Love Canal - Please Help Me

Where Is The Love For Love Canal?

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Love Canal - Please Help MeLove Canal was used as a disposal site by Hooker Chemical Corp for more than 200 different hazardous chemical wastes. In 1953, Hooker sold it to Niagara Falls Board of Education (BoE) to get rid of the virtual wasteland. The land was developed despite of the buried chemicals beneath. Leaching of chemicals was discovered in 1978 and this has severely affected the health of residents in the area.

Should Hooker take the blame?

There were two actions taken by Hooker which played a major role in the chain event of Love Canal disaster: waste disposal and selling the land. Firstly, Hooker has conformed to the chemical waste disposal practice during that time which is through landfills. This disposal route was approved by state government and there were no controlling regulations regarding the safety and aftermath effect. Hooker was one of the leaders in industry safety and has claimed to be unfairly picked upon for the waste disposal practice. As an expertise and leader in the chemical industry, they could have strived for a better solution for waste disposal and help identify the loopholes in the existing regulations. From the approach of care ethics, responsibility shared by engineers included the respect for human life, sustainability of environment and contribution to engineering practice. Thus, engineers’ professional responsibility to the society is an integral part of the engineering process.

After being approached by BoE for land possession request, Hooker has released a letter agreeing to transfer ownership of the site to BoE in the form of donation. Hooker absolved them of any liability for future damages by writing a disclaimer which mentioned “injury, death or property damage arising from waste products”. From this statement, it is obvious that Hooker is aware of the possibility of serious consequences for developing the disposal site but they have decided to shift the responsibility to BoE. Appropriate actions should have been taken by Hooker to investigate any social consequences of the site even though Hooker has released its land ownership. Resultantly, Hooker has violated the freedom principle where it has deliberately brought harm to the community in Love Canal. The lack of consciousness to consequence showed that Hooker’s action could be judged by consequentialism where the worst case scenario has happened.

On the other hand, the action of BoE building a community at the site is considered morally acceptable from a utilitarian perspective because it resulted in the greatest happiness for the solid working-class community. This action has created many job opportunities for the community and hence many people were happy. BoE’s decision to sell the remaining land to the developer helped BoE to gain large amount of profit because they bought the land for only $1. Judging from consequentialism, this action has generated the best result for BoE.

To sum up, Hooker has done a bad decision by disposing the chemical waste in such practise. Although the incident happened after the change in land ownership, the source of consequence still originates from Hooker. Utilitarianism was not acceptable as freedom principle of not harming others has been violated. Care ethics was not showcased by Hooker as the waste disposal practise was obviously unsustainable.

Should Niagara Falls Board of Education (BoE) take the blame?

Ignorance of BoE towards Hooker’s warning and selling the remaining land to the developer to build a community were the other two reasons for the Love Canal disaster. Through multiple protests and warnings, Hooker has shown their concern about the land utilization even after the transfer of ownership. In November 1957, Hooker published public warnings in local newspapers about the potential risk of the land with full disclosure of its past use as a dumpsite. Despite the effects were repeatedly explained, all of Hooker’s efforts were unrecognised through dismissal from BoE.This means that BoE could have known about the danger to carry out development activities in Love Canal. Regardless of the “warning” given by Hooker about the chemical buried beneath the site, BoE built a school and sold the remaining land to developer which then built about 100 homes at the site. The construction work which caused chemical leakage has led to the Love Canal disaster.

From the perception of Kantian theory, any rational person should be able to determine what is morally correct through reasoning. The action of selling the land to the developer for building a community over the chemically covered land despite knowing the potential risk is not morally acceptable. This will lead to health problems and rip families out of their homes.

Love Canal - 2nd PictureFurthermore, the homeowners were not given any warning indicating that their property was located near a chemical waste dump. Based on reciprocity principle, people should not be treated as mere means. This implies respect for people’s moral autonomy in making their own choices. The residents should be informed about the risks so that they can make an autonomous rational decision.

