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EPA participates in Blue Mountain tree planting project at Palmerton Zinc Superfund site

Release Date: 05/22/2013
Contact Information: Bonnie Smith smith.bonnie@epa.gov, 215-814-5543

PHILADELPHIA (May 22, 2013) – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and three partner organizations are planting 5,500 new trees on 70 acres of mountainside at the Palmerton Zinc Superfund Site along the Appalachian Trail in Palmerton, Pa. that will be in place by Memorial Day.

“EPA is proud to be part of this tree planting venture that helps transform a previously barren and contaminated site into a beautiful ecological vista along the Appalachian Trail,” said EPA mid-Atlantic Regional Administrator Shawn M. Garvin.

This is the second year of tree planting, which is the final step in re-vegetating Blue Mountain - - a joint effort involving EPA, the National Park Service, the Pennsylvania Game Commission and the American Chestnut Foundation. The area had suffered extensive environmental damage that was caused by years of emissions from zinc smelting operations in the Borough of Palmerton.

Last spring about 8,350 trees were planted. Before the tree planting, EPA and the National Park Service oversaw grass planting and other re-vegetation on a 500-acre section of the site that had to be done from aircraft due to the steep slope and remote location.

National Park Service Northeast Regional Director Dennis Reidenbach noted, “This is an excellent example of how collaborative public and private partnerships can have a meaningful and positive impact for the environment.”

Initially the trees will be protected by deer-proof fencing. The trees include a special mostly American, potentially blight-resistant generation of American chestnut which can help re-establish these trees in the eastern United States. Once prevalent in forests throughout the eastern United States, American Chestnuts were nearly wiped out by a blight causing fungus that was introduced around 1900.

“We are impressed by the interagency cooperation on this project and excited about the prospect of American Chestnuts once again flourishing on the Appalachian Trail,” said American Chestnut Foundation’s Sara Fitzsimmons.

In addition to the chestnut trees, various oaks, Black Gum, Sumacs, Chokeberry and Sweet Ferns will be included. Planting the seeds, seedlings, bare roots and rhizome cuttings will require drilling holes with an auger. The holes will be filled with top soil and a nursery mix.

The tree planting is being paid for by CBS Inc., formerly Viacom International, and the party potentially responsible for the contamination. More information on the Palmerton site see EPA’s website: http://www.epa.gov/reg3hwmd/super/sites/PAD002395887/index.htm .