The Love canal is an area in the state of New York which contains an incomplete canal that had been built during the late nineteenth century. In the century that followed many industries converted the incomplete canal into a waste dump and then shortly after the area surrounding this dump was developed into a residential one. A number of complaints were recorded. The paper shall therefore identify the issue(s) at hand and then evaluate them and finally some recommendations will be given on how to solve the problem at the end of the paper.
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Problem and issue identification
Central facts of the case and assumptions on these facts
The neighborhood in the love canal is known as the Niagara Falls which is surrounded by two bodies of water i.e. The Bergholtz Creek as well as River Niagara. The Love Canal itself derived its name from its creator who was William Love. Love never completed the canal and thought that his creation would be very useless. Nonetheless, industries started springing in the area and with time, the Love canal was put to use. About forty years after its establishment the Love Canal was converted into a dumpsite by the numerous industries in that area. The most notable group was the Hooker Chemical and Plastics Corporation. (Hazmat, 1997) The latter company bought this land in the year of 1942 and was responsible for over three million pounds worth of hazardous wastes found in the location. Despite all these actions, the latter company did nothing to mitigate the effects of its waste. Instead, it covered the waste and subsequently sold it to Niagara Board of education. A school playground was constructed in this location and shortly after a number of real estate developers acquired part of this land. They constructed a residential area and some of the waste that had been dumped in the Canal began resurfacing in people’s pipes, basements, soil as well as their air. After numerous complaints, authorities recognized the health implications associated with the Love Canal and started assessing the damage caused.
In the late seventies, an Environmental conservation group based in the state of New York (NYDEC) conducted tests and found that almost all parts of the environment were contaminated i.e. land, water and air. The matter was referred to a nationwide environmental agency (USEPA) which authorized human tests and found that there was indeed a cause for concern. Shortly after closure of the elementary school commenced and some families were relocated. A number of studies followed after and these generated a series of debates. To represent their side of the story, homeowners came together and formed the La Salle renters association and the love canal homeowners association. (Blum, 2008)
Besides such group actions, there have been a number of legal challenges surrounding this matter in court. For example, in 1989, the case of US v Occidental Chemical Corporations saw the cleanup process commencing where the latter group was charged with the responsibility of restoring this area. The court came to such a decision after realizing that this was a parent company to Hooker. Aside from that, in 1983, a settlement was reached where the supreme court of New York ordered that Occidental corporation should pay compensation claims worth twenty million for all the damage they caused residents. Occidental also paid five hundred and twenty nine million dollars to USEPA in order for the organization to initiate some clean up acts in the area. This was done in the year 1995. There have also been individual court claims filed by a number of people within this area thus making the process more complicated than it may seem. (Ember, 1999)
It should be noted that the controversy surrounding the Love canal continued on because USEPA released data that declared a large part of the area fit for human habitation. Scientists and previous residents of the Love Canal disputed these findings claiming that such assertions should not be believed. On the other hand, the public has supported this environmental agency and state governments as well by choosing to reside there. However, some fresh studies have been initiated in order to find out whether the area is suitable for habitation.
Major overriding issues in the case and major issue that this case addresses that merits study at this point in the course
The major issue that warrants attention in the Love Canal case is the fact that the environment was dramatically harmed through industrial activity and it may be difficult to decide how to respond to these effects. Consequently, one wonders whether the actions of such persons need to be restricted and punished in order to protect ecological needs of the area or whether there is a need to respect entrepreneurial spirit and property rights of persons who carry out their activities in that area.
It is quite difficult to decide who is to blame in this matter owing to the fact that Hooker Chemical knew about the health implications of their actions as early as 1958. At that time, three children were burnt as a direct result of the chemicals seeping out of the Love Canal. The latter organization initiated a number of investigations and found that they could not handle the effects of the toxins that they had buried. In this regard, the company never informed residents about the danger of living in the Love Canal. Besides this, there were several indications from different groups to show that there was a problem. For instance some homeowners reported foul smells, fluids emanating from the ground among other issues. One therefore wonders whether there was more that Hooker Chemical could have done to prevent the problems associated with their toxic waste.
