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Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Sink Hole Opens By Tamaqua Elementary School

From The Times News -

Officials with the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA), Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and local emergency management agencies are investigating numerous mine subsidence troughs and a deep six-foot wide sink hole that was spotted by a walker just after 6 o'clock Tuesday evening behind the Tamaqua elementary school.

The area affected is located about 250 feet northeast of the back of the elementary school and covers a perimeter area of about 3,000 square feet. The area, which is owned by the Tamaqua Area School District, is also located about 350 feet west of the elementary school's basketball court and about 70 feet adjacent to a small road that leads up to the school's sport's field.

Mine subsidence is defined as movement of the ground surface caused from readjustments of the overburden due to collapse or failure of underground mine workings.

Surface subsidence features usually take the form of a sinkhole or trough.

Sinkholes are typically associated with abandoned mine workings, since most active underground mines operate at depths sufficient to preclude the development of sinkhole subsidence. In accordance with regulations, the DEP will not authorize underground mining beneath structures where the depth of overburden is less than 100 feet unless the subsidence control plan demonstrates that proposed mine workings will be stable and that overlying structures will not suffer irreparable damage.

In abandoned mines, troughs usually occur when the overburden sags downward due to the failure of remnant mine pillars.

It is difficult, if not impossible, to predict if or when failure in abandoned mines might occur, since they may collapse many years after the mining is completed.

Officials pointed out the area affected didn't have a high history of underground mining and that strip mining was the popular method used in the area.

Subsidence could also be the result of illegal mining done many years ago by residents digging for free coal.

The affected area was taped off and a plastic fence barrier was placed around the area to keep people away.

A generator and bright spotlights were also set up to provide constant lighting.

Tamaqua Fire Police also stayed on scene all night preventing access to the area.

The depth of the sink hole was unknown as of press time, as the bottom could not be seen with a flashlight.

Tamaqua police and borough officials also responded.

"It is unknown how long the subsidence has been there," said Tamaqua Public Works director and Tamaqua Emergency Management director Rob Jones.

Officials also pointed out that the sink hole could have formed very recently, possibly as a result of weeks of heavy rain.

Officials were on scene today further investigating the affected area.

From Harry -

When I was a kid - there was a dump in that location. We used to go up there and shoot rats for target practice.

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