Looking at the matter from the perspective of Hooker, precautions were taken to seal the chemicals and warnings were provided to BoE. In this sense, Hooker has shown equality postulate by treating humanity with equal concern as a means to an end, though with no avail. However, some source claimed that BoE acquired the land by force through eminent domain, which might be the reason for the price of $1. In terms of categorical imperative such as obligatory rule, Hooker´s decision was purely abiding the law. Furthermore, Hooker’s decision of transferring the land ownership to BoE is to protect the company’s interest which reflects upon utilitarianism.

To conclude for this section, BoE’s decision has led to one of the worst engineering disaster of all time. This incident is caused by the ignorance of BoE which is judgeable from consequentialism. Despite the fact that BoE was not under any obligation to develop the Love Canal, this action has violated the maxim in Kantian theory at the same time. Therefore, it is rational to argue that BoE should take the responsibility for this incident.

 

41 thoughts on “Where Is The Love For Love Canal?

  1. Regulation must be abide by all means those who caused the disaster, it is compulsory for them to take responsibility for the incident.

    This has eloquently show the importance of hazard and risk assessment in designing a plant before working on it at the site.

    1. Thank you for the comment 🙂

      I totally agree with you that the regulation must be abided by all means.
      However, to be fair, at the time of the Love Canal disaster, no regulations existed regarding such event. So it is not fair to blame Hooker Company alone for the Love Canal disaster.

      1. As the leader of the industry, Hooker should know the impact of dumping the waste. I personally believe that Hooker use the loophole in the regulation as an opportunity to dispose the chemical waste using a cheap method.

    2. Yes, I agree with that hazard and risk assessment should be studied and analysed in a serious manner as the possible harm will affect all those in surrounding including residents, workers and environment.

      1. Yes, Hazard and risk assessment should be studied in a serious manner.
        But we shouldn’t blame Hooker alone. They don’t want to develop the land in the first place, Hooker did warn about the consequences of developing the land to BoE. Hooker were also forced to sell the land through eminent domain for only $1. It is clear that BoE wanted to make a profit. Hence, I believe that Hooker and BoE share the responsibility for the disaster.

  2. Clearly, if this article is telling the full story, then the Niagara Falls BoE should be the one that is held most responsible for this disaster. Despite the warnings they were still adamant on continuing with the housing projects.

    The article also did a good job in giving its views on the disaster by showing both sides of the story. Although, certain terms can be further explained.

    1. Thanks for the feedback 🙂

      Yes, I agree that some terms should be further explained. We should consider that not all readers have a background in Engineering.
      However, the reason why we didn’t explain some of the term is because of the word limit.

  3. Hooker might have been wrong and he ran away from the emerging problem by simply passing it to BoE. However, it has to be mentioned that the land was transferred in the form of donation and warnings were given on the impending danger of the site.
    Therefore, BoE should be held accountable for this whole situation. They proceeded with the plan for housing development in the area which has invited a larger community getting affected by the chemical pollution. There is a probability that BoE act of negligence is due to profit-making from selling of the polluted land. In addition, they benefited from this whole situation compared to Hooker.

    1. On the bright side, I also support the BoE intention to develop a community by building school and houses which provides more job opportunities and accommodations to the resident surrounding. However, I believe that the idea will be perfect if they could sanitize and clean the land beforehand.

  4. Hooker might have been wrong and he ran away from the emerging problem by simply passing it to BoE. However, it has to be mentioned that the land was transferred in the form of donation and warnings were given on the impending danger of the site.

    The article also did a good job in giving its views on the disaster by showing both sides of the story. Although, certain terms can be further explained.

