The 450 Report
by Dr. Fullerm of the
Centralia is a small town located in Central Pennsylvania
with a history fabricated on coal mining. In 1962 bad
judgment on the placement of a local landfill in an old
strip mine pit caused the Buck Mountain and Mammoth Mountain
coal seams to catch fire. Little effort to extinguish the
mine fire at the beginning allowed it to build to
uncontrollable proportions causing state and federal
agencies to get involved with the technological disaster.
Evidence of the underground inferno can be seen in noxious
gases billowing from vents in the ground, subsidence large
enough to cause the closure of a major highway, or the dead
landscape surrounding Centralia. In the 38 years that the
mine fire has been burning a swarm of legal issues has
engulfed the town ranging from eminent domain to a murder
suicide case. The few residents who have refused to move
from their homes claim the government’s inability to put out
the fire is a conspiracy in order to obtain mineral rights
to mine the anthracite still underlying the borough.
The borough of Centralia is located in the
Conyngham Township in Columbia County in central
Pennsylvania (The Pennsylvania Marketing & Planning Center,
In 1962, the Borough of Centralia had a population of 1100
and 545 families and businesses (PA DEP, 1998). In
1990, the population had dropped to 63 persons (18 families)
(U.S. Census Bureau, 1990). In 1996, the population
dwindled to only 46 persons (Please see Figures 1 & 2).
This drop in population is due to the acquisition of 545
residences and businesses and resident relocations by the
State during 1985-1991 (PA DEP, 1998). As of 1990, all
63 persons lived in a rural non-farm setting (U.S. Census
Figure 1. Centralia in
Centralia Today (www.offroaders.com).
In 1990, all 63 Centralia
residents were white. Forty-five residents claimed
single ancestry, and 21 claimed multiple ancestry. The
three biggest ethnicities under the single ancestry
designation were Irish (15), Lithuanian (9), and German (8).
Other ethnicities listed included Arab, English, Polish,
Norwegian, Ukrainian, and Swiss. English was the
language spoken at all homes, and two households spoke in
Slavic languages as well (U.S. Census Bureau, 1990).
Most people living in Centralia in 1990 were above the age
of 20 and married. The three most populated age groups
were 56-59 years (8 residents), 35-39 years (6 residents),
and 65-69 years (5 residents). Seven residents were
under the age of 18 (U.S. Census Bureau, 1990).
In 1990, three persons 3 years or older were enrolled in
public elementary or high school, and 5 people were enrolled
in a public college. Nine people 25 years or older had
an educational attainment of less than 9th grade.
Twenty-two people in Centralia had gone to high school but
received no diploma, and 24 people were high school
graduates. No one living in Centralia in 1990 over the
age of 18 had received a college degree (U.S. Census Bureau,
In 1990, nine veterans between the ages of 16
and 64 lived in Centralia. Three of these veterans
served during the Vietnam era, Korean conflict, but no World
War II. Three different veterans served from February
1955 to July 1964 only, and three veterans served only in
World War II (U.S. Census Bureau, 1990).
The three biggest industries
for which Centralians worked in 1990 were manufacture of
durable goods, manufacture of non-durable goods, and mining
(outside of the Borough). By 1993, there were no
employees working in mining in Centralia or in Columbia
County (The Pennsylvania Marketing & Planning Center, 2000).
The three most popular
occupations for Centralia residents were precision
production, craft, and repair occupations; machine
operators, assemblers, and inspectors; and transportation
and material moving occupations. In 1990, 17 residents
worked outside of Columbia County and 7 residents worked
within their county of residence. No residents took
public transportation to work. Most residents worked
approximately 10-14 minutes away from their house (U.S.
Census Bureau, 1990).
The median household income in
Centralia in 1989 was $16, 667. Four people in 1989
were earning incomes below the poverty level (U.S. Census
Bureau, 1990). Since 1990, the unemployment rate in
Columbia County has mirrored that of Northeastern PA (the
latter being slightly higher) and of Pennsylvania and the
United States as a whole (PA and US being slightly lower).
Columbia County’s unemployment rate for August 2000 was
4.3%, down 0.8% from the previous month (The Pennsylvania
Marketing & Planning Center, 2000).
In 1990, there were 36 total
housing units. Thirty-one of these housing units were
occupied, and 5 were vacant. Twenty-seven of the occupied
housing units were owner-occupied, and 4 were
renter-occupied. All owner-occupied housing units had a
value of less than $99, 999. The median value for these
units was $33,300 (U.S. Census Bureau, 1990).
All 5 vacant housing units
were not boarded up. One vacant housing unit was up for rent
in 1990, and had been up for rent for 6 or more months.
Those units that were rented had a rent of less than $199
per month (U.S. Census Bureau, 1990). All other vacant units
had been vacant for either less than two months, or for six
months or more (U.S. Census Bureau, 1990).
