Erin Brockovich will be proud!

To some of us, the words “Love Canal” conjure up visions of toxic waste oozing out of murky waters. It was here that a local mother, Lois Gibbs, began to investigate why there were so many health problems in her neighborhood, after her son developed several health issues. This was 1978, years before Erin Brockovich and her case against PG& E, which was made infamous by the movie.

Regarded by many as “one of the most appalling environmental tragedies in American history”, Love Canal resulted in Congress enacting the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA), more commonly known as Superfund. This law specifically addresses abandoned hazardous waste sites and allows the EPA to clean up such sites and to compel responsible parties to perform cleanups or reimburse the government for EPA-lead cleanups.

Today, 22 years after it was officially declared a Superfund site, a lengthy stretch of the Hudson River will begin to be decontaminated. General Electric, the sole responsible party, is supervising and paying for the cleanup, which federal officials have estimated could cost more than $750 million and take up to six years to complete.

An estimated 1.3 million pounds of PCB’s, or polychlorinated biphenyls, flowed into the upper Hudson from two General Electric factories for three decades before they were banned in 1977 as a threat to human health and wildlife.


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