ShareThis Page
Regional

Mining could cause section of I-70 'to settle about 2 to 5 feet in some areas'

Patrick Varine
| Thursday, Jan. 10, 2019, 9:48 p.m.
Charles Eichleberger, a trainee at the Consol Energy Inc. Underground Training Academy practices longwall mining at the BMX mine in East Finley in 2017.
Andrew Russell | Tribune-Review
Charles Eichleberger, a trainee at the Consol Energy Inc. Underground Training Academy practices longwall mining at the BMX mine in East Finley in 2017.

At some point in 2019, PennDOT officials expect parts of Interstate 70 could sink up to five feet between the West Virginia line and the Claysville interchange in Washington County due to longwall mining.

“When longwall mining occurs, the interstate can be expected to settle about two to five feet in some areas,” PennDOT District 12 Executive Joseph Szczur wrote in the district’s latest newsletter. “Because of this concern, we have a multi-phase monitoring plan in place to keep track of all the interstate longwall mining activities,”

Longwall mining removes coal in long strips below the ground, where a cutting head moves back and forth across a panel of coal about 1,200 to 1,400 feet wide and more than 10,000 feet long. The cut coal falls onto a conveyor belt and is carted away. The process occurs anywhere between 300 and 1,300 feet underground.

It takes place under hydraulic roof supports that are advanced as the seam is cut. The roof in the mined-out areas, according Szczur, falls behind the supports as it advances.

“When it falls, the surface also sinks,” he wrote.

The Alliance Coal Company’s Tunnel Ridge Mine will have a working panel beneath I-70 during the next phase of longwall mining, and Szczur said the process will occur nine more times between now and 2038 under the highway.

PennDOT will have single-lane restrictions and a 45 mile-per-hour speed limit in place to slow traffic, and plan to keep a close eye on mining effects in several ways:

• Alliance will provide daily updates on the mining conditions.

• 3D scans will show the existing contour of the land for continual comparisons.

• Several measuring tools will be in place to show ground movement at the surface, and will function as an alarm system. When movement exceeds an allowable limit, a message is sent alerting personnel trained to respond.

• Continual human inspection will occur.

• Survey data will be collected to monitor and plan for future events.

Controversy over longwall mining is not new in western Pennsylvania.

In 2013, after a six-year fight over whether longwall mining caused subsidence and cracks in the dam at Ryerson Station State Park in Greene County, the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources reached a $36 million deal with Consol Energy to help rebuild the dam. Consol officials did not admit fault as part of the deal.

In 2006, an Ohio coal company filed a federal lawsuit against former Gov. Ed Rendell and former DEP Secretary Kathleen McGinty over regulatory enforcement related to a longwall mining operation in Washington County.

PennDOT officials are taking steps to prepare for any effects of the 2019 mining.

For minor damage such as cracking and compression bumps, county maintenance and contractors will keep the road safe for travel by milling and spot patching, according to Szczur.

“After the mining is out from beneath the section of the interstate and the ground settling has finished, we will use emergency contracts to repair the surface damage,” he wrote. “Our main goal is to protect the traveling public and keep the millions of Interstate 70 motorists moving across Pennsylvania.”

Patrick Varine is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Patrick at 724-850-2862, pvarine@tribweb.com or via Twitter @MurrysvilleStar.

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.

click me