  5. Interesting read! The article has done a good job in explaining the different perspective on who should be held responsible for the tragedy. It seems that BoE had overlook the warnings given by Hooker and insist on building a community over the polluted land. However, it is not BoE’s fault solely as the authority should have done a better job in monitoring and allowing the development of the community over the land that used to be a chemical dumping site. Despite the fact Hooker pollutes the land in the first place, it is difficult to blame them as the waste treatment practise during that may be limited. Therefore, everyone carries some of the blame and others should learn from this mistake.

    1. When there are two parties made mistakes, the third party, which is the authority here should have not favour one side but instead looking for a better solution.

      1. Yes, I agree. The authority shouldn’t be bias in favour of BoE, which was of government body at that time. Hooker seems to be a black sheep in this situation. Hooker was blamed the most for the Love Canal disaster, although they didn’t want the land to be developed in the first place. They were forced to sell the land to BoE by the government. I believe the authority should share the blame as well.

  6. Interesting story ! This article really gives a very good point of view on the disaster of Love Canal. The biggest perspective that plays the main role in this article is one should always be responsible towards their own mistakes. As from what you can read, Hooker ran away at the first place and came back to let the people aware of the endangers of that wasteland. Even more, this article gives the readers a clear view on how a professional engineers should behave as they should always aware on the safeness on the environment and human . After reading this, I would suggest people to read this article the story-line is well-constructed and easy to understand.

    1. The awareness of the engineers should always be emphasised not to only prioritise on producing more products but also to focus on environment sustainability.

  7. Interesting article! It is easy to understand as it provides stories from both Hooker and Niagara Falls BoE in the Love Canal environmental disaster. From what we have read, Hooker was the first one to be blamed due to the failure in the waste disposal practice. However, it was mentioned that after the land ownership been transferred to BoE, Hooker had shown their concern by publishing public warnings with full disclosure regarding its past use. This is where the BoE need to be accountable and responsible with the action that it takes to build the community at the site. Although it is morally acceptable due to the job opportunities provided, the long term consequences on the people health and safety should also need to be taken into consideration in building the community. Furthermore, the role of the government should also be questioned in this case as some critics argue that the area is still dangerous and whether people should be allowed to live there or not. Overall, this article did a great job by providing some views and lessons regarding the Love Canal cases and how the engineers and companies should be responsible with the decision that they have made.

    1. The people should not be blinded with the good things such are the job opportunities when there are greater disadvantages of the event for instance potential harms on healthy and safety.

  8. This is a very interesting and enlightening article to read. This was my first time knowing about this awful tragedy and this article did a great job in making me understand about the root cause behind this. It is really unfortunate that such tragedy need to take place for the authorities to start regulating waste lands.

    1. Thanks for the comment 🙂

      Happy to know that you enjoyed reading this article and the fact that you know about this tragedy through reading this article.
      Yes it is very unfortunate that the Love Canal tragedy need to take place for the authorities to start regulating waste lands.
      On the bright side, hazardous waste in landfills is now approached in a much different manner. Certain specifications must be met when creating a landfill for hazardous waste. Hopefully, this tragedy will not repeat in the future.

  9. This clearly shows how important ethics is. Its a nice touch where the blame is not directed to a single organization a mix of both. However, what do you reckon for future prospect on how this kind of case could be handle? For example, is there any organization or something that have been established to become the middle person which could prevent such incident to happen? That could give an idea on how ethics could be emphasized and even enforced in the world today.

    My humble opinion,
    FN

    1. Good question.
      Yes there is, after the love canal disaster, there is a new regulation regarding disposal of chemical waste. Now companies cannot simply dump hazardous waste at dumping site. They must clean the hazardous waste before dumping it.

      Thank you 🙂

  10. I think the Niagara Falls BoE is too blame.
    Reading https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/1979/12/love-canal-and-the-poisoning-of-america/376297/ it seems clear to me that nearly all residents of Niagara Falls knew of Hooker Chemical and its business.

