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Love Canal: Timeline and Photos

Last Updated: Mar 2, 2022 2:14 PM

Unless otherwise noted, all information below is from the Niagara Gazette Love Canal timeline.  The photographs accompanying the timeline are from the University Archives' Love Canal collections and can be found in the Love Canal Images collection.

  • 1894:  William T. Love begins a canal to link the Niagara River to Lake Ontario.  The partially completed canal is later abandoned.
  • 1942-1952: Hooker Chemical and Plastics Corporation takes over the 15-acre canal site in 1942 and by 1952 has buried over 20,000 of tons of toxic chemicals there.
  • 1953
    • May 7: Hooker Chemical sells the canal to the Niagara Falls Board of Education for $1.00 and writes into the deed a disclaimer of responsibility for future damages due to the presence of buried chemicals. The board subsequently builds a school there and sells land that is developed with residences.
  • 1976
    • October 3The Niagara Gazette reports that materials from a chemical landfill between 97th and 99th streets have been seeping into basements of homes in the area.
    • November 2The Niagara Gazette reports chemical analyses of residues near the old Love Canal dumpsite indicate presence of 15 organic chemicals, including three toxic chlorinated hydrocarbons.
    • November 4The Niagara Gazette reports that toxic chemicals seeping into cellars of homes are being carried through city storm sewers and improperly discharged into the Niagara River.
  • 1977
    • September
      • U.S. Representative John J. LaFalce (Democrat, Town of Tonawanda) and the Environmental Protection Agency begin investigating problems at Love Canal. 
      • The Niagara Gazette continues investigations on its own and urges government action.
A Map of the City of Niagara Falls with Love Canal Highlighted

Map of the City of Niagara Falls with Love Canal Highlighted

Image Identifier NYSDOH16

Infrared aerial photo of Love Canal showing the 99th Street Elementary School, the two rings of neighboring houses and the LaSalle Housing Development (upper right), Spring 1978

Infrared aerial photo of Love Canal showing the 99th Street Elementary School and two rings of neighboring houses, Spring 1978

Image Identifier NYSDOH17

Children playing in a backyard adjacent to rising toxic waste, circa 1978

Children playing in a backyard adjacent to rising toxic waste, circa 1978

Image Identifier MS65.T1-65

Love Canal resident Karen Shroeder pours black sludge from a jar held in her extended right arm.  The sludge was taken from the ground surface near the 99th Street Elementary School, Spring 1978

Love Canal resident Karen Shroeder pours black sludge taken from the ground surface near the 99th Street Elementary School, Spring 1978

Image Identifier NYSDOH19

Puddles of toxic waste, November 1978

Puddles of toxic waste, November 1978

Image Identifier MS65.7

A hole in the ground filled with a chemical-smelling black liquid, circa 1978

A hole in the ground filled with a chemical-smelling black liquid, circa 1978

Image Identifier MS65.T1-25

Toxic waste rising to the surface in the backyard of a Love Canal resident, circa 1978

Toxic waste rising to the surface in a Love Canal backyard, circa 1978

Image Identifier MS65.T1-22

Additional images can be found below.  The entire Love Canal Images collection can be found here.

  • 1978
    • April: The New York State Health Commissioner, Dr. Robert Whalen orders the Niagara County Health Department to restrict access to the Love Canal area and begin health studies.
    • May:
      • The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency conducts air sampling in basements at Love Canal and concludes that toxic vapors it found are a serious health threat.
      • New York State Department of Health reveals its plan for medical studies of Love Canal residents.
    • June:
      • New York State continues studies including house-to-house collecting of blood samples for analysis.
      • Pentagon officials deny any knowledge of records pertaining to possible disposal of U.S. Army wastes at Love Canal.
    • July: New York State Governor Hugh L. Carey signs legislation granting additional emergency powers to New York State Health Commissioner Robert Whalen to deal with Love Canal problems.  The governor also appropriates $500,000 for long-range health studies.
    • August: The Love Canal Homeowners Association is formed as a way to give a voice to the residents of Love Canal. It grew out of the Love Canal Parents Association founded by Love Canal resident Lois Gibbs. (Love Canal Homeowners Association Timeline)
    • August 2: Acting under wider powers, New York State Health Commissioner, Robert Whalen declares a state of emergency exists at Love Canal.  He also orders the closing of 99th Street Elementary School, and the evacuation of pregnant women and children under the age of two from the surrounding neighborhood.
    • August 7: President Jimmy Carter approves emergency financial aid for the area so New York State can start buying the homes of 236 Love Canal families.  The families are eventually relocated at a cost of $10 million.
    • November 10: 200 tons of dioxin, a lethal chemical, are reported buried in the canal.
    • November 22: Over 200 chemical compounds are identified as being buried at Love Canal.
    • December 8: Reports of findings of dioxin and other chemicals and New York State's refusal to relocate another 54 families on the outskirts of the contaminated area bring vehement protests from Love Canal residents. One protest leads to the arrest of seven Love Canal homeowners. Charges are later dropped.
New York Congressman John LaFalce answers reporters questions at the 99th Street Elementary School, Spring 1978