The majority of housing units
in Centralia were built prior to 1939 (23 out of 36). The
remaining structures were built from 1970-1979, 1950-1959,
or 1940-1949. In 1990, two of the vacant housing units were
built in 1970-1979 and 5 were built prior to 1939 (U.S.
Census Bureau, 1990). Most of these housing units are
Sixteen of 28 householders
moved into their house prior to 1959. Two householders moved
into their units from 1989 to March 1990, and ten
householders moved into Centralia between 1960 and 1979, the
period when the Centralia mine fire was discovered and
efforts were made to extinguish it.
As of 1990, all 36 residences
got their water supply from a public system or a private
company, and all 36 residences had access to a public sewer
system. House heating fuels used included electricity, fuel
oil, kerosene, and coal or coke. There were complete
plumbing facilities in all residences and all remaining
vacant housing units. No houses were mortgaged in 1990 in
Centralia (U.S. Census Bureau, 1990).
HISTORY OF THE MINE FIRE IN
The history of the underground mine fire at Centralia really
begins with the mining rights in the 1950’s. In 1951
Coates Coal Company purchased the subsurface areas of
Centralia. These subsurface rights were eventually
transferred to Centralia and the Centralia School District.
In 1965 the school district conveyed its ownership of these
rights to the Borough of Centralia (658 A.2d 840; 1995).
In early 1962 the Borough of Centralia decided to make a
landfill behind a cemetery in an abandoned strip mine.
This permit for this landfill was issued on June 20, 1962.
On May 29, 1962 the borough of Centralia decided to
unofficially burn the landfill to improve the appearance,
smell and remove any rats present. Volunteer fire
fighters were present to control this fire. They
thought the fire had been under control and was
extinguished, but on May 29 flames and smoke were noticed at
the landfill. The fire department tried to put out the
fire again, but was unsuccessful (Dekok, 16-22).
Figure 3 shows the anatomy of a mine fire.
There were two offers to put
out the mine fire that were refused by the Department of
Mines and Mineral Industries even though these offers were
very cheap and had good chance being successful. The
first attempt to officially put out the fire began on August
22,1962 by Edward Bridy. He was given approximately
$20,000 for this excavation and was told not to do
exploratory drilling to find the edge of the fire.
Instead he was given dimensions to excavate. This only
fed air to fire and the project was terminated on October
29, 1962 (Dekok, 39-40).
Figure 3. The anatomy of
a mine fire.
Later that year in November a flushing project began by K
and H Excavating. This project was terminated before
completion on March 15, 1963 because the project ran out of
funding after spending $42,420 (Dekok, 40).
In April of 1963, three projects to extinguish the fire were
proposed and rejected by the Secretary of Mines. A
trench project began on July 9, 1963 with a budget of
36,225. This project was terminated when the fire was
discovered on both sides of the trench (Dekok, 48-49).
The Appalachian Regional Commission on June 8, 1965 approved
a larger project with two phases and an estimated cost of
$2,525,000. This project would include backfilling the
landfill, flushing, and excavation a trench. This
would require the relocation of some of the houses in
Centralia. The drilling began for this project on May
8, 1967 by Empire Contracting. When the project ran
out of money, the plans for the trench changed to a half
circle instead of completely surrounding the fire.
This project was eventually canceled because of a lack of
funding, probably related to cost benefit factors (Dekok,
The next attempt at blocking the mine fire was a fly ash
barrier constructed by Stearns Service Corporation of
Nanticoke on May 5, 1969 costing $518,840. The fly ash
barrier was much cheaper than total excavation of the fire,
but was not proven to be the most effective method of
extinguishing the fire. The residents in the town also
started to notice a lack of Oxygen in their houses and high
temperatures were discovered in some of the yards. The
government bought the first three houses in Centralia
because of the high temperatures and gases found in the
houses. A small trench was started in the summer 1969
that would meet up with the fly ash barrier. This
trench ended before eight of the houses in Centralia.
During the process of digging out the trench the fire was
uncovered. The funding ran out after the fire was
exposed and the order was given to back fill the hole
Everyone seemed to forget about the fire until the fly ash
barrier started to fail. In 1973 an emergency $250,000
was appropriated by the Appalachian Regional Commission.
This money was used to repair the fly ash barrier and to
drill 53 monitoring wells (Dekok, 81).
Work began in May 1978 on a project, funded by the
Department of Environmental Resources, to locate the leak in
the fly ash barrier and to repair this leak. This
project cost $429,550. During this project two pits
were backfilled. This was a mistake because these pits
were obviously updrafts, when they were filled gases could
no longer escape and gases instead began to seep into houses
Around this time the Appalachian Regional Commission began
to consider constructing another limited trench. This
trench would pick up where the previous trench left off.
