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EPA’s Involvement at this Site

The site is divided into four separate cleanups, known as Operable Units (OU).

Operable Unit #1, Blue Mountain:

  • A Consent Decree between EPA and Zinc Corporation of America ("ZCA"), a division of Horsehead Industries, Inc., ("HII") for implementation of the chosen remedy for OU 1 was entered by the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania on October 18, 1988.
  • EPA required that the Potentially Responsible Parties (PRPs) revegetate over 3,000 acres of Blue Mountain that has been destroyed by air and soil contamination resulting from the historic smelting operations.
  • Horsehead Industries revegetated approximately 800 acres in the 1990's.
  • In April 2006, EPA approved a second preliminary design for revegetation of over 450 acres of privately owned land. Work to apply amendments, fertilizer, lime and warm season grasses to over 200 acres via agricultural tractor and spreader and an additional 200 acres via fixed wing crop-duster type aircraft was completed in September 2006.
  • Aerial application of lime fertilizer and seed occurred in March 2011 on approximately 1500 acres of PA Game Commission and National Park Service land. Aerial application was completed on an additional 128 acres in March 2012.
  • In 2013, the installation of over 70 acres of resources islands was completed by contractors for CBS Corporation, the party potentially responsible for the contamination, or PRP. The five resource islands are fence enclosed areas where tree seeds and seedlings have been planted and will be intensively maintained in an attempt to foster the growth of the trees to provide an ongoing seed source for the rest of the mountain. A total of over 13,000 trees of various variety including hybrid American Chestnut were planted in the resource islands.
  • The revegetation, resource island construction and tree planting were completed in September 2013. Monitoring of the success of the revegetation and tree plant will continue along with management of invasive species.

Operable Unit #2, Cinder Bank:

  • The Cinder Bank is an accumulation of process waste deposits from the East and West plants. It is composed of more than 30,000,000 tons of smelter residue which is highly contaminated with heavy metals including zinc, copper, lead and cadmium, along the base of Blue Mountain and bordering the Aquashicola Creek. It is approximately 2.5 miles long, 200 feet high, and ranges in width from 500 to 1,000 feet.
  • The PRP built a system to divert surface water around the Cinder Bank, treat contaminated leachate before it is discharged to the nearby Aquashicola Creek and revegetate all but a portion of the Cinder Bank. This work was completed in the Fall of 2002. Monitoring of the treated discharge and revegetation is ongoing.

Operable Unit #3, Community Soils:

  • On October 9, 2001 the EPA issued a final Record of Decision, or final clean up plan, for the contaminated residential soils.
  • EPA worked with Viacom to develop plans to begin the solicitation for sampling and actual exterior soil sampling to determine if clean-up were necessary. The first phase of the solicitation and sampling began in the Fall 2002. Approximately 800 properties were sampled before winter conditions set in. Of the properties sampled in Fall 2002 approximately 13% were found to have levels of lead above EPA's clean-up standards.
  • The second phase of solicitation began in June 2003. A total of 2,400 property owners have been contacted for permission to be sampled. Over 1500 properties were sampled. Approximately, 180 properties were eligible for soil cleanup.
    Soil cleanups were completed in the Fall of 2004 with minimal follow-up work on some properties in 2005.
  • Interior Dust sampling began in 2004 on properties where soil cleanup was completed. A total of 20 interiors which required clean-up were completed by Summer 2005.
  • Work for this Operable Unit is essentially complete.

Operable Unit #4, Groundwater/Surface Water and Ecological Risks:

  • EPA is currently overseeing finalization of a Remedial Investigation/Feasibility Study (RI/FS) which will utilize groundwater data from existing deep wells and additional data from soils, surface water and groundwater to determine the extent of contamination. EPA's ecological risk assessment which will be incorporated with the remedial investigation. After the RI/FS studies and reports are completed, EPA will issue a proposed cleanup plan for public comment, followed by a final Record of Decision.
  • In 2012, EPA and PADEP oversaw the installation of an interim remedial measure at the east end of the Cinder Bank.   The interim measure consisted of dewatering, excavation and placement of an IRM (Iron Rich Material) treatment cell to intercept and treat the groundwater by removing zinc and other metals from the groundwater prior to it entering Aquashicola Creek. 
  • Construction activities for the wetland restoration were completed in the Summer of 2015.  Once the construction activities were completed and hydrology of the wetland determined, the remaining grass/plants were planted.  The grasses, herbaceous plants, shrubs and trees were planted in the wetlands during the Fall of 2015.  In the Spring of 2016, a final evaluation of the wetland will be conducted to determine if any areas need additional plants.

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What is the current site status?

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is overseeing the cleanup of the Palmerton Zinc Pile Site, which is being carried out by CBS Corporation, the party potentially responsible for the contamination, or PRPs. The site is divided into four separate cleanups, known as operable units. The revegetation of over 3,000 acres and the planting of over 13,000 trees on Blue Mountain (OU#1) was completed in September 2013. Operation and maintenance of the remedy for the Cinder Bank (OU#2) is ongoing. The residential soil clean-ups under OU#3 were completed in 2005.  EPA is currently working through the draft Remedial Investigation/Feasibility Study for OU#4 at the Site.   OU#4 addresses groundwater, surface water, site-wide ecological risk and institutional controls.  A proposed plan for remedy of OU#4 is currently planned for 2017.

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Enforcement Information

Bankruptcy Settlement - March 2011

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