Around 3:00am on the morning of November 26th, 1943, one of the Solvay Process waste bed retaining walls – bed Number 7 – gave way, flooding State Fair Boulevard, the New York State Fairgrounds, and other properties with 40,000 tons of white, toothpaste like sludge. The waste spread out over an area of two square miles and reached as much as eight feet deep in some places. Several homes in the vicinity were besieged by the waste and the inhabitants were stranded until help could arrive.
Rescuers used rowboats and other improvised devices to save the stranded residents. At first, truckloads of cinders were dumped into the waste in an effort to solidify it and make it easier to shovel. However, this method was soon discarded in favor of adding more water to the mess in an attempt to dissolve it and then pump it away. Residents in the area renewed a movement to bar the Solvay Process Company from further dumping along the shores of Onondaga Lake, the group, known as the Lakeland Taxpayers Association of District 1, Town of Gedes, argued the waste beds were a “public hazard” and that the break “…proves that point.”