1. One of the ways in which the Love Canal incident changed the way the US deals with toxic waste is that it made planning a much more important part of the process. After this event, there was some acknowledgement of the inevitability of some disasters. Because of that, the US established the “Superfund” system, in which it put together an arrangement through which it could compel those people responsible for environmental disasters to either clean things up themselves or to pay for the cleanup in earnest. This ensured that when things did go wrong, the people who were responsible for it were made to pay for it.
It also resulted in more awareness about the widespread nature of dumping as a larger societal problem. More discoveries were made of similar sites that had similar issues going on. The government figured out that this was something that was happening everywhere, and the controls that were in place to stop it were not nearly strong enough.
Lastly, there was an understanding that this was more than just an environmental issue. It was also a public health issue that had to be remedied. The government figured out critically during this time that when dumping takes place, children and everyone else in the affected area will tend to suffer from symptoms that could even be life-threatening in some cases. Seeing it as more of a public health issue both heightened the level of scrutiny on those responsible and emboldened the government to be more involved in regulation and cleanup.
2. It is difficult to outright say that the area should not have been inhabited. Strictly speaking, that is an area where people grew up and have deep roots. However, it is difficult to think the immediate area around the Love Canal site should have been inhabited so quickly. There were still many potential questions about the health effects when people began to move heavily back into the area. There should have been more environmental and health impact studies done prior to re-habitation so that people could understand precisely what they were getting into before going back into the area. Because this did not take place, many families were put in harm’s way.
I would not have wanted to move back into the area. It would not be worth the risk to me to live in that sort of area given the nature of the situation. I would have had to have seen multiple, independent reports that would have suggested that the area was safe. Short of seeing those things, I would have had a very difficult time bringing either myself or my family back into the area at any time after the incident took place, even with significant passage of time.
3. The Blake Family’s story indicates quite strongly that there are many times when waste regulations are overruled by the desire to live out the American Dream, and worse, to make the money associated with that American Dream. Ultimately the Blake Family was taken advantage of in some ways because they thought they were getting a good deal. They wanted so badly to be a part of the class of people in the US who are able to use home ownership to rise up the class ladder. This is a normal thing and it is something that must be protected against. When people are trying to make it, they are vulnerable to those who might take advantage of them. Their reasoning is sometimes off, and they sometimes do not even want to notice what is right in front of them. This was certainly the case with the Blake Family.
In order to prevent another situation like the one in Hickory Woods, there should be more rules and regulations placed on developers. They should bear some of the responsibility for checking out, inspecting, and providing information to people on what has happened in a given place before. The goal should be to go where the money is. If people are making money off of it, they should have responsibilities placed on them to keep their consumers safe. This is especially true when it comes to home buying and selling.
4. Ultimately when major health issues are implicated, it should give the government much more leeway to regulate the situation. This is not something like the environment, which people want to be concerned about, but with which there is some doubt about what is taking place. When people and their health is implicated, it is time for the government to step up and take some measures to protect people. It could also give rise to criminal sanctions, as well. Problems that end up leading to the deaths of people or to great sickness should be treated very harshly, and the government should have the ability to regulate these issues using criminal sanctions if they can prove the facts in a federal court.
In a situation where it is unclear whether the contamination has caused the issues, the government should rely on lawsuits and the civil standard. The civil court standard is all about the preponderance of evidence, or what is most likely to have occurred. It would be easy to suggest that this is more likely than not the cause of the health problems, even if one could not be absolutely sure that it was the cause of the problems. This could give the government some ability to regulate behavior.
- Love Canal: A legacy of doubt [Video file]. (2015). New York Times Video Collection. Retrieved from http://go.galegroup.com
- Rosenberg, D. (2003). Love Canal’s long shadow 25 years later: Twenty-five years later, another New York town turns toxic. Newsweek, 50. Retrieved from http://go.galegroup.com/ps/