New York Congressman John LaFalce answers reporters' questions at the 99th Street Elementary School, Spring 1978

Image Identifier NYSDOH21

Love Canal Homeowner's Association President Lois Gibbs speaking with New York Governor Hugh L. Carey, Spring 1978

Love Canal Homeowners Association President Lois Gibbs speaking with New York State Governor Hugh L. Carey, 1978

Image Identifier NYSDOH18

Blood sample being taken from a young Love Canal resident for an epidemiological study, Two people wearing lab coats are holding the child still. Spring 1978

Blood sample being taken from a young Love Canal resident for an epidemiological study, Spring 1978

Image Identifier NYSDOH20

Young Love Canal residents stand in a group holding protest signs, circa 1978

Young Love Canal residents holding protest signs, circa 1978

Image Identifier NYSDOH7

An organizational meeting of the Love Canal Home Owners Association, 1978.  Pictured is an auditorium full of people.

An organizational meeting of the Love Canal Home Owners Association, 1978

Image Identifier MS65.T1-51

A man and woman stand in front of a large public meeting holding hands.  The man is speaking angrily to someone out of the picture and the woman is crying. Circa 1978

Love Canal residents speak out at a public meeting, circa 1978

Image Identifier NYSDOH13

A man is seated at a public meeting, circa 1978. He is speaking and pointing with his raised right hand.

Love Canal resident speaks out at a public meeting, circa 1978

Image Identifier NYSDOH14

Additional images can be found below.  The entire Love Canal Images collection can be found here.