    According to your article the BoE asked to buy land from Hooker
    : “After being approached by BoE for land possession request”

    Hooker donated the land, with a nominal $1 fee, and said they were free of any liability. Quote: “Hooker absolved them of any liability for future damages by writing a disclaimer which mentioned “injury, death or property damage arising from waste products”.”

    This should have rung alarm bells, or at least caused someone at Niagara Falls to ask why Hooker wanted this absolution. Similarly, the money saved in terms of purchase could have been used to clean up the ground.

    Caveat emptor!

    Good article, with good ethical reasoning too.

    1. Thank you for the feedback 🙂

      Yes, I agree with you that the Niagara Falls BoE is responsible for checking the quality and suitability of the land before a purchase is made. Besides, Hooker donated the land after being approached by BoE for land possession request. So, BoE should have knew that the land was used as a landfill for hazardous waste.
      I also agree with your point that the money saved could have been used to clean up the ground before selling it to the developer and start building a community.

      Thank you again for the feedback. Really appreciate it.

    2. I personally believe that Hooker is responsible to clean-up the land, not BoE. This is due to the fact that they are the ones that pollute the land. As a leader in the industry, they should know the consequences of their action.

      1. But Hooker didn’t want to sell the land in the first place. They were forced to do so. Hooker also did warn BoE about the consequence developing the land.
        Why should Hooker clean the land for BoE who clearly benefits the most when the land was developed.

  11. The subjective point of view of this article has clearly laid out the responsibility of different bodies and also the way they dealt with matter. The ethical arguments are related to the decisions made by each party. However most of the engineering safety case studies have used Hooker Chemicals as the party to be blamed. This article has shed light on this event, the underlying issue was that the BoE was of goverment body. And unfortunately, Hooker Chemical has became the black sheep in this disasterous event.
    From the positive side, Hooker Chemicals had took the blame and took up the responsibility for this disaster even though it’s not theirs to carry. The ethics of Hooker Chemicals are to be proud of.

  12. This is indeed an interesting article. I like that your article brought up an old tragedy. It acts as a good reminder that every action has consequences and that one should always think about the future implications before carrying it out.

    From my understanding, Hooker was practicing bad waste disposal habits and instead of playing innocent, should have admitted to their bad practices. Although they could defend by saying the state approved such practice at that time, this is no different than saying tax evaders are right by going pass loopholes (maybe not the best example but it is clearly not a practice that a leading chemical company should have).

    On the other hand, it is unacceptable that Niagara Falls BoE ignored all warnings made by Hooker. The fact that they sold the land (obtained at almost no cost) to developers clearly show what their main priorities are and it is not in the well being of the people living there. They should take the blame more than if not equal to what Hooker took.

    Unless there are any more to this tragedy, it is clear that both parties are at fault, though BoE should be taking a larger part of the blame.

  13. I think hooker already done his duty by telling the BoE about the hazard of the land ( unless he just did it half-hearted and not telling the real truth about it to the BoE).
    what about BoE? I think that BoE have to tell the real truth to the house developer about the land’s hazard. but yeah if they told them about it then the BoE will suffered loss due to no one want to live there. so the best resort is I think to left the land to the government to ensure no one can use/ enter/ build anything on the land so that no more suffered loss.

  14. From what I read on https://archive.epa.gov/epa/aboutepa/love-canal-tragedy.html, I think Hooker should take the responsibility of this disaster.
    Quoting from the article, “We knew they put chemicals into the canal and filled it over,” said one woman, a long-time resident of the Canal area., “but we had no idea the chemicals would invade our homes. We’re worried sick about the grandchildren and their children.”
    In fact, no one besides Hooker better understand the properties and hazard of the chemicals buried at Love Canal.

