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Aerial re-vegetation resumes on Appalachian Trail portion of Palmerton Zinc Superfund Site

Release Date: 03/12/2012
Contact Information: Roy Seneca seneca.roy@epa.gov 21-814-5567

(PHILADELPHIA – March 12, 2011) – The U. S. Environmental Protection Agency in cooperation with the National Park Service, will resume a massive re-vegetation project this week at the Palmerton Zinc Superfund site in Carbon County, Pa. along the Appalachian Trail at the top of Blue Mountain.

This re-vegetation project, which began in 2005, will again include use of an aircraft to plant grass and other vegetation on a 128-acre section of the mountain. This year’s work will also include planting about 7,300 trees in two large fenced-in areas to prevent deer from grazing on new tree seedlings.

The project is part of an ongoing action to repair environmental damage that was caused by emissions from zinc smelting operations in the Borough of Palmerton. Due to the steep and remote location, a modified crop dusting aircraft is used to distribute a specific mixture of seed, lime and fertilizer on the property owned by the National Park Service and Pennsylvania Game Commission.

Weather-permitting, work is scheduled to begin this Wednesday. The aerial application should be completed in about two weeks, and the tree planting should be completed in April or May.

“The re-vegatation of Blue Mountain with native grasses, plants, shrubs and trees sets a significant milestone in a lengthy cleanup process and helps restore a beautiful portion of the Appalachian Trail,” said EPA’s Mid-Atlantic Regional Administrator Shawn M. Garvin. “Where once there was only barren land, today there are ecosystems beginning to thrive providing valuable habitats for resident species.”

During the planting, the public will see aircraft originating from the nearby Slatington, Pa. airport flying low over the top of Blue Mountain. This aerial reseeding technique was previously used to restore other sections of the mountain west and east of the Lehigh River. The mixture of seed used during this restoration is designed to foster the growth of warm season grasses, shrubs and trees native to the area.

Since 2005 nearly two thousand acres have been revegetated by ground and aerial application. Prior to 2005, these areas were basically “moonscapes” where nothing lived including microbes and lichen. Today there are thriving ecosystems that support 23 mammal species, 167 bird species, 29 reptiles and amphibians, and a magnitude of insects.

After this year’s work is completed, the only re-vegetation work left will be two more fenced-in segments totaling 40-acres where trees will be planted in 2013.

The restoration work is being paid for by CBS Inc., formerly Viacom International, the party potentially responsible for the contamination. More information on the Palmerton site can be found on EPA’s website at: http://www.epa.gov/reg3hwmd/super/sites/PAD002395887/index.htm .