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Al Gore's Love (Canal) Story

Vice President Al Gore wants to keep Love Canal from turning into another Love Story.

Gore telephoned an upstate New York reporter Wednesday to explain the latest misstep of his Democratic presidential campaign - his suggestion that his 1978 investigation of toxic waste sites uncovered the chemical contamination of Love Canal.

"If anybody got the misimpression that I claimed to do what citizens in Love Canal did, I apologize," Gore said.

At a high school forum Tuesday in New Hampshire, Gore answered a student's question about youth cynicism with a tale from his early days as a Tennessee congressman.

A girl wrote him that her father and grandfather suffered mysterious ailments she blamed on well water that "tasted funny."

"I called for a congressional investigation and a hearing. I looked around the country for other sites like that. I found a little place in upstate New York called Love Canal. Had the first hearing on that issue," Gore said.

"That was the one that started it all. ... We made a huge difference and it was all because one high school student got involved."

In August 1978, Gore did chair hearings on the matter by the House Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations - two months after the Love Canal homes were evacuated and President Carter declared the neighborhood a disaster area.

Gore's comments in New Hampshire rang of earlier exaggerations dropped along the campaign to his subsequent humiliation: that he invented the Internet and was the inspiration for the movie Love Story.

"He did not begin Love Canal," Lois Gibbs, legendary leader of the Love Canal Home Owners Association, said Wednesday in an interview. "It was the governor banging on the federal government's door that got Gore involved."

But to his credit, Gibbs added, Gore was the first to hold a federal hearing on toxic waste in the country.

Gibbs, now executive director of the Center of Health Environment and Justice in Falls Church, Va., and her neighbors were the ones who "blew the whistle" on Love Canal, Gore agreed.

"I give credit to Lois Gibbs and her neighbors for raising Cain," he said. "Many people were stirred up - appropriately so - before I ever even found out about it."

By Hadley Pawlak
©1999 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed