The Environmental Protection Agency today released a health and environmental study concluding that some areas around Love Canal are safe enough for people to live there.
The Love Canal area of Niagara Falls, used from 1942 to 1953 as a dumping ground for 21,800 tons of chemical wastes, was evacuated after an EPA consultant found that 11 of 36 of Love Canal residents tested suffered chromosome damage.
Today the EPA released the results of a new study, concluding that, "The environmental monitoring study did not produce any evidence that Love Canal has contributed to environmental contamination" in the area studied.
The new study, however, is expected to generate new controversy. The Love Canal Homeowners Association said it "is appalled and outraged at the Environmental Protection Agency's report, its contents and conclusions, and the manner in which EPA has released the report."
The findings of minimal health danger does not apply to 237 homes closest to Love Canal, which were evacuated by the state in 1978, but rather to a so-called outer ring of 400 homes purchased by the Love Canal Area Revitalization Agency with federal money in 1980.
The new $5.4 million health and environmental analysis was based on EPA monitoring of the air, water, soil and wildlife, and on an analysis by the Department of Health and Human Services of the levels of toxicity to discover whether public health was threatened.
HHS concluded that the Love Canal areas studied were as safe to live in as the other areas in Niagara Falls and the United States that were studied as control groups.
Furthermore, the HHS scientists said that the levels of chemicals detected were well below most generally accepted exposure levels.
The report, 18 months overdue, was undertaken in 1980 to clear up confusion created by an earlier highly controversial and disputed chromosome study.
The chromosome study by Dr. Dante Picciano of Biogenics Corp. of Houston was prepared for use in the Justice Department suit against Hooker Chemical and Plastics Corp., which dumped the chemical wastes into the abandoned canal.
The study was criticized for its lack of control subjects and for other alleged deficiencies. Some scientists also noted that chromosome damage tests are hard to interpret, and questioned whether conclusions could be drawn from the study.
The EPA, therefore, embarked on its monitoring test. But, far from settling the controversy, the test results are expected to generate new concerns.
In addition, Rep. John J. LaFalce (D-N.Y.), whose district includes Niagara Falls, said that the National Bureau of Standards questioned several of the measuring and analytical techniques used by the EPA.
The bureau of standards' concerns caused HHS and EPA in the last few weeks to reconsider, temporarily, their conclusions reached several months ago that it was safe for residents to move back to the area.
"HHS only yesterday Tuesday sent a letter to EPA which included an HHS recommendation that the Love Canal declaration area is habitable," LaFalce said at a news conference yesterday.
The interagency dispute delayed for at least a year cleanup work at Love Canal that is to be funded by a $4 million Superfund grant. The Superfund award was announced in July, 1981, but the EPA refused to release the money until the environmental assessment was done.
Meanwhile, four years after the government started evacuating inhabitants of the Love Canal area, residents continue to face an uncertain future as the dispute drags on. In addition to the lingering health questions, millions of dollars in lawsuits are at stake, as are the plans of local officials to redevelop the area, which is an economic and physical wreck.
Community members were briefed tonight at a heated session in which former residents shouted at EPA officials and each other about miscarriages, disease and illness and financial ruin.
Richard J. Morris, executive director of the revitalization agency, has said that a favorable EPA report would enable the agency to begin selling the 400 homes the agency purchased with federal money. The agency already has an unsolicited waiting list of more than 160 families.
However, Lois Gibbs, president of the Love Canal Homeowners Association, said a report that there are no major health hazards "would probably hurt" the cases of those suing Hooker.
According to Gibbs, 1,300 private suits have been filed against Hooker, and two class actions are also under way, one involving property damage and the other health damage. In addition, both the state and federal governments have sued Hooker. PHOTO:(AP): Workers watering down site last month at start of demolition of 237 homes closest to canal. New findings apply to an outer ring of 400 homes.