No. of Recommendations: 26
"Occidental was having problems. In the late 1960s the company bought Hooker Chemical Co. in a effort to diversify. But in the 1970s, allegations surfaced that toxic waste that Hooker dumped into the ground during the 1940s and early '50s was causing severe health problems in Niagara's Love Canal neighborhood. Oxy Pete needed cash to shore up this and other problems, and its CEO, Armand Hammer — flamboyant, powerful and ultimately corrupt — came up with a solution: raid the retirement kitty. Amazingly, this was legal at the time, and Hammer wasn't alone in doing it.

Interestingly, the allegations about Love Canal were only partly true, and that part wasn't Hooker's fault.

Hooker didn't "dump" toxic wastes into the ground, they carefully deposited them in one of the country's best-built and best-managed toxic-waste dumps. (That dump, the Love Canal itself, was a leftover from the last days of the canal-building bubble - never completed, never used for tranport, never even filled with water, but this nice long pit lined with a thick layer of clay.)

And the toxic wastes STAYED in that dump for more than a decade after the dump was full, closed, and sealed with another thick layer of clay.

Then what happened?

The local school district decided it really absolutely HAD TO build new schools directly on part of the dump. No, a block away would not do. They tried to buy property, but found out that a crucial streak of property was under restrictive covenants so that if they bought it, they wouldn't be able to dig deep enough for the foundations of the building they planned - they would violate the covenants if they dug into this LONG PIT FILLED WITH TOXIC WASTE - so instead they took the property by eminent domain, which voided the covenants.

Oh, and they used the dirt they dug out of the ground (including out of the long pit) as landscaping fill, including in playground areas.

Hooker and Occidental had sent representatives, including chemical engineers who had worked at the dump when it was operating, to several public hearings to point out that the school district was talking about having grade-school kids play on toxic waste.

School construction went forward as planned.

The consequences, in terms of health impact, were much LESS severe than expected. But our national government decided that the entire town had to be moved anyway, and at least tried to make Occidental Petroleum pay the bill for the school district's wilful negligence.
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