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Nonetheless, there may be another twist to the case. The New York state department evacuated a number of residents located at the circle nearest to the toxic chemicals. It therefore spent numerous federal and state resources in compensating those residents. It would therefore not be feasible for the authorities to keep on compensating other residents who were a bit far from the actual waste deposits. In fact, if New York State did this, then other homeowners may also make compensation claims in different parts of the country. The whole nation may therefore be held at ransom. (Zaremba, 2004)
Sub issues or related issues present in the case that merit consideration
The authenticity of investigations made by USEPA is seriously brought into question as a number of opponents have claimed that this group collaborated with the New York state authorities in order to cover the magnanimity of the Love Canal issue. In this regard, the concept of professionalism and sound corporate conduct by the latter organization comes into question. When USEPA claimed that the neighborhoods surrounding the Love Canal were safe for habitation, many stakeholders held that these claims were untrue. Some researchers put to task the methodology that was used in carrying out this research since they felt that the miscarriages occurring in this area superseded those ones put out by the concerned environmental agency. Also, this report did not cover all the other health detriments that emanate from exposure to the toxic chemicals. In fact research carried out by the Roswell Park Institute found that several birth defects as well as nerve damages were significantly higher in homes located along streams of the waste deposits. This was further supported by the higher rates of miscarriages among such women. Many people have also questioned the role of this environmental agency. Some say that it has been indecisive and inconsistent during times when it had to meet its responsibilities and actions. Aside from that, there have been questions on its level of secrecy and lack of transparency when doing its work. (Ember, 1999)
The role of the public in creating pressure during such cases cannot be ignored. For example, in 1980, the Environmental Protection Agency was commissioned to carry out a study on the risk factors associated with living in the Love canal area. The public vented out their frustrations on the latter groups by locking their representatives in certain offices. After engaging in such aggressive actions, these residents got what they wanted as the reigning president immediately commissioned the relocation of several families living in that area. Analysts have therefore questioned whether public opinion or public pressure took precedence over scientific facts and researches. This is large because although the residents of the Love Canal were angry at the Hooker Organization, they opted to direct their frustrations towards an environmental agency.
Political leaders also have a role to play in this because they possessed the capacity to prevent some of the negatives that emanated from this case. Some people have claimed that these leaders were put under pressure to meet the needs of large scale entrepreneurs in such areas while at the same time fulfill the needs of the populace. There is therefore a dilemma concerning loyalty in either party.
Analysis and evaluation
Stakeholders and what their stakes are – Challenges threats and opportunities opposed by these stakeholders
There are several stakeholders that are involved in this matter and they include: Hooker Chemical Company, The New York State Department of environmental conservation (EPA), The New York state commissioner on health, Love canal residents and their associations, Independent scientists, the media, entrepreneurs in the Love Canal as well as political leaders within the State of New York and the country as a whole.
The New York State Department of health has the mandate to safeguard as well as protect the health needs of its populace. If the latter Department is perceived a being relaxed in its duties, then chances are that it can be labeled incompetent and that the public would loose confidence in its mandate. A number of accusations have been made against the latter department especially because it kept carrying out secret meetings with the Health commissioner. One can therefore argue that the latter organization was trying to protect its interests at the expense of informing the public on its actions and responsibilities. This was the reason why it did not disclose the members of report groups that helped them make their decisions. It also denied the public access to several pieces of documentation on studies that had been carried out in the love canal. The major issue here is that the state department of Health may not have ethical justifications for denying these people access to information. (Ember, 1999)
Love Canal residents hold one of the largest stakes in this case. They had a right to acquire a residential area especially when that area was passed off as being safe for habitation. These individuals were merely exercising their personal freedoms and rights to choose any location in the country to live. Also, it is their right to be protected from undue harm caused by any industry. They should have been given all the information surrounding their areas of residents and any health complications that can emanate out of living in such areas should be fully explained and internalized by such groups. Failure to access these rights could lead to economic as well as physical impediments to their well being. As it had been asserted earlier, living at the Love Canal heightens the chances of having children with birth defects, miscarriages or complications of the nervous system. In the event that such residents have to move, then they have the right to be compensated adequately as the environmental problems were not caused by them in the first place. (Zaremba, 2004)
Leaders and holders of authority has huge stakes in the love canal case because they stood to loose a lot of state resources if they heavily supported residents. Consequently, they acted in such a manner that would ensure protection of these resources. First of all, some claims have been made that advocates for Love canal residents were treated unfairly. For instance renowned researcher and supporter for this cause – Dr. Paigen asserted that auditors frequently harassed her; they also regularly rummaged through her mail and also denied her funding after some time. Also, Engineer Friedman who advocated for the Love Canal resident’s rights was promptly demoted to a less honorable position at the Department of health. These and many more actions indicate that power structures tend to resist individuals who attempt to change the status quo.
