An engineered slope stabilization project is set to get under way this week along the Appalachian National Scenic Trail near Palmerton on the east side of Lehigh Gap.

The National Park Service, in partnership with the Federal Highway Administration, will implement the project through the use of American Reinvestment and Recovery Act funding.

Originally slated to begin in mid-June and be completed by April 2011, the project is expected to get under way on or about Wednesday, according to J. David Reus, project coordinator, Appalachian National Scenic Trail.

Reus said Janod, the project contractor, initially will do some survey work, set up of their staging area and work trailers, and install signage. The trail will remain open for the duration of the project. However, to ensure the safety of visitors, Reus said the blue-blazed Winter Trail – sometimes used by hikers to get to Palmerton – will be closed during the project because it will be the primary project access for Janod, as well as an active construction zone.

Visitors are asked to plan accordingly when visiting the area, and to be alert to construction activities.

"A detailed work schedule is still under development, but it is assumed that any time after the 14th, the Winter Trail could be closed due to construction activities," said Reus, who added Janod will install the trail and project information signage at that time.

"An on-site kick-off meeting is being scheduled and additional details will be available after that," he added.

The site has been contaminated by historic smelter emissions that emitted tons of zinc, lead, cadmium, and sulfur dioxide plumes into the atmosphere.

The project is a response action under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act to abate the ongoing migration of contaminated soil and water from the site; abate the threat to public safety from a potential rockfall at the site, and to ensure the long-term success of future revegetation efforts for the site planned in the context of the Palmerton Zinc Pile National Priorities List site remedial action.

The trail passes through a portion of the Palmerton NPL Site, which is comprised of thousands of acres. About 800 acres within the Palmerton NPL Site are parklands managed by the NPS, which includes a 71-acre area known as the Lehigh Gap site.

The contaminant-related loss of trees and other vegetative cover at the Lehigh Gap Site has led to significant erosion, enabling the ongoing mitigation of contaminated soil and water from the site. It has also eliminated natural barriers to rock falls, creating a potentially hazardous situation to motorists who pass below on state Route 248, as well as to trail visitors and workers.

The state Environmental Protection Agency is the agency responsible for the Palmerton NPL Site cleanup. The EPA has future plans to revegetate some areas, including the Lehigh Gap Site, by application of a mixture of seed, fertilizer, and lime. To complement the application, the NPS will implement engineered slope stabilization measures before revegetation.

The NPS performed a modeling of potential rockfall events, enlisted the FHWA to perform a technical review of potential slope stabilization measures, and, in the context of a CERCLA Removal Site Evaluation, reviewed existing background information about the Lehigh Gap Site and the ongoing migration of hazardous substances from the site.

Earlier this year, design and specification documents were completed by FHWA, and the project was advertised for competitive bid.

The public can review and comment on the administrative record file, which contains documents upon which the selection of the Lehigh Gap Site has been based.

The record is available for public review at the Palmerton Area Library, 402 Delaware Ave., Palmerton, and the National Park Service, 1050 Walnut Street, Suite 220, Boulder, Co.

Anyone with questions may contact Reus at (304) 535-4001, at david_reus@nps. gov, or in writing to Appalachian National Scenic Trail, P.O. Box 50, Harpers Ferry, WV 25425.

Regular updates will be posted at www.appalachiantrail.org/updates.