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Despite toxic history, residents return to Love Canal

Love Canal
Love Canal is buried under a plastic liner, clay and topsoil and is off limits to everyone  
August 7, 1998
Web posted at: 9:07 p.m. EDT (0107 GMT)

NIAGARA FALLS, New York (CNN) -- It was 20 years ago this week that President Jimmy Carter declared a state of emergency as hundreds of residents of Love Canal fled their homes after it was discovered that 20,000 tons of toxic chemicals were buried there.

Today, the waterway that gave the neighborhood its name is buried under a plastic liner, clay and topsoil in a fenced area declared permanently off-limits. Scores of homes were buried, too.

However, the rest of Love Canal has been declared safe by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. A public corporation took ownership of the abandoned properties, fixed up the homes and resold them.

Susan Bloss of the Love Canal Revitalization Agency said the agency has sold 232 of the 239 homes it renovated. Love Canal, which once symbolized hidden toxic wastelands, is now known as Black Creek Village.

Several Love Canal homes are still abandoned  

The new residents of Black Creek Village feel safe in their new homes. "This area has been tested and tested and tested," said homeowner Trudy Christman. "This is the most tested piece of real estate in the United States."

Ms. Christman moved into the home of former Love Canal resident Leulla Kenny, whose seven-year-old son died of kidney disease before the family relocated.

Jon Kenny
Jon Kenny died of a kidney disease at Love Canal, but new homeowners do not fear toxins  

"His autopsy revealed the same symptoms they see in animals that have been exposed to dioxin," she said.

"The children are what bother me when I see them running around this neighborhood. I'm so frightened for them," Kenny said during a visit to her old neighborhood.

The New York State Department of Health says no conclusive evidence exists linking Love Canal to illness, a statement that many Black Creek Village residents agree with.

CNN Correspondent Gary Tuchman contributed to this report
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