Geological Good Fortune

By: Emily Forkey

NIAGARA UNIVERSITY, N.Y. – Just outside of Niagara University’s campus sits Hooker Hyde Park landfill, now known as Occidental Chemical Corporation (OCC). From 1953-1975, the 15 acre area contained 80,000 tons of waste, some being hazardous. Niagara University was left deciding how to handle this crisis, responding to the chemical dumpsite right on the edge of campus.

As many already know, the Niagara region encompasses a landmark, Niagara Falls, and provides hydroelectric power through the Robert Moses Power Plant. While the area is surrounded by many sites of good fortune, hazardous waste surrounds us as well–or at least once did.  In the city of Niagara Falls, just 6 miles away, is Love Canal. A neighborhood contaminated by harmful chemicals. The Hooker Chemical company used the old canal to dump chemical waste from 1942-1953. Bloody Run Creek is the result of toxic waste being dumped onto the Hooker (Hyde Park) site, which passed through the storm sewers spilling into the Niagara Gorge and leading to the Niagara River. The storm sewers ran directly underneath University Drive and the run-off had contaminated the creek, which was clearly visible. Students, faculty, and residents were left wondering, at the time, if this situation posed a threat to the Niagara University community.

The bedrock and the sewage system surrounding the campus prevented exposure to the contamination. The fact that Niagara University was not directly exposed to the chemicals was what mattered, unlike Love Canal where black sludge was reported to be seeping through basement homes. Bloody Run was a crisis averted by geological good fortune. In May 2012, the EPA issued an Explanation of Significant Differences to document the progress of the site. In 2013, the site was deleted from the National Priorities List and is no longer an imminent threat to the community.

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