In order for this trench to be constructed twenty-five
houses and a church would have to be moved. The funds
for this project never materialized and a new project was
created. This project was a super flush barrier.
The money for this project came from the Appalachian
Regional Commission and the U.S. Office of Surface Mining.
It was determined that a trench was no longer feasible
The locations of the projects that have been implemented up
to this time by both state and federal agencies are shown in
Figure 4 (GAI Consultants). The next step in the
Centralia project was the relocation of the houses in
Centralia because the fire had become too large to be
economically feasible to control. The projected extent
of the fire is shown in Figure 5 (GAI Consultants). By
1982 the U.S. Office of Surface Mining had acquired 34 of
the impacted properties. The Department of
Environmental Resources also initiated an air quality
monitoring program. By
1983 the U.S. Office of Surface Mining estimated that $663
million would be needed to completely extinguish the fire.
In 1984 the U.S. Congress appropriated $42 million to
purchase houses and businesses impacted by the mine fire
(subsidence and toxic gases). This was a completely
voluntary relocation project. Between 1985 and 1992
545 residences and businesses moved. In 1992
condemnation processes began against the remaining 53
residences (DEP, 1996).
Subsidence also began to show
along Route 61. Penn DOT stabilized the road at a cost
of $0.5 million. In 1993 Route 61 was closed
permanently due to more subsidence (DEP, 1996). Figure
6 shows old Route 61 as it is today.
Figure 6. Old Route 61.
As of right now in Centralia
there are still 36 residences and the fire is continuing to
spread. No legal action has been taken against the
remaining families. The plan for extinguishing the
fire is to let it burn out on its own because excavation
will cost too much money.
FEDERAL AGENCY INVOLVEMENT
Numerous governmental agencies have been involved (or are
currently involved) in Centralia. Whether it is
eminent domain proceedings, scientific research, or
relocation assistance, both state and federal agencies have
had a large presence in the borough ever since the mine fire
was discovered in May of 1962. Please see Table 1 for
a brief history of state and federal agencies’ involvement
Table 1. State and
federal agency involvement in Centralia.
Agency & Type of
State & federal
governments expend $3.3 million to control fire with
The United States Office
of Surface Mining (OSM) acquires 34 impacted properties
& contracts for a study to determine its potential to
PA DER (precursor to DEP)
initiates air quality monitoring program.
PA Department of Community
Affairs (DCA) & Columbia County Redevelopment Authority
(CCRA) initiate program to voluntarily relocate
residents of Centralia.
U.S. Congress appropriates
$42 million for voluntary acquisition and relocation of
impacted businesses & residences due to dangers caused
properties are transferred to the Commonwealth of
The Centralia Task Force
(under OSM) utilizes condemnation procedures to acquire
properties and relocate remaining residents.
February 18, 1992
Attorneys for CCRA notify
Centralia residents that CCRA will acquire all remaining
properties by exercising the DCA's power of eminent
January 28, 1993
CCRA files declarations of
taking with the trial court (PA Court of Common Pleas of
Columbia County) for the purpose of acquiring only the
surface to certain parcels of real property threatened
by the underground mine fire.
DER stabilizes Route 61
after it suffers severe subsidence damage from the mine
PA Court of Common Pleas
of Columbia County denies Centralia residents'
objections to the declarations of taking filed by the
CCRA. Decision is affirmed on appeal.
include: Department of Community Affairs (Public
Works Administration, demolition of vacant structures,
population relocation) & DEP (environmental impact
studies - Quarterly on-site monitoring of fire).
Source: Excerpts from DEP's
A Brief History of The Centralia Mine Fire, February
Coal mining has been a major source of fossil fuel in the
United States throughout its history. Pennsylvania
began coal mining in the mid-1700s, and by 1977, it had
mined one third of the nation's coal. By the 1800s,
Pennsylvania coal was fueling the industrial growth of the
country and was the primary fuel source for Western
Pennsylvania’s steel industry. Anthracite and bituminous
coal production peaked in 1918 with a combined production of
276 million tons. (DEP 2000) Anthracite is purer and
burns hotter and longer than the bituminous.
