Niagara Gazette

Local News

August 21, 2012

Former Love Canal students seek answers

Niagara Gazette — It's been 34 years since the state and federal government evacuated families from the Love Canal neighborhood of Niagara Falls.

But now, the specter of chemical contamination has bubbled back to the surface.

"We predicted this would happen," said Richard Lippes, a pioneering environmental defense lawyer who represented the Love Canal families in the late 1970s. "I'm sorry we were right."

Lippes had just finished listening, Tuesday night, to a host of former students from the Falls' 93rd Street School as they detailed the medical problems that have plagued them in recent years. They were children at the time that a witch's brew of toxic chemicals was discovered leeching into the basements of their school and nearby homes.

Laura Racine moved away not long after her graduation in 1985 from LaSalle High, but when she returned for a class reunion she wondered if illnesses she was dealing with might be connected to her former home.

"I was really sick (at the time of the reunion) and I was going to go," Racine said. "Then my father asked, 'Do you think (the illness) could be related to Love Canal?'"

Racine said she went to the reunion and sought out former classmates from the 93rd Street School to see if they were also suffering from medical problems.

"I would say nine out of 10 said they had health issues," Racine said.

She set up a Facebook page, Love Canal Made Me Sick, and set out to discover if there was a connection between the adult illness of the former students and their Love Canal school. The meeting with Lippes and fellow environmental attorney Christen Civiletto-Morris was a start.

"We hoped to gather more information," Racine said. "A lot of people told their stories and now we want to know if there's a connection to the Love Canal. This is beyond coincidence."

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