Mt. Oliver residents rush to add insurance since coal mines destabilized homes
Hundreds of Mt. Oliver residents are rushing to buy extra insurance since an abandoned coal mine destabilized several homes on Frederick Street.
Borough property owners filed 540 coverage applications since July 14 with a mine-subsidence insurance program, the Department of Environmental Protection said on Monday. Sixty-one properties in Mt. Oliver had the coverage earlier, even though most of the borough sits on undermined ground, according to department records.
None of the five houses evacuated when the ground shifted on July 12 had subsidence insurance. Fifteen properties had lesser damage.
“If something happens now — minor or big — we're covered,” said Debbie McClean, 54, whose home on the 100 block of Frederick Street escaped the subsidence. She said her family won approval just hours after applying for the coverage when the ground slouched.
For McClean and her neighbor Joseph Mester, 63, the extra expense pays for peace of mind, they said. The low-cost program, started in 1961, offers $150,000 in annual coverage for about $83. A $500,000 policy runs about $258.
“If you would have told me 50 years ago that there was a coal mine here, I would have told you were full of” nonsense, said Mester, who has lived on Frederick Street for 37 years.
The DEP drummed up awareness through the weeklong run of a TV spot with Gov. Tom Corbett, a door-to-door campaign and targeted mailers, state officials said. They're looking to expand the push into nearby South Hills areas with long-ago mines, including Munhall and West Mifflin.
Most of the state's estimated 1 million structures at risk of mine subsidence are in Western Pennsylvania, according to the DEP. About 5 percent of them have insurance, insurance program administrator Lawrence Ruane said.
“I expect that will continue to increase. From this subsidence event (in Mt. Oliver), it's created quite an awareness,” Ruane said. He said the rarity of subsidence-related paid claims — about 25 a year — keeps premiums low.
Meanwhile, new technology is making it easier for property owners and environmental regulators to check on and alert residents to hazardous areas. A digital mapping project at www.pamsi.org lets many Pennsylvanians check their neighborhoods for subsidence on a street-by-street level.
In Mt. Oliver, a DEP contractor — Coastal Drilling East of Morgantown — is boring holes along Frederick Street to determine the scope of the subsidence. Workers have drilled 37 holes so far and identified a seam between two coal blocks that probably caused the ground movement, DEP spokesman John Poister said.
Coastal Drilling could finish its work this week. It's expected to fill the void with a grout mixture pumped 70 to 90 feet below the surface.
Once that's done, property owners whose houses were evacuated can hire engineers to evaluate the structural damage and determine whether to make repairs or start the demolition process, borough Council President Billie Michener said. She said low-interest loans might be available to help.
Adam Smeltz is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-380-5676 or email@example.com.
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.
- Man fatally shot in East Liberty; police investigating 2nd shooting
- Tiny black weevils booming in W.Pa.
- Homewood West woman charged after stabbing woman during card game
- Fireworks displays costly, but W. Pa. communities feel obligated
- Independence Day festivities scheduled
- Public implored to avoid iPhone cases that resemble guns
- Attorney general accuses Golden Living homes of failing to provide basic services to elderly
- Homestead Cemetery records will be preserved
- SCI Pittsburgh staff get high-energy motivation via TEDx
- Duquesne Light equipment failure on Brunot Island causes voltage dip Downtown
- Higher school taxes prevail in Western Pennsylvania, Trib finds