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Mine subsidence hits Pleasant Hills

Jason Cato
| Saturday, Oct. 8, 2005, 12:00 p.m.

A long-closed mine in Pleasant Hills rumbled back to life this week, damaged several businesses along Old Clairton Road and forced a few to close temporarily.

About a half-dozen businesses in the 600 block were affected by the mine subsidence. They probably are above the Pittsburgh Coal and Coke Mine Terminal No. 6, said Betsy Mallison, Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection spokeswoman. The mine likely closed in the 1940s, she said.

The problem apparently started about 7:30 p.m. Thursday and continued overnight and throughout the day Friday, Mallison said.

Bob Oskin, owner of Bob's Beer Distributing at 616 Old Clairton Road, said he watched emergency crews arrive at the businesses across the street Thursday night but had no damage to his property at the time. When he returned yesterday morning, a portion of his parking lot had buckled and cracked. A large hump that was in the parking lot when he arrived had disappeared by evening.

"So I guess something else moved," said Oskin, whose business has been in operation for 38 years. He said he cannot remember a previous mine collapse in the area.

Oskin and Jim McElheny, who owns the property across the street that is the site of a string of damaged businesses, do not have mine subsidence insurance.

"I never expected it. I really didn't," McElheny said. He estimated that it would take about $50,000 to fix the damage to his three buildings. Repairs will include cracked exterior walls at Johnston the Florist and Pleasant Hills Dry Cleaners, as well as split floors inside Shur Save grocery.

Businesses that closed were expected to reopen today.

Mallison said DEP officials will work with the federal Office of Surface Mining to determine what to do next. Options include boring into the ground to gauge the extent of damage to the mine.

"We don't know how long the mine subsidence will last," Mallison said. "It could be over tonight. It could last a couple of weeks or a month."

Mallison said people in the Pittsburgh area should be aware that there could be abandoned mines under their property. Mine subsidence, or settling of surface property above a mined-out site, occurs about once every six months locally, she said.

"We're living the legacy of mining in the past and have lots of abandoned mines," Mallison said.

To find out where abandoned mines are located, visit www.pamsi.org . People can also call the state's Mine Subsidence Insurance Program at 800-922-1678.

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