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Palmerton Zinc

Operable Unit 1, Blue Mountain

Operable Unit Description

The Blue Mountain operable unit consists of approximately 2,000 acres of the north slope of the mountain defoliated as a result of emissions from the historic smelter operations in Palmerton.

Contamination including zinc, copper, lead and cadmium from the zinc smelting operations caused the defoliation of approximately 2,000 acres of the mountain and the heavy zinc deposits prevented the regrowth of vegetation. EPA performed the RI/FS for Blue Mountain and issued a ROD for OU 1 on September 4, 1987. The remedial alternative selected in this ROD provides for application of a sludge/fly ash mixture to the slopes of Blue Mountain and planting grass seed and tree seedlings in the sludge/fly ash mixture to form a vegetative cover. The vegetative cover will minimize soil erosion, restore the forest, and prevent contaminated soil from running off and contaminating surface waters. A Consent Decree between EPA and Zinc Corporation of America ("ZCA"), a division of Horsehead Industries, Inc., ("HII") for implementation of the ROD for OU 1 was entered by the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania on October 18, 1988.

Cleanup Progress

Following several years of pilot testing, ZCA began full scale implementation of the revegetation of Blue Mountain in 1991. From 1991 through 1995 ZCA applied a mixture of fly ash, sewage sludge and a combination of grass and tree seeds on approximately 1,000 acres of the mountain. Currently, approximately 1,000 acres have been successfully revegetated with grasses by ZCA at the Site; however, fungal disease, competition with plants and foraging animals have hindered tree seed growth. An additional 1,000 acres remain to be revegetated and efforts may need to be made to grow trees and other larger types of vegetation on all of the approximately 2,000 acres which comprise the Blue Mountain OU.

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