  • 1979
    • January 23: Dr. Beverly Paigen, a cancer researcher at Roswell Park Memorial Institute in Buffalo, urges evacuation of more families in light if her study revealing a high rate of birth defects and miscarriages among Love Canal families.
    • January 29: The Federal Disaster Assistance Administration rejects a New York State appeal to reimburse it for $22 million spent on relocating Love Canal residents and cleaning up the site.
    • February 8: New York State announces it will pay temporary relocation costs for about 30 families with either pregnant women or children under age 2 between 97th and 103rd Streets after documenting claims of birth deformities and pregnancy-related problems outside the first ring of homes at Love Canal.
    • March 13: Over 200 people attend the meeting of the Religious Community Concerned for Love Canal at the Wesley United Methodist Church.  As a result of the meeting, the Ecumenical Task Force of the Niagara Frontier is formed.  (Ecumenical Task Force of the Niagara Frontier Timeline)
    • March 20: The Ecumenical Task Force holds its first meeting and sets out five goals: to provide direct aid to Love Canal residents, to assume the role of advocate in applying political pressure on behalf of Love Canal residents, to gather and interpret appropriate data, to seek reconciliation through justice and to advocate for complete neutralization of toxic wastes. (Ecumenical Task Force of the Niagara Frontier Timeline)
    • March 21: A U.S. House of Representatives Sub-committee begins hearings into Love Canal.  At the hearings, Love Canal residents and others argue that New York State underestimated the scope of health problems and failed to respond in an efficient and timely manner. 
    • March 29
      • Bruce Davis, executive vice president of Hooker Chemical's Industrial Chemicals Group, tells the U.S. Senate Sub-committee on Environment and Public Works that Hooker Chemical has no legal liability for the Love Canal environmental disaster.
      • The New York State Legislature grants a property tax rebate for Love Canal residents for five years, retroactive to 1978.
    • April 11: U.S. Representative Albert Gore (Democrat, Tennessee) charges Love Canal was avoidable had Hooker paid attention to danger signals. He cites an internal Hooker Chemical memorandum, dated June 18, 1958, which described children burned by materials at Love Canal.
    • April 14: Tests show that dioxin levels at Love Canal are 100 times higher than previously reported.  
    • April 16: Operation Bootstrap, a 1975 internal study of Hooker Chemical's Niagara Plant is leaked to the press.  It documents unsafe working conditions, obsolete equipment, and massive discharging of chemicals into the air and sewers leading to the Niagara River. (Niagara Gazette, April 17, 1979)
    • April 24:
      • The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency approves $4 million for remedial work at Love Canal.
      • The City of Niagara Falls receives $1 million in Federal Disaster Assistance Administration funds to help pay debts incurred at Love Canal.
    • May 4: New York State finds traces of highly toxic chemicals around 93rd Street School, a second Love Canal-area school, and orders more tests to determine extent of contamination.
    • May 26: Fifteen bids are received for abandoned Love Canal homes. Future of sales and relocation of houses in doubt as former residents protest the action.
    • June 14
      • The New York State Legislature extends property tax exemptions to another 300 families in area of Love Canal.
      • The Carter Administration reveals plans for a $1.63 billion Superfund for hazardous waste clean-ups across the country. 
    • July 12: The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announces the creation of a special task force to aid in identification and cleanup of toxic waste sites, including 36 in Western New York.
    • August 30: The City of Niagara Falls Board of Education closes 93rd Street School pending the outcome of further studies of chemical contaminants. Its students are transferred to various schools throughout the city.
    • September 4: Over 200 Love Canal residents take up residence at Stella Niagara Education Park (Route 18F, Lower River Road, Lewiston, New York) over the Labor Day weekend after being moved out of hotels and motels in the area. They had left the Love Canal area after complaining of noxious odors from the remedial work being done there.
    • September 13: New York State Supreme Court orders extension of state-funded relocation of residents for a few days to allow the residents time to submit statements signed by physicians that they are unable to live in their homes due to remedial work at Love Canal.
    • September 26: The first Love Canal lawsuits naming Hooker Chemical and three public agencies are initiated.
    • October 3: New York State Supreme Court rejects a $2.5 billion lawsuit filed on behalf of 900 Love Canal residents.
    • October 5: Actress Jane Fonda and activist husband, Tom Hayden visit Love Canal.
    • October 14: A U.S. House of Representatives subcommittee recommends relocation of another 140 families after reviewing research by Dr. Paigen that chemicals from the Love Canal are migrating.
    • October 31: Over 800 lawsuits have been filed naming Hooker Chemical, the City of Niagara Falls, Niagara County and Niagara Falls Board of Education, totaling $11 billion.
    • November: A federal report indicates the odds of Love Canal residents contracting cancer is as high as 1 in 10.
    • November 6: Remedial work at Love Canal is said to be completed and New York State says 110 families temporarily relocated can return.
    • December 20: U.S. Department of Justice initiates a $124 million lawsuit against Hooker Chemical in connection with chemicals buried at four sites in and around the City of Niagara Falls.
    • December 23: The Albert Elia Construction Company is awarded a contract to operate an on-site treatment facility at Love Canal for one year.
Two Love Canal residents are pictured packing furniture into a van, evacuating to safer housing, Spring 1978

Love Canal residents evacuating to safer housing, Spring 1978

Image Identifier NYSDOH22

A couple seeking relocation is sitting at a table meeting with representatives of the New York State Department of Health, circa 1979

A couple seeking relocation meets with representatives of the New York State Department of Health, circa 1979

Image Identifier NYSDOH10

Effigies of New York State Governor Hugh L. Carey and state Health Commissioner Dr. David Axelrod are pictured propped up in a room, circa 1981

Effigies of New York State Governor Hugh L. Carey and state Health Commissioner Dr. David Axelrod, circa 1981

Image Identifier MS65.T2-41

A large group of marching Love Canal residents carry two effigies and signs that read

Marching Love Canal residents carry two effigies and signs that read "Dioxin Kills," circa 1981

Image Identifier NYSDOH12

Love Canal residents are in the middle of a street burning effigies of New York State Governor Hugh L. Carey and state Health Commissioner Dr. David Axelrod, circa 1981.  Boarded up homes are in the background.

