Reprinted with permission
Subsidence woes beset businesses in P. Hills
The Daily News
By Raymond Pefferman, Daily News Staff Writer
Wednesday, October 12, 2005
State Department of Environmental Protection spokeswoman Betsy Mallison said the affected properties includes Johnston the Florist, Bob's beer distributor, the Sure Save grocery store, a hair salon, a nail salon, a barbershop and a dry cleaner.
The warnings began Thursday, when business owners heard a loud crack, she said.
By Friday, they began seeing other effects, Mallison said.
When DEP and federal Office of Surface Mining officials examined the area, they noticed "step-cracking in exterior walls, asphalt buckling and doors that wouldn't close properly," Mallison said.
She said these are all classic signs of mine subsidence.
Four of the businesses temporarily were closed Friday.
A local structural engineer visited the closed businesses Friday evening and allowed them to open Saturday.
Mallison said the OSM will do exploratory drilling to see if stabilization, which entails pumping material underground to stabilize the land, is necessary.
Upon reviewing old mining maps, the DEP believes subsidence in the Pittsburgh Coal and Coke Mine, Terminal No. 6, likely is to blame for the problem.
"We believe Pittsburgh Coal and Coke - which was last mined in the 1940s - left pillars of coal underground, which deteriorated and subsided, causing things above ground to subside," Mallison said.
She said it's too early to tell how long the subsidence will last.
"We don't know how long it will take for the mine subsidence to play out," the DEP spokeswoman added. "It could stop, or it could continue."
Most of the South Hills are is undermined, Mallison said.
"We encourage all residents in Western Pennsylvania to get mine subsidence insurance," she said. "It's a wake-up call for people in that area to check it out."
To find out whether their homes are located over mines and whether subsidence insurance is necessary, homeowners can contact their local insurance agent, visit www.paMSI.org or call 800-922-1678.