In 1892, William T. Love tried to build a canal between the two levels of the Niagara River separated by Niagara Falls. He didn't get far — his canal was only about 1 mile long and 15 feet wide before he ran out of money and interest in his ideas subsided. After the canal was abandoned, it was used by local children for swimming and ice skating, but over time it turned into a local waste repository.
In 1976, two reporters, David Pollak and David Russell, tested sump pumps in the area and found toxic chemicals. The following year, reporter Michael Brown did an informal door-to-door survey of the neighborhood for a story on the health consquences of the chemicals and found a high rate of birth defects and other abnormalities. By 1978, Love Canal was plastered across newspapers and TV screens. President Jimmy Carter declared it a federal health emergency and ordered the Federal Disaster Assistance Agency to help Niagara Falls clean up the site, eventually relocating more than 800 families.