Love Canal residents burn effigies of New York State Governor Hugh L. Carey and state Health Commissioner Dr. David Axelrod, circa 1981

Image Identifier MS 65.T2-42

Meeting of the Ecumenial Task Force of the Niagara Frontier, March 1981.  The attendees are in a classroom sitting at desks formed into a circle. One man stands at the fron of the room, speaking.

Meeting of the Ecumenial Task Force of the Niagara Frontier, March 1981

Image Identifier MS65.23

Sister Margeen Hoffman and two other women are pictured at a meeting of the Ecumenical Task Force of the Niagara Frontier, March 1981.  Sr. Margeen was the Executive Director of the ETF from 1979-1988

Sister Margeen Hoffman (center), was Executive Director of the Ecumenical Task Force of the Niagara Frontier 1979-1988. She is pictured here at an ETF meeting, March 1981

Image Identifier MS65.D.11

Locked chain-link fence with abandoned Love Canal homes in the background, April 1981

Locked chain-link fence with abandoned Love Canal homes in the background, April 1981

Image Identifier MS65.18

Empty street of a Love Canal neighborhood, April 1981

Empty street of a Love Canal neighborhood, April 1981

Image Identifier MS65.21

A protest sign posted outside an abandoned Love Canal home, circa 1980.  The sign reads

A protest sign posted outside an abandoned Love Canal home, circa 1980

Image Identifier MS65.T2-35

THe backyard of an abandoned Love Canal home showing a child's toy horse and a dry stone wall, circa 1978

The backyard of an abandoned Love Canal home, circa 1978

Image Identifier MS65.T1-26

Additional images can be found below.  The entire Love Canal Images collection can be found here.

  • 1980
    • January: The City of Niagara Falls sells $6.5 million in bonds to pay for remedial work in the south portion of the Love Canal.
    • February: The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announces it has found four chemicals suspected of causing cancer in air samplings at Love Canal.
    • March: New York State declines to participate in a proposed Love Canal revitalization program initiated by the City of Niagara Falls.
    • April: New York State files a $635 million lawsuit against Occidental Petroleum and two of its subsidiaries Hooker Chemical Corporation and Hooker Chemical and Plastics Corporation claiming they are responsible for the Love Canal disaster.
    • May 17: The Environmental Protection Agency announces chromosome damage has been found in 11 of 36 residents tested in the Love Canal.
    • May 19: Demanding immediate action on evacuation of another 710 families, angry Love Canal residents detain two Environmental Protection Agency officials for about six hours at the Love Canal Homeowner's Association offices. They urge the declaration of a national emergency.
    • May 21
      • President Carter declares Love Canal a national emergency paving way for relocation of another 710 families.
      • Niagara County Legislature angers Love Canal residents by refusing to join the proposed Love Canal Revitalization Authority.
    • June 18: Governor Hugh Carey visits Niagara Falls to sign legislation allowing the City of Niagara Falls to create the Love Canal Area Revitalization Agency (LCARA).  (Niagara Gazette, June 18, 1980)  LCARA was a government agency established to organize the rehabilitation effort of the properties in the Emergency Declaration Area of Love Canal.
  • 1981
    • September 21: The federal government announces that it will conduct a limited study of present and former Love Canal residents in an effort to determine whether the landfill had an adverse effect on the residents’ health.
  • 1982
    • June 17: The first of 227 Love Canal homes is demolished.  Bulldozers pile the debris in the basement of each home.  The debris was covered by a clay cap.
    • July 14:  The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency report on Love Canal is released.  It details habitability of homes in neighborhoods surrounding Love Canal, extent of chemical migration, effectiveness of remedial efforts, and future remedial work needed.
    • October: New York State acquires a land easement that allows it to begin the cleanup of chemicals at the 99th Street School.
  • 1983
    • June 6:  The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation demolishes the 99th Street Elementary School
    • June 23:  The U.S. Congress' Office of Technology Assessment releases findings that the Environmental Protection Agency's report on Love Canal could not be relied upon to justify immediate rehabilitation of the area.
    • July 22: Construction of an underground containment wall around Love Canal is suspended when tests revealed that chemicals had migrated past the proposed location of the wall.
    • September 27: The Environmental Protection Agency admits its 1982 Love Canal report was seriously flawed and proposes an entirely new habitability study.  It also advises that decisions on the habitability of homes should be delayed 1.5-4.5 years.
    • December 8:  The U.S. Department of Justice files a lawsuit to recover $45 million in federal money spent to clean up Love Canal and relocate residents.  It also seeks to hold Occidental Chemical Corporation (parent company of Hooker Chemical) liable for all future expenditures related to containing toxic wastes that have migrated from the Love Canal area to nearby homes.
  • 1984
    • January 23: Congressman John LaFalce requests $4 million from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for the purchase of the remaining homes around Love Canal.
    • March 2: The terms of a $20 million out-of-court settlement between Occidental Chemical Corporation and 1,336 Love Canal residents are revealed.  The settlement will set aside $1 million for a lifetime medical trust that will cover the cost of diagnosis and treatment of any latent Love Canal related illnesses of those residents accepting the settlement.  The residents had originally sought $15 billion.

