Federal environmental officials on Wednesday proposed removing Love Canal from the Superfund list it gave rise to more than 20 years ago.
The Environmental Protection Agency said cleanup work had been completed at the site, which taught an unnerving lesson about hazardous waste when chemicals buried in an abandoned canal seeped into homes built around it.
"By taking the Love Canal site off the Superfund list, we will mark a turning point for the nation," said Jane Kenny, EPA's regional administrator. "This was the site that really started Superfund."
Under the proposal, which started the clock on a 30-day public comment period, the 70-acre site -- the 16-acre canal and a buffer zone -- would continue to be monitored and remain eligible for any cleanup that might become necessary.
Emergency declarations by President Jimmy Carter in 1978 and 1980 led to the evacuation of about 900 families and the bulldozing of an elementary school and two streets that had been built on the canal and the 21,800 tons of World War II-era chemical byproducts it holds.
Passage of the 1980 Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act, known as Superfund, soon followed.
Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) called the completion of work at Love Canal "a sign of significant progress," but urged the EPA to pick up the pace of cleanups, which she said had fallen by about half under the Bush administration.
Cleanup efforts have centered on containing the waste under a thick clay cap and high-density polyethylene liner and surrounding it with a barrier drainage system.
Areas deemed safe again have since been resettled as "Black Creek Village."
Occidental Chemical Corp., formerly Hooker Chemical and Plastics Corp., used the abandoned canal for its waste in the 1940s and 1950s. The company has paid more than $233 million since 1995 to cover cleanup costs and medical expenses for victims of the contamination and continues to pay for the site's monitoring.