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 Post subject: Due to Mining History, NEPA Prone to Sinkholes
PostPosted: Tue Mar 05, 2013 6:58 am 
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Joined: Thu Apr 02, 2009 7:16 pm
Posts: 478
Location: Anthracite Region of PA
Due to mining history, NEPA prone to sinkholes

By Elizabeth Skrapits (Staff Writer)

Published: March 5, 2013
The story of the sinkhole that swallowed up a Florida man hits too close to home for Joan O'Day.

"That poor family, that poor man. That could have been us. That very well could have been us. We were very, very fortunate," she said.

O'Day lives in Fairview Township now, because her Hazle Township home had to be demolished five years ago due to a sinkhole caused by a mine subsidence.

Pennsylvania's geography and mining history make it one of the most sinkhole-prone states. In the southeastern and south central parts of the state, dissolving limestone formations can cause ground depressions. In the anthracite regions, where there isn't much limestone, deep coal mining's legacy lives on with the danger of subsidence.

Flood damage and aging infrastructure such as water and sewer systems can also lead to sinkholes. For example, a collapsed sewer line caused a subsidence at Kniffen and Delaney streets in Hanover Township in February 2008.

But the No. 1 cause of sinkholes in the anthracite regions, including Lackawanna and Luzerne counties, is mine subsidence, says Colleen Connolly, spokeswoman for the state Department of Environmental Protection's northeast region.

"In Northeastern Pennsylvania, every time we see a sinkhole, we think mine subsidence, unless there's some other deciding factor," she said.

Connolly estimates DEP and its sister agency, the Bureau of Abandoned Mine Reclamation, receive at least three calls a month throughout the region to look at sinkholes, ranging from tiny ones a foot deep to big ones.

"We do urge people, if your home is built on top of an existing mine - which thousands of homes are in Northeastern Pennsylvania - to look into subsidence insurance, because a lot of times homeowners' insurance doesn't cover it," Connolly said.

In one case, mine subsidence at Drifton Estates in Hazle Township in April 2008 damaged two houses - that belonging to O'Day and her husband, Joseph, and their neighbor's - and closed half a mile of state Route 940 for more than a month.

"Drifton's known for mines. That's a huge mining area," Connolly said.

O'Day remembers calling DEP in 2004 because of persistent cracks in the driveway of her Smith Drive home that couldn't be patched. At the time, DEP did a visual inspection and dismissed her concerns as problems caused by water from her home's drain spouts, she said.

On April 9, 2008, O'Day left for work early, at 5:45 a.m. She got a call at 8 a.m. that a mine subsidence had damaged her property.

"Thank God I'd gone to work, because I probably wouldn't have been able to get my car out of the garage," she said.

The subsidence got worse until her house and that of the Peciles next door had to be condemned.

"It kept moving every day, bent the whole frame of the house," O'Day said.

The O'Days ended up using their insurance money to demolish the home. But O'Day believes the state should have picked up the tab, and she is upset they didn't take her seriously when she first noticed something was wrong.

"If we knew it was that bad, we could have left earlier. I wouldn't want anyone to go through that," she said.

"We were lucky; we did get out with our lives, but maybe next time people wouldn't be so lucky."

Another sinkhole-prone area is Pittston. A 2006 study commissioned by the state showed that since 1942, the Bureau of Abandoned Mine Reclamation investigated 149 mine-related subsidences in Pittston City, many in the Mill Street area.

On March 24, 1943, a massive subsidence ruined Pittston High School, damaged more than 80 homes, snapped gas and water mains and buckled streets and sidewalks. Scores of families evacuated the four-block-long area bounded by Broad, Fulton, Carroll and Defoe streets, according to an Associated Press account at the time.

Nobody was hurt, but almost a year later another subsidence in Pittston proved fatal. Jule Ann Fulmer, 2, was walking down Mill Street with her aunt on Feb. 8, 1944 when the sidewalk collapsed beneath her, dropping the little girl into a chasm more than 20 feet deep.

Besides mining, dissolution of underground limestone or dolomite can cause sinkholes, according to state geologist George Love of the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.

There aren't big limestone deposits in the anthracite regions, but other counties to the south and west, including Carbon, Lehigh, Cumberland, Lancaster and York, do have them, he said.

Limestone doesn't dissolve immediately, like table salt, Love said. Instead, it occurs over a long period of time, possibly thousands of years, due to acidic groundwater that moves down into the limestone's cracks and fissures, he said.

In Florida, the limestones are much "younger" in terms of geological age, while Pennsylvania's are older, harder and more dense - but still soluble, Love said. In Florida the limestone is porous, so the water moves through it easily and will dissolve them more rapidly, he said.

People who live in nonmining areas without rocks like limestone have a "zero to very, very small" chance of sinkholes, Love said.

If you live on top of limestone, chances go up, depending on factors such as whether your house is built on clay soil, he said.

"But do they go up to where you need to be terribly concerned? Probably not," Love said., 570-821-2072n April 2008: Mine subsidence damages two homes and closes a section of state Route 940 in the Drifton section of Hazle Township.

n May 2008: Mine subsidence damages the Matson Avenue home of Gerard and Bonnie Lukachinsky in the Parsons section of Wilkes-Barre.

n January 2009: Subsidences damage Joe Stelma's home at 83 Mill St. and force closure of a duplex at 105-107 LaGrange St., Pittston.

n August 2010: Small sinkhole opens in the area of Rock Street in Nanticoke's Honey Pot section.

n March 2011: Subsidence opens a 14-foot-wide hole in the Lobitz Catering Service lot on state Route 940 in Hazle Township.

n March 2012: A 50-foot deep subsidence hole shuts down part of state Route 247 in Blakely.

n December 2012: A 20-foot-deep subsidence is discovered under Cemetery Street in Archbald.

Scott K
"Watch Your Top"

 Post subject: Re: Due to Mining History, NEPA Prone to Sinkholes
PostPosted: Tue Mar 05, 2013 11:57 am 
I believe that the state should pick up the tab. They knew about the problem, yet didn't do anything about it.

 Post subject: Re: Due to Mining History, NEPA Prone to Sinkholes
PostPosted: Tue Mar 05, 2013 10:58 pm 
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Joined: Fri Jul 15, 2005 2:34 pm
Posts: 6871
Location: Within 60 Miles of the Northern Anthracite Field
pittston is real bad for mine subsidences. not sure if its the rock strata, or the proximity the mining took place to the surface or what, im not a geologist. however, i do know thats one of the worst locations for it in the valley. we were down there on numerous times to document subsidences. youre crazy to live in the valley and not have mine subsidence insurance. during the 50s till the 70s the mines were flushed with silt to try and stop this problem but it just couldnt flow to everywhere with rockfalls and such. weve been in several old mines where you can walk all around flushing, where one chamber is flushed shut, and the one next to it is wide open. however the maps show it all to be flushed. been under one subsidence that was "supposedly" filled with concrete. it filled a chamber, ran across a gangway and down a slope. never filled. heres some good reading:

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