    1. But Hooker did warn BoE about the the hazardous waste and the consequences developing the land. And BoE is the ones responsible and benefit from developing the land. So I personally think that BoE is responsible to tell about the hazardous waste in the land to the residents, not Hooker.
      Because Hooker sold the land to BoE. Maybe if Hooker told the residents about the chemical waste in their land, they could be sued by BoE

  15. In my opinion BoE and the city council should be blamed. As the land owner, BoE has put the residents on risks of getting exposed to the toxic chemicals underneath. “Through multiple protests and warnings, Hooker has shown their concern about the land utilization even after the transfer of ownership.” We can see from the article that Hooker tried to stop the development of the land but was ignored by BoE. Besides that,having known that toxic chemicals are underneath the site, the development plan of Love Canal should not have been approved by the city council.

  16. Hooker should be held responsible for this disaster.
    Despite their prior knowledge of the existence of these chemical substances Hooker took part in a venture that had the potential to harm people.
    From this article, https://miniblob.com/who-is-at-fault-for-love-canal-hooker-chemical-or-the-school-board/, it is more clearly to me that Hooker Chemical Company decided to shift the responsibility to an unsuspecting victim instead of taking the precautionary measures that were necessary.

    1. From the article, it clearly states that Hooker are forced to sell the land through eminent domain. From the prize they sell which is $1 we know that they are forced to sell their land.
      Besides, BoE should know what they are buying in the first place

  17. I think Hooker had to take part of the responsibilities as they should clearly understand their way of waste disposal would not be sustainable to the environment. However, they did abide the law during that time and warned BoE about the risks of that site. By knowing the risks, BoE still decided to build the school or sell the land to the housing developer, which was unacceptable. So, personally, BoE should be blamed.

  18. Great Job on the work done!Ethically, I think both Hooker and BoE have to be responsible for this incident. It is undeniable that BoE played a huge role in resulting in this tragic disaster as they continued on with their development despite knowing the consequences which might arise doing so. In relation to Hooker, although during that time there were no regulations on chemical waste disposal and Hooker did give warnings to BoE, I think that ‘mere warnings’ are not enough as they clearly knew about BoE’s intention of developing the site and the serious consequences that would flow from this development. It was clear that Hooker wanted to absolve all of its responsibility and shift all of them to BoE.

    1. But Hooker were forced to sell the land by the government. Hooker did not benefit anything when the land was developed. Instead after the disaster, they were blamed the most. Also need to remember that the land was sold for only $1. Hooker did not profit anything from selling the land to BoE. But BoE gain the profit from selling the land to the developer.

  19. From the informtions that I have gone through, it seems that Hooker Chemicals were the one paying the compensations to the victims and the government purchased /relocated the victims. Plus, one of the articles did stated that the government had surpressed the disasterous news from being reported until a better way can be used to present the situation. Seem to me that the government or BoE in this article had manipulated the disaster, if by law a liability disclaimer should have clear out any possibility of Hooker Chemicals to compensate or be responsible at all. The reason they were still being prosecuted in this case might be due to government pressure.

  20. First of all, Hooker had done nothing wrong with the way they disposed wastes through landfills as there weren’t regulation to control them. But no doubt, Hooker had made the wrong decision in terms of their ethics of the professionalism. In my opinion, people see that Hooker has the responsibility to choose a better way to dispose wastes and help to investigate the loopholes in the existing regulation just because they are the so called “leading” name in the industry. In my opinion, regardless of who you are in the industry should play a part to ensure that the regulations to protect the environment is improved and the ethics is uphold. If Hooker is to be blamed, then everybody in the industry should be blamed for not playing their role! Hooker had also warned BoE that a certain level of risk is likely to occur if the land is used for any development, before they handed the land ownership to BoE. Since that, BoE had been informed, it also means that Hooker had played their part by showing ethics to the buyer of the their land. Therefore, Hooker shouldn’t be blamed.

    Where as for BoE, I think they are the party to blame after the disaster happened. They had been warned, but they choose to respond by ignoring the message. Not only that, but did they still continue to develop building for people to live in and did not inform the residents about the environment that they are living in. If Hooker was to be blamed for their ethics then BoE should be blamed fo both ethics and professionalism.

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