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Asunto:[LEA-Venezuela] Twenty-five years after Love Canal
Fecha:Jueves, 24 de Julio, 2003  06:21:22 (-0400)
Autor:Jorge Hinestroza <vitae3>

Infamous US Toxic Dump Becomes Home to New Families

USA: July 24, 2003

NIAGARA FALLS, N.Y. - Twenty-five years after its leaking poisons forced
residents to flee, America's most notorious toxic dump, Love Canal, is home
to families who moved into cleaned-up houses and toddlers who romp on land
still too dangerous to build on.

"I choose not to think about it," said one mother, pushing her infant on a
swing set at a playground next to the now filled-in dump site. "We don't
have any control over it."
Former residents thought about it a lot. They organized, persuaded the
government to fund evacuations that began in 1978 and helped give birth to
the modern environmental movement.
Joseph Paonessa, who a decade ago moved into the area which has been renamed
Black Creek Village, grows irate over reminders of those times at Love
Canal -- such as a planned August tour and ceremony for the 25th anniversary
by former occupants and community activists.
"Why don't they just stay away?" he said, angrily waving a garden shovel.
"They've tested it again and again. Does this look like a toxic waste dump
to you?"
Invisible danger from chemicals including dioxins and benzene made Love
Canal insidious, said Luella Kenny, whose 7-year-old son died in 1978. His
death was believed by his family and several experts to have stemmed from
exposure to chemicals leaking into the backyard creek where he played.
"We thought it was an idyllic place to raise children, but certainly it
turned out not to be," she said.
Paonessa bought the Kenny house after the government decided more than 200
emptied houses on part of the site were usable in the late 1980s.
"Nothing is worth it when the chemicals are only a block away from your
house, contained or not contained," said Kenny. "Twenty-five years ago, we
were trusting too when they told us everything was fine."
The canal was dug by William Love in a 19th century hydro-electric project
that went bust. Left behind was a long, partially dug pond that became a
dump for Hooker Chemical Corp. which filled it, covered it and sold it to
the city of Niagara Falls in 1953. The city built a school on it.
Led by Lois Gibbs, a young homemaker who believed her son's poor health was
caused by chemicals under the school, the neighborhood fought a battle
against the city, state, federal government and Hooker, which became
Occidental Chemical Corp.
They reported a high rate of miscarriages, cancer, mental retardation,
respiratory problems and birth defects as gory as babies with three ears and
a double row of teeth. Gardens would not grow, dogs burned their noses
sniffing the ground and basements oozed foul-smelling goo.
Frustrated by official inaction, residents' tempers so boiled over at one
point that a mob held two Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) officials
hostage for hours.
Eventually, the government moved out more than 800 families and reimbursed
them for their homes. Occidental spent more than $200 million to clean up
the site, and Congress passed the Superfund law holding polluters
Love Canal "fundamentally changed how we thought about toxic waste," said
former EPA head Carol Browner.
"For a long time, environmental protection was about protecting pretty
places where we went on vacation," she said. "Love Canal told us ... it was
about our community, our neighborhood and it was about our health."
A fenced-in mound covers Love Canal. Nearby blocks are eerily deserted,
houses buried, weeds and wildflowers cover driveways, unheeded stop signs
stand askew and, in a Gothic touch, vultures circle overhead.
Nearest the fence are a handful of houses still standing, home to the few
who never left. One is an 82-year-old woman who gave her name as Emily as
she tended her garden.
She turned down a government offer of $30,000 for the house where she has
lived for 57 years and now has empty lots for neighbors. "There's privacy,
too much privacy," she said, peering down the still street. "It's lonesome.
Everybody moved out. There's nobody here."
Rail-thin with the withered look of a lifelong smoker, Floyd Garrow, 77,
also stayed put and grows tomatoes on the Love Canal fence. "I got elbow
room here," said the Hooker employee of 35 years.
A study tracks the health of former residents and a trust pays certain
medical costs but there's no monitoring of current residents, said state
Department of Health spokesman Joe Rohm.
"It's clean," he said. "There's nothing to monitor."
That satisfies Paul Devlin, a carpenter raising three children in a house
next to the Love Canal fence he hides with vines. "I figure it's one of the
safest places since they did all the clean up," he said. "I don't glow at
Gibbs is horrified that hundreds of people have moved back here and thinks
the contained canal poses health risks.
"There's still 20,000 tons of chemicals in the center of that neighborhood,"
said Gibbs, who now runs the Center for Health, Environment and Justice in a
Washington suburb.
Despite the hostility from current residents who want the memory of Love
Canal buried along with the chemicals, Kenny often returns to give informal
tours to students and visitors.
"I'm determined that no other child will die because of corporate
irresponsibility," she said, flinching slightly at the sight of a toddler on
a tricycle on a Love Canal street.

Tomado de:
Reuters Daily World Environment News.

Nunca por amor a la paz y a la tranquilidad repudies tu propia experiencia o
tus convicciones.
Dag Hammarskjöld

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