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In the 1840’s, another mineral was found in Saucon Creek Valley which lead to further industrialization of the Lehigh River Watershed. Zinc was the basic ingredient in white paint; it was also a rustproof metal (Hall and Hall, 1982). In 1853, the Pennsylvania and Lehigh Zinc Company was formed on the banks of the Lehigh River in Bethlehem. Later, in 1898, the New Jersey Zinc Company developed in Palmerton, and slowly the town began to form. Two zinc smeltering plants were developed: a west plant and an east plant. The east plant was on the southern bank of the Aquashicola Creek and flowed into the Lehigh River. The west plant was on the Lehigh River itself. The zinc industry helped provide jobs and money to those who lived in the town. It also was the reason that a town developed on the site in the first place (Hugh Moore Historical Park and Museums).

But where there is industry, there is often harm to the environment. The zinc industry was truly detrimental to the waters and land surrounding it. Today, if you travel down the Lehigh River in Palmerton and look at the hills on its bank, there is no vegetative growth. The land is merely hills of dirt. The land has been highly contaminated by the zinc smeltering that occurred there for 90 years. Lead, cadmium, and zinc left from the zinc smeltering process has been deposited in water and soils surrounding the east and west plants. The hills near these factories, including those on the river, could not support vegetation as a result of heavy metals concentrating in that area. Therefore, heavy metals present in surface water runoff from the mountain into area streams into the Lehigh River.

The minerals that have been left can be detrimental to one’s health if they are present in food. Palmerton has educated its citizens on the possible negative effects of being exposed to these toxins. They are, however, still doing research in order to determine how to control the problem that began when zinc smelting started in the area (Fox et al., 1987).

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