Palmerton is a borough in Carbon County, Pennsylvania, United States. It is located in the Coal Region of the state. It is part of lower Carbon County, which is considered part of Lehuigh Valley.
The population was 5,414 at the 2010 census.
Native Americans lived in the area that is now Palmerton for many years. Early European settlers established the villages of Hazard and Little Gap, which were part of Lower Towamensing Township. There was also an Underground Railroad station there. Palmerton was officially incorporated in 1912.
In 1912, the New Jersey Zinc Company located a zinc smelting operation (now the West Plant) here, in order to take advantage of the anthracite coal being mined just north of Palmerton and the zinc mines in Franklin, New Jersey. The town was named after New Jersey Zinc's then-President, Stephen S. Palmer, though Palmer was reportedly not pleased with having his name on the town.
A second location, the East Plant, was established on the other side of town in 1911. Though other industries, such as several garment manufacturing shops, came to Palmerton, the zinc company was the major employer for most of the town's history. Much of the population came to the site, principally from Eastern Europe, in order to work in the zinc plants.
Zinc smelting was ended in 1980 due to a poor zinc market and environmental regulation. The West Plant was demolished in 2010. The East Plant continues to operate at reduced capacity, processing electric arc furnace dust into zinc calcine.
The Palmer House, a five-story Senior Citizens residence at 360 Delaware Avenue is on the site of the former Palm Theater.
Palmerton is located in southern Carbon County at 40°48′11″N 75°36′43″W (40.803077, -75.611808). It lies just north of the junction of the Lehigh River and Aquashicola Creek, which in turn is just north of the Lehigh Gap through Blue Mountain. To the north of Palmerton is Stony Ridge.
The borough is located 3 miles (5 km) east of Bowmanstown and 5 miles (8 km) north of the twin towns of Walnutportand Slatington, 7 miles (11 km) southeast of Lehighton, and 58 miles (93 km) south of the city of Scranton. Palmerton's elevation is 407 feet (124 m) above sea level.
According to the United States Census Bureau, the borough has a total area of 2.54 square miles (6.57 km2), of which 2.48 square miles (6.43 km2) is land and 0.05 square miles (0.13 km2), or 2.00%, is water.
The layout of Palmerton's streets and alleys is extremely regular, because most of the town was planned and built by the New Jersey Zinc Company. Avenues, which run east to west, contain the majority of addresses and are named for colleges and universities. Streets, running perpendicular, are numbered from First Street in the west to Eighth Street in the east. Most of the houses in the central and southern parts of town (near the zinc plants) are "doubles"—one building divided down the center into two residences.
As of the census of 2000, there were 5,248 people, 2,220 households, and 1,429 families residing in the borough. The population density was 2,109.1 people per square mile (813.8/km²). There were 2,365 housing units at an average density of 950.5 per square mile (366.7/km²). The racial makeup of the borough was 98.29% White, 0.15% African American, 0.17% Native American, 0.17% Asian, 0.04% Pacific Islander, 0.46% from other races, and 0.72% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 2.36% of the population.
The most common ethnicities in Palmerton are Russian (40.3%), German (29.6%), Irish (20.5%), Ukrainian (13.2%) and Slovak(8.5%).
There were 2,220 households, out of which 29.6% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 48.7% were married couplesliving together, 11.4% had a female householder with no husband present, and 35.6% were non-families. 29.5% of all households were made up of individuals, and 17.0% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.36 and the average family size was 2.92.
In the borough the population was spread out, with 23.1% under the age of 18, 8.2% from 18 to 24, 29.1% from 25 to 44, 21.3% from 45 to 64, and 18.3% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 38 years. For every 100 females there were 90.9 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 85.2 males.
The median income for a household in the borough was $31,522, and the median income for a family was $36,967. Males had a median income of $31,278 versus $21,781 for females. The per capita income for the borough was $16,225. About 8.5% of families and 10.0% of the population were below the poverty line, including 16.5% of those under age 18 and 10.2% of those age 65 or over.
Palmerton is currently the location of the Palmerton Zinc Superfund site. It was added to the National Priority List in 1983. The site is broken down into four Operable Units: the defoliated slope of Blue Mountain, the cinder banks, the soil in town, and the ground and surface water.
The remediation process in Palmerton has been contentious. Both the United States Environmental Protection Agency and the citizens' group Palmerton Citizens for a Clean Environment (PCCE) believe that extensive cleanup of the town's soil is necessary to protect human health. On the other hand, many citizens, including the Pro-Palmerton Coalition (PPC), argue that the health risks are exaggerated and that the town's Superfund status stigmatizes it. Both groups, as well as other stakeholders, are part of a Superfund Community Advisory Group called the Palmerton Environmental Task Force.
The Appalachian Trail crosses the Lehigh River less than 2 miles (3 km) south of Palmerton. The former town jail, below City Hall, had been converted into a hostel which served Appalachian Trail thru-hikers for forty years. It was announced in April 2015 that they would no longer provide this service.
The borough is served by the Palmerton Area School District, which provides full day kindergarten through 12th grade. In 2016, the Palmerton Area School District's enrollment declined to 1,756 students. The District's enrollment was 1,920 pupils in 2005-06. In 2016, Palmerton Area School District's graduation rate was 97.35%. The District was ranked 376th out of 494 Pennsylvania public school districts, by the Pittsburgh Business Times. The ranking examined the school's academic achievement over the prior three years. The district operates 5 schools including: Stephen S. Palmer Elementary School (2-6) in Palmerton; Parkside Education Center (K-1) in Palmerton; Towamensing Elementary School (K-6); and Palmerton Area Junior High School (7-8) in the borough; and Palmerton Area High School (9th-12th) in the borough.
High school aged students can attend the taxpayer funded Carbon Career & Technical Institute, located in Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania, for training in the building trades, auto mechanics, culinary arts, allied health careers and other areas. The Technical Institute is funded by a consortium of the school districts, which, in addition to Palmerton Area School District, includes: Jim Thorpe Area School District, Lehighton Area School District, Panther Valley School District and Weatherly Area School District.
Palmerton borough residents may also apply to attend any of the Commonwealth's 13 public cyber charter schools (in 2016) at no additional cost to the parents. The resident’s public school district is required to pay the charter school and cyber charter school tuition for residents who attend these public schools. The tuition rate that Palmerton Area School District must pay was $8,637.25 in 2015. By Commonwealth law, if the District provides transportation for its own students, then the District must provide transportation to any school that lies within 10 miles of its borders. Residents may also seek admission for their school aged child to any other public school district. When accepted for admission, the student's parents are responsible for paying an annual tuition fee set by the Pennsylvania Department of Education.
Carbon-Lehigh Intermediate Unit #21 provides a wide variety of services to children living in its region which includes Palmerton borough. Early screening, special education services, speech and hearing therapy, autistic support, preschool classes and many other services like driver education are available. Services for children during the preschool years are provided without cost to their families when the child is determined to meet eligibility requirements. Intermediate units receive taxpayer funding: through subsidies paid by member school districts; through direct charges to users for some services; through the successful application for state and federal competitive grants and through private grants.