became the epicenter of a new struggle for environmental justice in the 1970s and 1980s. That struggle produced landmark laws, such as the 1980 Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act, aka Superfund — which is dedicated to hazardous waste remediation — and inspired a wave of grassroots environmental struggle across the nation and the world.


Discussion Questions:

  1. What environmental organizations did Love Canal residents and their allies form after a toxic waste dump was discovered in their neighborhood in the late 1970s? What goals did these various groups have?

  1. What impact did Love Canal activism have on Congress in the 1970s and 1980s?

  1. How was Love Canal remediated — and why were certain parts of the neighborhood resettled later under a new name?