Reclaiming Mt. Oliver home 'not even worth it,' owner says
Stephen Thomas said on Friday he doesn't think he'll ever move back to his Frederick Street home in Mt. Oliver.
“The value of the house and what it is going to cost to fix it, it's not even worth it,” said Thomas, 34, who lived in one of five Frederick Street homes condemned this week for safety concerns.
Subsidence from abandoned underground coal mines damaged a dozen homes since ground began shifting last week.
Authorities did not evacuate seven of them. Two of the condemned homes are vacant, while the other three — including Thomas' — housed a total of 11 people.
Thomas and other owners of condemned homes have not been allowed to return to them to retrieve belongings. Aside from clothes and other personal items, Thomas said he'd like to get the houseful of new furniture he and his fiancee bought with income tax returns.
“It literally still has the tags on it,” Thomas said of the furniture.
Mt. Oliver officials promised to help those affected, but Thomas said they've stopped taking his calls.
Numerous messages left for borough officials by the Tribune-Review were not returned.
“It's so frustrating,” said Thomas, who is living with his fiancee and two children in his mother's Scott home. “No one is listening, and I can't get answers.”
The Department of Environmental Protection is seeking contractors to fill the abandoned mine with a mixture of sand, concrete and fly ash. They have until Tuesday to submit bids. The DEP wants work to begin by the end of next week, spokesman John Poister said.
“You feel for the people,” Poister said. “That's why we're moving so quickly.”
Officials with DEP went door-to-door informing residents about the state's mine-subsidence insurance program. None of the owners of the five condemned homes had such coverage, Poister said.
Since 1961, the state's Mine Subsidence Insurance Fund has paid more than $26 million in claims. Residential coverage costs about 55 cents for every $1,000 of coverage, available up to $500,000.
Of about 1 million properties that are undermined across Pennsylvania, mine subsidence insurance covered 56,628 of them as of July 1, according to DEP data.
“If I would have known that for $60 a year I could have had peace of mind, I would have had that insurance,” Thomas said. “There's no question about it.”
Thomas said he did not know his home sat over an abandoned mine. The home has been in his fiancee's family for 120 years.
Mt. Oliver, like most areas along Pittsburgh's southern hillside and suburbs in the South Hills and to the east, experienced heavy mining, Poister said.
“A lot of these are very, very old mines going back to the 1800s, and they are shallow,” he said.
One project could help homeowners more easily pinpoint old mines.
Seven colleges and universities are receiving a combined $1.65 million in state funding to digitize the state's mine maps, including the University of Pittsburgh, California University of Pennsylvania and Indiana University of Pennsylvania. The project will enable people to find out online whether mines are under their land.
Jason Cato is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7936 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Water service restored to CMU campus
- Google grants teachers’ school supply wishes
- Hill District leaders irked as Penguins submit former Civic Arena site plan to city
- City of Pittsburgh detective, boys finalize adoption before judge
- City’s plan for Strip flummoxes vendors
- Number of jobs in high-tech industry outpace workers in Pittsburgh, nation
- State awards 6 Western Pennsylvania schools mentoring grants
- Outbound 376 reopened after man on exit sign caused closure
- Nonprofits replace humdrum charity 5Ks with rappelling
- Job prospects drawing workers to Western Pennsylvania
- City of Pittsburgh detective, 2 boys finalize adoption before judge