US Geological Survey


Date of this Version



Presentation for Palmerton Zinc Site Natural Resources Stakeholders, June 5, 2009


Zinc smelters operated in Palmerton, Carbon County, Pennsylvania between 1898 and 1980. Atmospheric emissions and solid waste (slag or cinders) from smelter operations resulted in deposition of toxic elements – including arsenic, copper, cadmium, lead, manganese, and zinc -- on the surrounding landscape, including surface and ground water. The smelter sites, waste piles, and the contaminated terrestrial and aquatic landscape around them are collectively referred to as the Palmerton Zinc Pile Site (Palmerton site).

The objective of this study was to update the findings of a 1997 study of the toxicity of surface water, pore water, and sediment in the vicinity of the Palmerton Site (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 2001. Final Draft Palmerton Zinc Site Ecological Risk Assessment, Volume 2: Aquatic Community Endpoints. USEPA Environmental Response Team Center, Edison NJ). Samples were collected August 12-13, 2008 to document current levels of metal concentrations and associated toxicity in stream water, sediment, and sediment pore water at sites in Aquashicola Creek (including an uncontaminated tributary, Buckwha Creek), and Lehigh River.

This study consisted of four tasks: (1) surface water sampling and analysis; (2) sediment sampling and analysis; (3) sediment porewater sampling and analysis; and (4) toxicity testing.