"Admittance by Permit Only" sign on a gate into a fenced off Love Canal neighborhood

Image Identifier MS65.D.17

Corroded barrels of toxic waste rising to the surface of the former Love Canal, August 1981

Barrels of toxic waste rising to the surface of Love Canal, August 1981

Image Identifier MS65.3

Remediation workers wearing protective gear remove a barrel of toxic waste from a creek within a fenced-in area at Love Canal, circa 1982.  Two men are trying to stand up a barrel while a third man looks on.

Remediation workers remove a barrel of toxic waste from a creek within a fenced-in area at Love Canal, circa 1982

Image Identifier MS65.Ph.26

The top of a rusty barrel of toxic waste from Love Canal is pictured.  There is an open circular hole in the top of the barrel.

Open barrel of toxic waste from Love Canal

Image Identifier MS65.Ph.29

Over 100 barrels of toxic waste are lined up on pallets at the side of the road, circa 1980.

Barrels of toxic waste removed from Love Canal, circa 1980

Image Identifier MS65.Ph.22

Remediation work at Love Canal showing earthmoving machines and abandoned homes, June 1982

Remediation work at Love Canal showing earthmoving machines and abandoned homes, June 1982

Image Identifier MS65.D.10

A steam shovel is pictured digging a trench near abandoned Love Canal homes.  A man wearing protective gear is nearby looking into the trench

Remediation construction work performed by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, circa 1978

Image Identifier NYSDOH8

Abandoned Love Canal home with remediation work wall and crane in the background, circa 1982

Abandoned Love Canal home with remediation work crane in the background, circa 1982

Image Identifier MS65.9

Former residents watch through a chain-link fence as an abandoned Love Canal home is demolished, June 1982

Former residents watch through a chain-link fence as an abandoned Love Canal home is demolished, June 1982

Image Identifier MS65.D.18

Demolition of an abandoned Love Canal home seen through a chain-link fence, June 17, 1982

Demolition of an abandoned Love Canal home seen through a chain-link fence, June 17, 1982

Image Identifier MS65.Ph.11

Earth moving equipment and men wearing protective gear are pictured outside the 99th Street Elementary School, October 1982

Remediation work at the 99th Street Elementary School, October 1982

Image Identifier MS65.T1-64

Men wearing protective gear are shown building a barrier wall in the ground outside the 99th Street Elementary School

Remediation work at the 99th Street Elementary School, October 1982

Image Identifier MS65.T1-63

Demolition of the 99th Street Elementary School, June 6, 1983

Demolition of the 99th Street Elementary School, June 6, 1983

Image Identifier MS65.T2-49

Demolition of the 99th Street Elementary School seen through a chain-link fence, June 6, 1983

Demolition of the 99th Street Elementary School seen through a chain-link fence, June 6, 1983

Image Identifier MS65.Ph.19

Fenced-in Love Canal remediation area with a sign that reads

Fenced-in Love Canal remediation area with a sign that reads "Danger: Hazardous Area Unauthorized Personnel Keep Out," circa 1990

Image Identifier MS65.Ph.6

The entire Love Canal Images collection can be found here.