Economic, legal, ethical and philanthropic responsibilities that the company has and the nature or extent of these responsibilities
Hooker Chemical Company caused harm to the environment. Although it has not contravened necessary legal establishments during its founding, this does not eliminate the ethical implications of its actions. A company needs to think about the well being of its surrounding communities so as to ascertain that there is no long term or short term negatives associated with their actions. Clearly, Hooker ignored these responsibilities. As if that was not enough, Hooker liaised with other stakeholders in the process to try and hide the real effect of the dumping. This had a huge impact because the public unknowingly moved into the Love Canal area and they paid the price for it through several physical and social constraints that they had to deal with. (Hazmat, 1997)
What the company did or did not do in handling the issue affecting it
Hooker had the opportunity to inform the public about the risks of the waste dumps but he did not. Also, the latter company possessed the social and economic incentives to find out the real effect of their waste dumps upon the population that would then reside in that area. However, the latter company opted not to reveal these findings. What it did was to focus on profit making ventures because it knew that it would destroy its chances of making it big if the public knew of all the dangers associated with living in that area.
Recommendations for this case and why (what it should have done and what it should do now) –pros and cons of each alternative
One of the major issues that caused the controversies surrounding the Love Canal case was the fact that there were differential value systems between the various stakeholders. Since different groups are bound to look out for their own necessitates even at the expense of others, then there is a need to instate legal legislation that could act as an overriding body to determine what is wrong or right. These legislations can insist that all companies objectively act upon scientific evidence pointing out any potential hazards that they may exert upon their societies irrespective of any political or social gains that they could make. The major disadvantage with these actions is that such laws will have to be made by political leaders who may also have stakes in these same agendas. It may therefore take too long to enact them as a lot of interests have to be met at the end of the day. On the other hand, it will ensure neutrality and sanity in preventing a disaster such as the Love Canal case. (Zaremba, 2004)
There was no moral basis for Hooker Chemicals to hide their knowledge of the problems surrounding the love canal. They had contracted their own commissioners to investigate the matter after three children suffered from chemical burns. After realizing the implications of these actions, they should have disseminated information to the public on the health risks and should not have gone on to sell off the land to the Niagara Falls board School of education. All these actions imply a lack of sound corporate governance principles in this corporation, the latter company along with many other industries need to reinstate corporate governance laws in their day to day running of corporate affairs. This action would go a long way in preventing the current litigation fines that the company is grappling with today.
Claims have been made that the Love Canal is now safe for habitation and that people can now move into these areas without fear of pollution. Since most of the residential areas constructed there are low cost, then it is likely that minority populations may be attracted into these areas and they may still have to deal with a number of health complications. Companies like Hooker Chemicals should be expected to compensate individuals living in such areas with some form of compensation in order to mitigate any potential health effects. The major advantage of this is that the compensations are a warning sign that living in such areas is risky. Besides that, it will also assist families and be a form of environmental justice. The major hurdle revolving around these actions is that authorities may oppose it claiming that they have fully remediated the Love Canal. Also, some environmental philosophers argue that this is unethical as no monetary value can be attached to human life.
Why some options were discarded and the latter alternative was chosen
The most effective methods of dealing with the Love Canal issue include legislation as well as enactment of sound corporate responsibility policy. These methods deal with the root cause of the Love Canal case which is lack of ethical foundations. Legislations may take a long time but they can effectively deter selfish tendencies by stakeholders. Also, corporate responsibility implementations can go a long way in ascertaining that companies act against moral and ethical background. (Blum, 2008)
The other alternative which is monetary compensations for the said victims may not necessarily work owing to the fact that it opposes sound ethical principles on attaching financial value to human life. It is likely that such a proposal may never come to pass since its opponents will have a stronger case against it.
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Important implementation considerations
Passing legislation on giving scientific evidence precedence over any other political or social issue may require stepping onto people’s toes and this could draw opposition. Also, implementing this could require a lot of time and logistics on the part of law making institutions. Lastly, there may be problem specifying exactly how to implement corporate social responsibility policies among organizations. Nonetheless, emphasis on cases such as Love canal can go a long way in showing companies what they stand to loose if they opt to go for shortcuts.
Zaremba, M. (2004). Love Canal events. Hazardous Waste News. Web.
Ember, L. (1999). The Love Canal Case study. Journal of Environmental law 1 (16): 67. Web.
Hazmat, T. (1997). Toxic Niagara after twenty years Hazardous materials management report. Web.
Blum, E. (2008). Love canal revisited. Kansas: Kansas University Press.