Love Canal is an aborted canal project branching off of the Niagara River about four miles south of Niagara Falls, NY. It is also the name of a fifteen-acre, neighborhood built directly adjacent to the canal. From 1942 to 1953, the Hooker Chemical Company, with government sanction, began using the partially dug canal as a chemical waste dump. At the end of this period, the canal contained approx 21,000 tons of toxic chemicals, including at least twelve that are known carcinogens. Hooker covered the 16-acre hazardous waste landfill in clay and sold the land to the Niagara Falls School Board, attempting to absolve itself of any future liability by including a warning in the property deed.
In the late 1970s, investigative newspaper coverage and grass-roots door-to-door health surveys began to reveal a series of inexplicable illnesses such as epilepsy, asthma, migraines, and nephrosis – along with abnormally high rates of birth defects and miscarriages in the Love Canal neighborhood.
By 1978, hundreds of families had sold their houses to the federal government and evacuated the area. The disaster led to the formation in 1980 of the Superfund program, which helps pay for the clean-up of toxic sites.