Love Canal, often cited as the inspiration for CERCLA, is an unlikely name for one of the most alarming toxic waste sites in the country's history. At the turn of the 20th century, the site was planned as a dream community in Niagara Falls, N.Y. However, by 1910 the project had fallen on hard times, and in the 1920s the land was turned into a dump where tens of thousands of tons of chemical waste was disposed of.
Aware of the site's history, the Niagara Falls School Board bought the land for $1 in 1953 from Hooker Chemical Co. (now Occidental Petroleum Corp.). A school and about 100 homes were built on the site, which had been covered with earth. After heavy rainstorms in 1978, the buried chemicals leached out of their rotting drum containers, and nearby residents experienced a subsequent spike in birth defects, miscarraiges and diseases; trees and gardens also started turning black and dying.
Love Canal was removed from the national priorities list in 2004. Most toxic areas of exposure have been reburied and resealed. Areas just outside "ground zero" have been successfully restored, and over 200 homes have been sold there.