Occidental Settles Historic Case Legal Battle Over Love Canal Cleanup Ends After 16 Years
Occidental Chemical Corp. agreed Thursday to pay $129 million in cleanup costs for Love Canal, all but ending 16 years of legal battles with the federal government over the most notorious toxic dumping case of the 1970s.
The settlement was submitted to a federal judge. There will be a 30-day public comment period before it becomes official.
“This is an auspicious occasion,” said U.S. District Judge John Curtin, who has presided over the case from the start. “It’s not the end of the road, but almost.”
Under the settlement, the EPA Superfund will receive $102 million in reimbursement for money spent on the cleanup, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which handled the relocation of Love Canal residents, will receive $27 million. The company also will pay $375,000 to cover damage to birds and fish.
The government had wanted an additional $80 million in interest since the completion of the cleanup in the 1980s, but eventually compromised.
“Today we celebrate a transformation of an environmental disaster called Love Canal into a success story,” Attorney General Janet Reno said. “It stands for the principle that when people make a mess, they should pay to clean it up.”
Occidental attorney Steven Yablonski noted the settlement says the company is not being fined or penalized. At the time 22,000 tons of chemical waste was dumped at the Niagara Falls site 50 years ago, the company was acting legally, he said.
The settlement also calls for the government to contribute $8 million to the Superfund to settle Occidental’s claims that the government also dumped toxic waste at Love Canal during World War II.
Occidental is still fighting a legal battle with the city of Niagara Falls and also faces lawsuits brought by 90 former residents.
Occidental’s corporate predecessor, Hooker Chemicals & Plastics Corp., buried chemical waste at Love Canal from 1942 to 1953. The company then sold the property to the Niagara Falls School Board. An elementary school and housing development were built on either side of the site.
In the 1970s, residents complained of chemicals leaking into their homes and yards. Hundreds of families were evacuated, and the community was declared a health disaster area.
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