On August 7, 1978, President Jimmy Carter declared a state of emergency at Niagara Falls, New York. The emergency was related to toxic materials found near the city’s Love Canal neighborhood. It was the first time federal emergency funds were used for something other than a natural hazard.

The emergency at Love Canal was a result of toxic waste leaking from a decades-old chemical dump site. Local residents and health experts reported an unusual number of illnesses among children born near Love Canal, advised people not to eat food grown locally, and advocated for demolishing a school built on the site.

The Love Canal disaster resulted in the relocation of about 800 families and the establishment of the Superfund program, a federal law designed to clean up toxic waste sites. Today, there are more than a thousand Superfund sites across the U.S.


terrible and damaging event.


having to do with a nation's government (as opposed to local or regional government).

natural hazard

event in the physical environment that is destructive to human activity.


an area within a larger city or town where people live and interact with one another.


federal program to clean up hazardous waste sites in the U.S. Also called the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA).



toxic waste

chemical compound dangerous to humans and their environment.

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