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Palmerton Zinc

Fact Sheet February 1996


At approximately 8:00 a.m. on Monday, January 22, a concerned citizen of Palmerton informed the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that the Aquashicola Creek had flooded over the weekend. The citizen reported that the basements of people living in the 500 through 600 blocks of Lehigh Avenue and the 500 through 900 blocks of Delaware Avenue now were covered with mud. EPA immediately assembled a team of specialists to travel to Palmerton, sample the mud in these homes, and determine whether the mud posed a threat to the health of the residents.

By that afternoon, EPA's team had arrived in Palmerton and begun sampling. The team arranged with a contracted lab to analyze the samples and provide results within 24 hours. EPA then examined the results and determined that the mud may pose a potential threat, especially to children, based on how it is handled.

EPA immediately drafted a document describing the threat posed by the mud and listing guidelines for citizens to follow when cleaning the mud from their basements. EPA hand-delivered copies of the document to the homes that were sampled and provided a copy to the local press. For your information, EPA has also provided a copy of the document on the other side of this fact sheet.

The lead levels in the mud ranged from approximately 120 parts per million (ppm) to 930 ppm. Cadmium levels ranged from approximately 5.7 ppm to 130 ppm. Zinc levels ranged from 1,100 ppm to 24,000 ppm. These levels are typical of the levels found in Palmerton soil. Parts per million is a measurement term referring to how many ounces, pounds, etc. of a substance can be found in one million ounces, pounds, etc. of another substance (e.g., soil).

The flood emergency was an unfortunate occurrence. But due to the quick action of citizens, borough officials, and EPA, the potential threat posed by the mud was considerably lessened. EPA greatly appreciates the cooperation and quick response of borough personnel, particularly Rodger Danielson, the Borough Manager, who met with the EPA team during the sampling. EPA also appreciates the efforts of citizens who cooperated with the sampling and followed the guidelines in cleaning up their homes. And finally, EPA thanks the citizen who first alerted the Agency to the situation.

During the flood cleanup, someone circulated handmade bulletins inviting residents to contact EPA to have their homes cleaned and carpets replaced because of the flood. EPA informed all citizens who called that the levels of lead, cadmium, and zinc in the flood mud did not meet the criteria established under the interim removal action and therefore their houses were not eligible for cleanup. Most residents had begun cleaning their homes immediately after the flood and further cleanup was unnecessary.

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