The New Jersey Zinc Company opened its Palmerton Plant to produce metalic zinc, zinc oxide, spelter, and spiegeleisen from ores mined in Sussex County, New Jersey. The plant included over 31 buildings on 200 acres. The company laid out and built the entire town of Palmerton, starting in 1899, including the hospital, community center, park, streets, sewer system, and worker's housing. After 1913, the company built a primary ore reduction plant two miles northwest of the first plant, one mile from Palmerton on the banks of the Aquashicola Creek. Sulphuric Acid mist from the smelters has caused sever defoliation of the hills surrounding the two plants. They continue to operate today.
Palmerton is currently the location of the Palmerton Zinc Superfund site. It was added to the National Priority List in 1983. The site is broken down into four Operable Units: the defoliated slope of Blue Mountain, the cinder banks, the soil in town, and the ground and surface water.
The remediation process in Palmerton has been contentious. Both the United States Environmental Protection Agency and the citizens' group Palmerton Citizens for a Clean Environment (PCCE) believe that extensive cleanup of the town's soil is necessary to protect human health. On the other hand, many citizens, including the Pro-Palmerton Coalition (PPC), argue that the health risks are exaggerated and that the town's Superfund status stigmatizes it. Both groups, as well as other stakeholders, are part of a Superfund Community Advisory Group called the Palmerton Environmental Task Force.
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