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Love Canal

Site Number 932020

Love Canal Site and Colvin Ave Sewer Repairs

The Love Canal site was originally an abandoned excavation project by William T. Love who planned to construct a power canal between the upper and lower sections of the Niagara River. Mr. Love's objective was to provide cheap hydroelectric power for a proposed model industrial city. The project was terminated due to the invention of alternating current and the resulting fact that industry no longer needed to locate near a source of power. In 1938, aerial photos indicate that the canal consistently contained impounded water and was used by local residents for swimming, ice skating and other recreation purposes. From 1942 to 1953, Hooker Electrochemical Company disposed of industrial hazardous wastes and the City of Niagara Falls disposed of municipal wastes. For closure, Hooker installed a clay cap to grade.

In 1953 the Canal site was sold to the Board of Education. This was soon followed by the construction of the 99th St. School in 1954. Residents that bordered the site on 97th and 99th streets along with bisectional streets of Wheatfield and Read Avenues complained of minor explosions and fumes at the site in the 1960's and during the mid-1970's. In 1977, and more specifically after the blizzard of that year, precipitation and melting snow that infiltrated into the Canal, apparently forced the chemical wastes to the surface. The contaminated groundwater also migrated laterally through the surface soils into yards, basements, local storm and sanitary sewer systems and nearby creeks. Residents complained of chemical odors and illnesses. To baseline assess the health and environmental threat, DEC, DOH and USEPA collected basement sump, soil and air samples and found that significant contamination was present.

In 1978, the Commissioner of the Department of Health declared the area a public threat to human health and orders restricted access along with a State of Emergency recommending the relocation of pregnant women and children under the age of two residing in homes adjacent to the canal. Under an Emergency Declaration in 1979, a permanent leachate collection system, a 22-acre clay cap and an activated carbon treatment plant was constructed. This remedial work was done to reduce the amount of vertical water infiltration, intercept lateral contaminated groundwater (leachate) migration and simultaneously treat the collected groundwater for containment objectives. The treated leachate was then discharged to the Niagara Falls sanitary sewer system by permit for additional treatment at the Niagara Falls Waste Water Treatment Plant.

In 1984, an extended soil and clay cap was installed to over 40 acres that included a synthetic (HDPE) membrane covering the area of concern along with 18 inches of cover soil. Also, starting from 1983, investigations were conducted to determine the extent of contamination in Black, Bergholtz and Cayuga Creeks, as well as the 102nd Street delta into the Niagara River. Due to these investigations, the following remedial actions were completed: cleaning of the Black and Bergholtz Creeks, cleaning of off-site sewers, installation of perimeter wells to assess the effectiveness of the Love Canal remedial actions and construction of an administration building and drum-decontamination storage facility for the treatment plant.

In September 1988, DOH issued Love Canal - Decision On Habitability - September 1988 (44 page PDF, 1.78 MB). The Habitability Study divided the area into seven parts. The Emergency Declaration Areas 4 to 7 was declared habitable for residential use. Areas 1, 2 and 3 were determined to be suitable only for commercial and/or light industrial use.

Operation, Maintenance and Monitoring (OM&M) of the site was transferred over to OCC from DEC in April of 1995 and is in progress today. Annual site activity reports are submitted to the Department which includes area groundwater quality monitoring results. In addition to DEC oversight, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) performs five year reviews.

Operation, Maintenance and Monitoring (Site Management) responsibilities were transferred from Miller Springs Remediation Management Inc. (MSRM) to Conestoaga Rovers and Associates (CRA) on October 1, 2008. Glenn Springs Holdings Inc. (GSHI) a subsidiary of Occidental Petroleum directly oversees Conestoaga Rovers and Associates (CRA) and maintains responsibility for compliance with the Operation, Maintenance and Monitoring (Site Management) requirements. Periodic Review Reports are submitted annually to the Department on site management activities along with certifications of the sites institutional and engineering control(s) status as to the effectiveness of the remediation.

