DEP: Soil samples in Palmerton show excess lead
The gazebo in the Palmerton Borough Park has been damaged during a pair of vandalism incidents earlier this month. TERRY AHNER/TIMES NEWS
Soil samples taken at two locations in Palmerton exceeded the statewide health standards for metals, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection.
Palmerton Borough Park and West End Day Care, a private facility, were the locations with the excess levels. Results of samples taken at eight other locations came back below statewide standards.
According to DEP, the sampling was done after a report issued last year by the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry concluded a public health hazard is likely for young children and pregnant women living near the American Zinc Recycling facility in Palmerton.
The results indicated that one sample collected from West End Day Care found total lead, total cadmium, and total zinc levels exceeded the statewide health standards; and two samples collected from Palmerton Borough Park found total lead and total cadmium levels exceeded the statewide health standards.
“The soil sampling results are a concern and DEP is committed to doing its part to protect the health of residents,” said DEP Secretary Patrick McDonnell. “DEP is working with the EPA and local officials on future plans to monitor and remediate lead levels in Palmerton.”
Palmerton Borough Manager Rodger Danielson said he received the raw data from the sampling over a month ago.
“We haven’t been contacted about any warnings or any follow ups,” Danielson said. “It was basically left as they were going to continue to monitor things and take some additional samples.”
Twenty-one sampling points were analyzed via XRF soil screening.
“The samples they reported as high in the borough park were not in the playground area,” Danielson said. “They were in a place where you wouldn’t typically find a lot of activity.”
Danielson said given the volume of sampling points around town, the results that came in below the statewide health standards was very encouraging.
In October of 2018, representatives from DEP, ATSDR, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency conducted both soil screening and soil sampling at ten separate locations in the borough. DEP utilized an X-ray Fluorescence (XRF) device for the soil screening, which is an X-ray instrument used for non-destructive chemical analyses of rocks, minerals, sediments, and fluids. A total of 141 XRF scans for lead, cadmium, chromium, zinc, nickel, and copper were completed at the properties. In addition, a total of 18 traditional soil samples were taken at the properties. The samples were sent to DEP’s Bureau of Laboratories in Harrisburg for analysis of lead, cadmium, chromium, zinc, nickel, and copper.
The analysis of the XRF screening indicated, aside from the metal levels, a high level of moisture in the soil, which could have impacted those results, DEP officials said.
Based on the XRF soil screening results and the surface soil sampling results, DEP is recommending additional sampling within and adjacent to Palmerton Borough Park and West End Day Care.
The results of the original soil sampling and screening were sent to property owners and DEP has discussed them with officials from Palmerton Borough and Palmerton School District.
The full soil sampling report can be viewed at https://bit.ly/2TPjdbC.