Niagara Gazette

Opinion

October 24, 2013

DELUCA: We ignore Lois Gibbs at our peril

Niagara Gazette — The other day I time-traveled back 35 years to Love Canal, where Lois Gibbs and her neighbors once lived in pretty, little houses near the river.  I walked a long lane bordered on one side by the ominous fence that marks the danger zone and on the other by overgrown, abandoned lots.

As the crowd of print and television reporters silently followed the mother-turned activist down the empty lane to nowhere, I was struck by a flood of emotion. We are still doing this. 

We, the media, are still reporting on activists who are still saying “Don’t do that here! Don’t bring that poison into my neighborhood!” 

And the cool, calm decision makers are continuing to act as if the angry activists are all worked up over nothing. Those who make the decisions tell the rest of us, “Don’t worry about that toxic waste. We are very smart. We have everything under control.” 

Standing in the cold the other day at Love Canal, I found Gibbs riveting. In 1978, she was 27 years old and the mother of two sick children when she led the battle to move families out of her poisoned community near the Summit Mall. The other day she said she was sad to see not much had changed.  

Gibbs, now director of an environmental center near Washington, said that the dump is leaking. She said residents who got the “all clear” to resettle around Love Canal are still getting sick. Some who live nearby the fenced site at 99th Street have filed a $113 million lawsuit against the state.

Her voice breaking, she said it was very hard to come back here and see the same things that she saw 35 years ago. “Love Canal will not be contained. It is impossible,” she said. “How dare they say this area can be safe?”

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