Planting Trees To Reverse Environmental Damage

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LOWER TOWAMENSING TOWNSHIP -- They're planting thousands of trees on 55,000 acres on sections of Blue Mountain near Palmerton.

Charlie Root of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said it's an effort to bring life to the place which was poisoned by a former zinc smelting operation.

"What we're trying to do is jump start nature's process and reestablish vegetation so it can carry forward and do what it will do naturally."

Blue Mountain was so damaged by the zinc smelting operation that fallen trees wouldn't decompose because even bacteria couldn't survive in the soil. The zinc operation put dangerous levels of lead and other metals in people's yards.  That got tracked into homes.

That damage has been fixed and for 10 years environmental officials used planes and other methods to get things to grow again.

Jen Lansing, an environmental consultant, said it has worked and now it's time for planting trees.

"I think it's a great collaborative effort at a Superfund site and we've been successful and will continue to do so."

Root said officials have been fixing what the zinc smelter did to the environment for 30 years.

"This piece of reestablishing trees on top of the mountain and finishing the re-vegetation is actually very rewarding for me personally."

It's also rewarding to Trevor Jones who has lived his whole life near the mountain and is now part of the crew fixing it.

"Growing up, my parents worked for the zinc company and you'd notice a bare mountain and seeing it come back is great."

The tree planting to repair the environmental damage should wrap up soon. Officials say without that help, it could have taken nature at least 100 years to bring vegetation back to sections of Blue Mountain.