Featured in Issues & Controversies in American History:
Who Should Pay for the Cost of Cleaning Up Hazardous Waste Sites?
In 1978, New York State health commissioner Robert Whalen declared a public health emergency revolving around Love Canal, an abandoned chemical waste site buried beneath a suburban neighborhood in Niagara Falls, New York. Residents had long complained about noxious fumes and dark, oily residue seeping into basements. Heavy precipitation had recently caused the buried canal to overflow, revealing the rusting drums beneath the surface and exposing residents to even more toxic chemicals. As a result of this and other discoveries, a national debate emerged over the question of responsibility and liability for cleanup, proper disposal, and compensation to affected individuals. Some argued that the chemical industry, which profited directly from the production and cheap disposal of hazardous wastes, should cover most of these costs and be held liable. Others, however, argued that the government should cover most of the costs relating to hazardous wastes and that only those individuals or firms that were egregiously negligent or criminal should be held liable.
Let your students get the facts and decide for themselves: Who should pay for the cost of cleaning up hazardous waste sites? Be sure to check out Issues & Controversies in American History’s clear and unbiased examination of the arguments surrounding Love Canal.
Click on the links below for more information about Issues & Controversies in American History: