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Aerial seeding to restore mountain foliage in Carbon County

Newswatch 16's Amanda Eustice shows us the work being done on Blue Mountain.

PALMERTON, Pa. — For the first time in more than a decade, efforts are underway to restore vegetation and wildlife to a mountain in Carbon County.

The work is part of remediation at the zinc pile superfund site near Palmerton.

If you see planes flying low over the Lehigh River and close to Blue Mountain in Carbon County, don't worry. They're supposed to be there.

Planes are spraying seed on the mountain to bring nature back to the area after emissions from the former zinc smelting factory near Palmerton destroyed it.

"They didn't have emissions controls at the time. They did the best that they could, but unfortunately, there was a lot of acid rain heavy metals that were deposited on the land so that 3,000 acres were killed off in the Palmerton area here," said Chad Schwartz, executive director of the Lehigh Gap Nature Center.

On each trip, the planes get filled up with 3,000 pounds of native plant seed, fertilizer, and limestone to adjust the pH of the soil. The pilots will make more than 230 trips.

Previous aerial seeding occurred in 2006, 2008, 2011, and 2012 during the early stages of the revegetation work on Blue Mountain.

Brenda Morris of Walnutport remembers what the mountain looked like decades ago before they started the work.

"Barren, dead, yeah, pretty much," Morris said. "They've really done an amazing job bringing it back."

Signs and volunteers are posted along the D&L Trail, letting people know that planes are aerial seeding.

"Our trials are still open for the most part. Today, they have some guards out on the trail just to warn hikers, but it's not dangerous. You just might see seed falling from the sky," Schwartz said.

"The zinc company was really important in its time, and I don't mean to bash it or anything, but you know they didn't know what they were doing and the long-term effects, and they built Palmerton, and they employed a lot of people, but we couldn't go that way any longer," Morris said.

The seeding is taking place on more than 365 acres. Some of the land is property of the Lehigh Gap Nature Center. The rest is land managed by the National Park Service and the Pennsylvania Game Commission.

Crews will be aerial seeding from now until April 7, weather permitting.

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