LaSalle Sanitary Sewer Repair and Cleaning Project

Repairs to the Colvin Boulevard sanitary sewer took place as part of the Niagara Falls Water Board LaSalle Sanitary Sewer Repair Project. The project involved cleaning and repair work for 17 different sections of sewer line in the vicinity of the Love Canal site to improve the conditions of the lines and prevent storm and ground water infiltration. The LaSalle Sanitary Sewer Repair Project occurred as part of an ongoing effort to reduce sanitary sewer overflows. Sanitary sewer overflow events happen when there are large quantities of rain or melting snow and the sewer lines become overloaded by storm water inflow or groundwater infiltration. A number of municipalities throughout the state have been asked to undertake projects such as these to improve local water quality.

As contractors worked to routinely clean and repair a section of damaged sewer line located below the intersection of 96th Street and Colvin Boulevard a 50 foot section of sewer pipe was excavated. During the excavation of this section of pipe, a chemical odor and visibly impacted soil was observed. The contractor notified the City of Niagara Falls, work halted and DEC was notified of the incident as required by State regulations. The Niagara Falls Water Board staff contacted GSHI, which operates and maintains the nearby Love Canal treatment facility. GSHI assumed the repair work with a qualified contractor, completing repair work in this area on February 21, 2011. Because of the chemical odor noticed during repair work at the 96th Street and Colvin Boulevard section of sewer pipe, DEC required GSHI to conduct an investigation in the project area to determine the source and extent of potential contamination found during the sewer repair work. DEC also required GSHI review the operation of the Love Canal's remedial systems and develop a remediation work plan for this area that included soil and sediment sampling and analysis for any Love Canal indicator chemicals during the sewer repair. As a part of follow-up activities to determine if the contamination in the sewer bedding was limited to the area of repair groundwater monitoring wells, as well as several soil borings along the alignment of the sewer, were installed in 2011.

The results of these investigations determined that the contaminated section of pipe was found to be at a lower elevation than other sections of pipe, forming an isolated pocket of contamination. While hydraulic cleaning of the sewer system was performed in 1985 and 1986 and addressed the interior of the pipe, it did not address any contamination that may have been released from the damaged pipe into the exterior bedding material. Impacts to the bedding materials in the low section of pipe were likely the result of the sewer pipe sinking over time prior to Love Canal investigations and remediation. As the sewer piping sank, the joints in the pipe sections became compromised, allowing discharge into the sewer bedding, prior to implementation of the original Love Canal remedial actions. The low spot in the pipe has been repaired and eliminated.

The LaSalle Sewer Repair Project included excavation work at 16 other locations on City streets located near or adjacent to the Love Canal Landfill; evidence of contamination was not found at any of these other sites during sewer repair and cleaning. Investigation and laboratory data provided to date suggests the chemicals found do not extend beyond the sewer repair area and were contained within an isolated pocket in a low-lying section of pipe buried within restrictive clay soils beneath the road's surface. The investigation determined that the contaminated bedding found within this section of sanitary sewer along Colvin Boulevard immediately east of 96th Street are not a result of current operations at the Love Canal site. Further more the contamination found was at a depth of approximately 20 to 22 feet beneath the surface of the road, isolated within a low-lying section of sewer line embedded within clay soils, which restrict migration of material.

The report of the findings is available for viewing by clicking on the link in the right column of this page. Due to size limitations on the website, the report is an abbreviated version of the full report and does not include some appendices and tabular data. A full version of the report is available for review at DEC's Region 9 Office in Buffalo. Please call (716) 851-7220 to make an appointment if you wish to view the full document.

Who to Contact

Should you have additional questions, please feel welcome to contact the representatives below:

Environment-Related Information
Gregory Sutton
NYS DEC Region 9 Office
270 Michigan Ave.
Buffalo, NY 14203
(716) 851-7220
region9@dec.ny.gov

Health-Related Information
Matthew Forcucci
NYS DOH
584 Delaware Ave.
Buffalo, NY 14202
(716) 847-4501
beei@health.state.ny.us

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