EPA, New York State Announce Temporary Relocation of Love Canal Residents

[EPA press release - May 21, 1980]

President Carter today declared an emergency to permit the Federal government and the State of New York to undertake the temporary relocation of approximately 700 families in the Love Canal area of Niagara Falls, New York, who have been exposed to toxic wastes deposited there by Hooker Chemical company.

Barbara Blum, Deputy Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, in announcing the President's action -- taken at the request of Governor Carey of New York -- said that the Federal government and the State will jointly fund the relocation effort.

"This action is being taken," said Blum, "in recognition of the cumulative evidence of exposure by the Love Canal residents to toxic wastes from Hooker Chemical company and mounting evidence of resulting health effects.

"Health effects studies performed by others so far are preliminary. Taken together, they suggest significant health risks. Ordinarily, we would not subject the public and affected families to the disruption of temporary relocation unless conclusions on adverse health have been fully documented and confirmed after independent review," she said.

"But this is not an ordinary situation. This case presents special circumstances warranting this extraordinary action. The studies completed to date are sufficiently suggestive of a threat to public health that prudence dictates the residents be relocated while further definitive studies are being completed," Blum declared.

The families eligible for temporary relocation assistance live in the area from 103rd Street on the east to both sides of 93rd Street on the west, Black Creek on the north to Frontier Avenue on the south.

The temporary relocation will last until long-range studies of the environmental exposures and resulting health effects suffered by the affected families are completed. These studies, which will be conducted by EPA, will be completed within the next few months.

Governor Carey's request to declare an emergency will make funds available on a matching basis with the State of New York to fund the temporary relocation under the Federal Disaster Relief Act.

The temporary relocation will be assisted by the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the New York Department of Transportation. Personnel from these two agencies are currently at the Love Canal site to begin assisting families.

Under existing Federal law, this temporary housing may be provided rent free for a period of up to one year. Pending the location of such temporary housing, residents may seek shelter with family members or in hotels, motels or other transient accommodations and will be reimbursed by the Federal government.

"The Hooker Chemical Company's dumping of toxic wastes at Love Canal," said Blum, "and the resulting health and environmental damages are a stark symbol of the problems created by the improper disposal of hazardous wastes by our society. The implementation of the regulatory program by EPA and the States under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act should prevent new Love Canals. But Americans will not be free of the effects of our toxic waste heritage without the passage of Superfund legislation to give EPA the authority and funds to clean up hazardous waste sites before they damage public health."

The complaint in the Governor's suit against Hooker Chemical Company will be amended to seek reimbursement for costs expended in this effort. The Justice Department has requested that Hooker pay the costs of temporary relocation, but the company has refused.

EPA believes this action is required at Love Canal even though it may not be necessary at other hazardous waste sites. A review by EPA's Hazardous Waste Enforcement Task Force indicates that a larger number of people in Love Canal are directly exposed to a broader range of toxic chemicals at high levels than now known at other abandoned hazardous waste sites around the country. In addition, President Carter has previously declared an emergency at Love Canal, the only hazardous waste site to be identified as such. Finally, the Government's lawsuit against Hooker Chemical Company requests relocation of the affected families, the only case involving a hazardous waste site where such relief has been requested.