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The Abandoned Neighborhood of Love Canal, New York

Over 1000 homes were built on top of a toxic waste dump site

This 16-acre site in the city of Niagara Falls, New York was originally intended to become a canal for shipping but now it’s abandoned neighborhood. William T. Love had the idea to make it possible for ships to bypass Niagara Falls. While work on the project began in 1894, Love soon lost many of his investors and Congress passed a law prohibiting the waters of the river to be removed. After only a mile of digging the 50-foot wide canal at depths of up to 40 feet, the work project was abandoned. Love lost the property to foreclosure and by the 1920’s the city began using it for a dump site.

 Abandoned Neighborhood

By 1948 the city ceased using the site and the Hooker Chemical company became the owner, as it been granted permission to dump chemical waste there since 1942. By 1952, after dumping thousands of tons of chemical waste, the site was “sealed” with clay and was no longer used. In 1953 Hooker sold the property to the city school board for $1 (yes, one dollar) with a limited liability clause to release the company from all legal obligations if future lawsuits should occur.

 Abandoned Neighborhood

Shortly after the sale, the Niagara Falls School Board began construction of a school and other projects that compromised the clay seal, causing the waste chemicals to leak out. The remaining land was sold to private developers against the warning of Hooker’s attorney, who stated: “due to chemical waste having been dumped in that area, the land was not suitable for construction.” In spite of the warning, 800 private houses and 240 low-income apartments were constructed.

In the years that followed residents began to complain about odors and black fluid in their yards and basements. Many of the people living there became ill and several of the families had children who were born with birth defects. Even the Environmental Protection Agency claimed there was a “disturbingly high rate of miscarriages” in Love Canal. After years of investigation, it was discovered the grounds were saturated with dozens of toxic chemicals. It became was one of the largest environmental disasters in American history.

 Abandoned Neighborhood

Finally, in 1978, the residents were able to sell their homes to the federal government and evacuate. After demolishing most of the homes and years of clean up, there are still a few brave residents remaining.

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Written by John Blackwood

Since he was old enough to hold a camera, John Blackwood has been taking pictures and video. One of his first jobs as an adult was a portrait photographer for a large studio. Since then he has traveled the world providing photos and video for major corporations and media outlets. He has worked with celebrities, athletes and world leaders for more than 2 decades. Still, he prefers the abandoned and forgotten places to capture in photographs. “These places are the history lesson we need to teach our children” he says.

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