EPA estimated that remediating the Palmerton Zinc Pile Superfund Site, a 7 square mile area alleged to have been contaminated by metals migrating via air from former metal smelting operations to surrounding residential areas, would cost over $13 million. We developed a more efficient approach that addressed the contamination, alleviated community concerns, and cost less than $7 million to implement.
The study area included 2,400 residential properties, as well as playgrounds and ballfields, in two municipalities. Our approach to sampling and assess the properties focused on minimizing the disruption of residents’ lives, providing staff continuity to build familiarity and trust, and communicating quickly and effectively. We used creative soil sampling techniques and XRF field screening equipment, a combination that essentially eliminated owner loss of use issues and reduced costs. After identifying impacted properties, we careful excavated contaminated soils from dense neighborhoods and conducted sensitive interior remediation quickly and efficiently. We also developed a site-specific GIS database to track the project and provide information to project stakeholders. Ultimately, 179 exteriors and 20 interiors were remediated with no claims against our client for impacting their properties.
COMMUNITY RELATIONS EFFORTS ADDRESS CONCERNS
As concern in the area grew, community relations had become quite volatile. Recognizing that addressing this would be a critical component to accomplishing the goals at this site, we planned and executed a thorough community relations initiative that included workshops; a unique store-front office where our staff, EPA, and Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (PADEP) were available to local residents; and a public awareness campaign to help people know what to expect. The accessibility, open communication channels, and encouragement of citizen participation kept people involved and avoided a potentially difficult and confrontational situation.