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Revegetation of Blue Mountain completed

  • The aerial planters had "perfect weather."
    The aerial planters had "perfect weather."
Published March 29. 2012 05:01PM

The revegetation of the Blue Mountain in Palmerton by air has been completed several weeks ahead of schedule.

So much so, that aerial reseeding of about 128 acres by use of an aircraft to plant grass and other vegetation on the mountain took just three days, instead of three weeks, due to the nice weather.

"They just had absolutely perfect weather for it," said Dan Kunkle, executive director of the Lehigh Gap Nature Center. "They only flew three long days, and succeeded in getting everything done."

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, in cooperation with the National Park Service, oversaw use of an aircraft to plant grass and other vegetation on a portion of the Palmerton Zinc Superfund site along the Appalachian Trail.

The aerial reseeding technique was previously used to restore other sections of the mountain west and east of the Lehigh River. The mixture of seed used during this restoration is designed to foster the growth of warm season grasses, shrubs and trees native to the area.

Kunkle credited both CBS Inc., formerly Viacom International, as well as the EPA, for their work.

"CBS was very diligent in making sure things got done here," he said. "The EPA has done a good job making sure the revegetation is going well."

In all, Kunkle said about 1,500 acres have been revegetated along the mountain since 2006.

"It shouldn't have taken this long, but there was some resistance from nearby landowners to using the grasses as the basic part of the method," he said. "The family went along with it."

Kunkle said the work will only serve to enhance the area's appeal.

"You're going to start seeing green in a lot of these places now," he said. "It will be good for us in the Southern Carbon County area, and a good thing for the area."

Also as part of the work, about 7,300 trees - Black Gum, Red and White Oak, and Chestnut hybrids that are resistant to blight - will be planted on the mountain as well.

"I think it's wonderful," Kunkle said. "I encourage people to take a hike this summer and look at the progress."

The project is part of an ongoing action to repair environmental damage that was caused by emissions from zinc smelting operations in the Borough of Palmerton.

The restoration work is being paid for by CBS Inc., the party potentially responsible for the contamination, Kunkle said.

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