Lois Gibbs Returns for Love Canal Anniversary

October 24, 2013 Updated Oct 24, 2013 at 9:32 AM EDT

By Ed Reilly

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October 24, 2013 Updated Oct 24, 2013 at 9:32 AM EDT


NIAGARA FALLS, N.Y. (WKBW) Thirty five years ago, the State Health Commissioner declared a state of emergency at the Love Canal and ordered the first round evacuations.

Over 900 families would end up being relocated from the Love Canal neighborhood, and the environmental disaster opened the nation's eyes to the dangers of buried toxic waste.

From 1942 until 1952, the Hooker Chemical and Plastics Company (now Occidental Petroleum Corporation) buried over 21,000 tons of various chemical wastes in the Love Canal before covering the landfill in 1953.

The property was then transferred to the Niagara Falls Board of Education and the area was developed with homes and two elementary schools (99th & 93rd Street schools).

In the late 1970's, Lois Gibbs, president of the Love Canal Homeowners Association, led the fight to get residents evacuated after it was discovered that chemical were leaking from the Love Canal into homes and the neighborhood.

"How dare they say this area is safe," said Gibbs during a press conference marking the 35th anniversary.

Lois Gibbs now lives in Virginia where she is executive director at the Center for Health, Environment, & Justice.

On Tuesday October 22nd, she returned to tour the Love Canal area with local residents who claim the Love Canal is still causing them health problems.

Among the group where former students from the 93rd Street School who have now banded together claiming exposure to Love Canal chemicals as children made them sick as adults.

"I will expect that by the end of the year that we will have a lawsuit filed on behalf of the 93rd Street School," added attorney William Mack from Philips & Paolicelli in New York City.

Also joining Lois Gibbs,for the walking tour were current Love Canal residents who claim chemicals are still leaking from the Love Canal and getting into their homes and making them sick.

Some families recently filed a $113 million dollar lawsuit claiming the toxic chemicals continue to ruin their health.

"Today, 35-years later, every single thing we said would happen has happened," commented Gibbs.

"It is very hard to come back here and see the same thing that was here 35-years ago."