Miles of land edging up to Niagara Falls is made of bedrock that is infinitely fractured – sounds like a great place to store chemical waste produced during the glory days of industrialization doesn’t it? There are 215 chemical waste sites in Niagara and Erie counties leaching toxins into groundwater from where it migrates to the Niagara River and eventually Lake Ontario. The human health toll has been outrageous – the Love Canal area shows us that miscarriage, low birth weight, seizures, learning problems, skin rashes, deformities and abdominal pain are some of the results of this hidden byproduct. “An unknown array and quantity of chemicals were buried on-site until the waste site was capped in 1953. Estimates of hazardous waste in this landfill range from 22,000 tons to 176,000 tons,” according to the EPA. And it isn’t just in Love Canal either, a study of people living within the Ontario portion of the Niagara River AOC found health problems ranging from birth defects to cancer. As late as the 1980’s we allowed 12 municipalities and 89 industrial facilities to discharge waste into the River. This AOC really has it all – inactive hazardous waste sites, contaminated sediment, combined sewer overflows, habitat degradation, pollution and both urban and rural run-off. Not surprising that 26 New York sites are considered responsible for more than 99 percent of the toxic chemical pollution on the US side of the basin. Really makes you want to drink the water, eat the fish and swim in the lake doesn’t it?
To read more about this Area of Concern, click here to go to the EPA’s website.