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Zinc land plan

Published April 16. 2010 05:00PM

Two Carbon County companies that have a vision for the former New Jersey Zinc company's land in Palmerton are not letting concerns get in the way of progress.

Last week, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection sent a letter to Steve Hoats of Phase III Environmental of Lehighton, the company completing the remediation of the 120-acre land along Route 248 in Palmerton; stating that it had concerns about the company's general permit application in regards to the amount and type of regulated fill that the company planned to use to complete the remediation. George Petrole of Northface Development of Lehighton is the other driving force behind the project.

The letter states that the amount of fill that Phase III is requesting is 10 million tons, which would raise the land 51 feet, and that the regulated fill contains more than the acceptable metal levels.

Hoats said in response to the review that the company plans to work out the details so that they can obtain the permit and move forward with the remediation.

He further explained that some of the figures in the letter were inaccurate, pointing out that the amount of fill the company proposes would raise the area a total of 10 feet, not 51 feet.

"The reality is our plan would elevate the site enough to dig foundations for the buildings and put in all of the underground utilities without disturbing the former ground of the previous company," Hoats said. "We have no intention of constructing a mountain on that property."

He explained that the 10-foot elevation would be gradual, meaning that from the road, motorists would not see an immediate spike in elevation changes.

In some areas though where holes are located, up to 50 feet of fill will be needed.

As for the type of fill, Hoats said that the permit they are applying for states that it would come from construction sites such as the demolition of stadiums or tunnel work from New Jersey and New York.

Carbon County Commissioner William O'Gurek, who has voiced his concerns about the type of fill Phase III Environmental plans to use since last year, said that "the company is proposing to deviate from the regulated fill limits allowed with metals such as arsenic, barium, cadmium, lead and zinc. I think we need to be very much concerned to the extent that we need to make sure DEP is aware of our wish that the remediation be managed and monitored properly. After all, the people have worked very hard to get rid of the blemishes it once had. They (Phase III Environmental) stressed they would remediate according to DEP standards, and, as commissioners, we have an obligation to hold them to that."

O'Gurek added that he is in favor of the overall project.

But Hoats said that Pennsylvania is one of the strictest states when it comes to acceptable levels of contaminates in regulated fill; and the company plans to work with DEP's standards to determine how much can be safely used on the site.

He added that he plans to revise the levels for the permit; noting that the initial numbers the company used in its application were part of the negotiation process and not the final figures.

Hoats said that through the remediation process they are proposing, the only way a person could possibly get contaminated is through direct contact with the fill.

"Although there is lead and arsenic on the site, it is not moving anywhere," Hoats said. "Not into the ground water and it is not a human health risk.

"We all live here," Hoats said of the team working on the remediation. "We don't want to do anything to potentially harm our environment. Our intention is to remediate the site and change it from an eyesore to one of the greenest properties in the region."

Hoats also noted that the borough of Palmerton has been completely supportive of the companies' vision.

"When we showed Palmerton this letter (from DEP), the borough wrote a letter of support because they want to see this project move forward," he said.

Northface Development and Phase III Environmental have been working toward building a high tech office park at the Palmerton Zinc West property since 2009.

Their plans for the area call for developing 27 parcels for office and other business space on the land and create thousands of high tech jobs.

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