Lehigh Gap Nature Center to profitfrom leftover state grant funds
Left over money Palmerton has from a state grant will allow for more invasive work at the Lehigh Gap Nature Center.
Borough Council on a 6-0 vote Thursday agreed to spend the money that remains in a Brownfields Assessment Grant for Lehigh University interns to conduct more research. Councilman Richard Nothstein was absent.
The money that remains from the grant is in excess of $11,000, according to borough Manager Rodger Danielson, who inferred that the majority of that amount would likely be spent.
"I think it's a nice wrap-up to what they've already given us," Danielson said. "They will provide a summary."
Danielson said all work will end at the Lehigh Gap Nature Center by Sept. 20.
Last month, council learned of the results of a recent study conducted by Lehigh University that tracked metals concentrations. Based on the results of that study shared by Dork Sahagian, director of environmental initiative professor, Earth and Environmental Sciences at Lehigh University, metals concentrations are currently below the state Environmental Protection Agency residential standards in the borough and surrounding communities.
Sahagian, who along with Lehigh University students studied the concentration and distribution of metals in the soil in and around the borough since 2006, said the study was conducted through a Brownfields Assessment Grant sponsored by the EPA.
As part of the study, samples were taken from 52 locations, some of which were up to 20 miles away, Sahagian said. From there, he said the samples were then analyzed and the data was scrutinized and interpreted.
While some of the metals concentrations fall within distance from the West Plant, others do not, which suggests that there may have been other sources for these, Sahagian said.
The airfall deposition of metals included zinc, cadmium, arsenic, and lead, he said. Of those, Sahagian said zinc and cadmium are highest near the west plant, while arsenic and lead were everywhere.
The test checked the levels of metals in the soil, groundwater and river water that remained from emissions from the former New Jersey Zinc Co. smelter along the Lehigh River just north of the Kittatinny Ridge, he said.
Sahagian said the results of the study shows that the West Plant has various isolated "hot spots", but not systemic contamination; the far field is basically down for residential or commercial uses; and while there may have been high soil concentrations of metals in the past, there aren't now.
In addition, he said the levels of zinc and cadmium are clearly from the smelter, but that the levels of lead and arsenic have other sources; and that any concerns regarding economic development of the region need not be based on fears of metals contamination in far field soils.
Also on Thursday, council heard a presentation from Roy Christman, a member of the Towamensing Township Planning Commission, about an Implementation Agreement through the Regional Comprehensive Plan.
Christman said the Regional Comprehensive Plan which includes Palmerton, Bowmanstown, Lower Towamensing Township and Towamensing Township was adopted in March, 2009, and cost about $100,000 to implement.
Since then, Christman said he acted as an unpaid consultant to essentially make the agreement less binding.
"I took it to Lower Towamensing, Towamensing, and Bowmanstown, and their solicitors examined it," Christman said. "I called Cindy Campbell of [the state Department of Community and Economic Development], and was able to come up with an agreement that is satisfactory to everybody."
Christman then asked council to appoint two members to meet with six other appointed members two each from Bowmanstown, Lower Towamensing and Towamensing to come up with an Implementation Agreement.
"The agreement can be very informal, though it might not hold up if there's a court case," he said. "It became obvious we're not going to have joint zoning."
At that, council on a 6-0 vote appointed council Vice President Chris Olivia and council President Terry Costenbader to represent the borough in the matter.
Finally, council heard from resident Sue Olivia, who asked council to consider changing the leaf collection day in the Residence Park area of the borough.
Olivia, the wife of Councilman Chris Olivia, told council that this past November, she drove throughout the borough to check the status of the leaf piles in the borough, as well as an estimate on the number of deciduous trees on each avenue.
Sue Olivia said that there were numerous piles ready for pick up, to the point that two cars couldn't travel on the streets.
"There are so many piles north of Columbia that I feel it is becoming dangerous for cars, as well as pedestrians," Sue Olivia said. "There were hardly any piles on Lehigh and Lafayette, and the piles in the park were waist high."
Sue Olivia then asked council to come up with a schedule that would be fair to the homes on Columbia Avenue and north of Columbia Avenue.
"If you total all the trees in Palmerton, you get [about] 1,800 trees," Sue Olivia said. "If you divide that by five days of pick up, each day should accommodate 360 trees. This would mean that Columbia and Residence Park should have three days of pick up, not two."
But, Danielson said that the borough crew has followed the same schedule for some time.
"The borough crew starts it, and they work in Residence Park almost every day of the week," Danielson said. "My impression is that we have really little holdover."
Based on his observation, Chris Olivia said most residents in town rake their leaves on the weekend.
"Whey they rake in Residence Park, the line-up is waist high," Chris Olivia said. "It just seems to me the best thing to do here is to change Residence Park [leaf collection] from Friday to Monday."
However, Danielson said he doesn't believe that option would be feasible.
"It's by working ahead that they can get to it," Danielson said. "If you tell everybody Mondays, there's no way we have enough manpower."
Chris Olivia reiterated that changes should be made.
"I think you're looking for an accident [waiting] to happen," Chris Olivia said.
Council President Terry Costenbader said the matter would be taken under consideration.