Pennsylvania was such a force in the coal industry because
most of its veins were in fact anthracitic. Between
the Delaware and the Susquehanna rivers, represent all the
anthracite coal in the United States, this covers an area of
488 square miles (Ohio State 2000). The reason that
this state was able to support such a mining effort is
because of the Mammoth and Buck Mountain Seams. The Buck
Mountain area consists of 2400 acres. Centralia is
located over the Western Middle Anthracite Field (see Figure
7), specifically the Buck Mountain, Seven-Foot, Skidmore,
Mammoth, Mammoth Leader, Four-Foot, Bottom-Split Holmes,
Primrose Leader, and Primrose Coal Seams. These first
six named seams run entirely through the borough of
Centralia, with the remaining four forming the nose of a
syncline in the south-western corner of the borough (see
Mining here commenced from its
settlement in 1842 and continued through the 1900s until
1963 when coal mining as a whole ceased to be a prominent
source of fuel. (Couch 2000) Many coal companies were
present in the area, beginning with the Centralia Colliery
in 1862, the Continental Colliery in 1863, Locust run
Colliery in 1867, but the most prominent was Lehigh Valley
Coal Company. This New York based firm held control of
the Centralia Mine until
1925. A decline in the
business and many bootleg operations had lessened the demand
for coal and the mine was closed. The Centralia Mining
Company (or the Birtley Coal Company) reopened the Centralia
Mine in 1935 under Ed Whitney. At this time a
stripping pit was mined, which later would be the site for
the garbage disposal area where the refuse ignited. In
1955, the Rooster Company bought the mine, and then
eventually sold it to Coates Coal Company in 1962. In
this year the Germantown park Coal Company owned the rights
to the minerals and surface. The Jeddo-Highland Coal
Company leased the surface rights, while the mineral rights
were leased to the Susquehanna Coal Company.
Jeddo-Highland commenced with strip mining the area, and
Susquehanna undertook the deep mining of the area. In
1963 mining here ceased, leaving a sizable pit (75 feet wide
and 50 feet deep). (DEP 2000)
Process of Mining
The coal measures lie on a
floor of conglomerate rock, which rises about them on all
sides like the sides of a basin, and is exposed on the
slopes and summits of the mountains surrounding the coal
regions. The thickness of the coal beds varies from 1
foot to 32 feet, and that of the rock from a few feet to
200. The coal beds are pretty regularly distributed
throughout the coal measures, and their presence in a
certain place can generally be calculated upon (Ohio State
Coal can be mined in two ways,
through the surface (strip mining) or by burrowing through
the layers of earth (underground mining). Strip mining
which involves the removal of topsoil and subsoil first and
then the coal and overburden are removed, is practiced
mostly in the flat topography of the western US. Strip
mining accounts for 60 percent of the coal now produced in
the US. The other 40 percent is from underground
mining though in the past underground mining was the
dominate method. This second technique involves the
approaching of the seam either vertically or horizontally,
is practiced in the uneven landscape of the Appalachian
mountain states. (ACF 2000) Underground mining is done
either through drifts, dug horizontally into the seam, or
shafts, vertical digging through overburden slanting down
from the surface to the seam (ACF 2000). Structures of
these collieries included drift, tunnel, slope, and shaft.
Drift was a tunnel driven into the side of the seam from its
outcrop straight on, and since it was tilted slightly
upward, it drained itself. A tunnel was the same as a
drift but driven into the rock at a right angle, therefore
meeting the seam inside the mountain. The slope was
driven down into the seam where the dip was located.
The shaft intersected the vein from straight above so the
coal could be mined from all sides. (Wallace 1987)
In deep mines, such as the one
that existed in Centralia, the seam that was being mined had
to be supported. This was done by leaving columns of
coal in pace for support, commonly referred to as the “room
and pillar” method (ACF 1987). Another method of
support used was to put into place large timbers from the
floor to the ceiling of the mine. Coal was removed
from the mines by mule-drawn carts, or by carts that
followed a natural downward slope out of the shaft.
Centralia had its share of both methods of mining, an
outcrop was strip mined in the mid thirties, but in the area
where the fire is concentrated, the underground mines were
prevalent. In the Depression years, many bootleg mine
shafts appeared in the area of and surrounding Centralia.
These were shafts that were hand dug into the side of the
vein and the miner and coal brought out in buckets.
This dangerous form of mining went unregulated for the most
part and caused and increased amount of shaft openings in
The burning of coal produces
certain emissions including- sulfur dioxide, nitrogen
oxides, and carbon dioxide. (USGS 2000) The
percentages of each element vary with the mineral
composition of the coal. These may pose a potential
health threat. When mine fires exist, there is no
accurate way to measure the amounts of emissions escaping
from the site. Mine fires can also be the cause of
hazardous subsidence in some areas.
Subsidence is a major threat
to the safety of people here, and is very visible,
especially in the vicinity of Old Route 61 as seen in Figure
Figure 9. Subsidence
evident at Old Route 61.
In 1981, a boy ventured near a
hole that was opening in the ground as a result of
subsidence. He fell into the hole and was eventually
rescued by his cousin (Couch 2000). Such an incident
as this is a major hazard of subsidence. Mine
Subsidence Insurance may be available for homeowners living
in areas where mines are either in operation or have been
abandoned. This is not included in funds for
reclamation, but the application is provided on the site.
Mine subsidence is defined by the DEP as movements of the
ground surface as a result of the collapse or failure of
underground mine workings. There are different kinds
of subsidence, the most common being sinkhole subsidence
which occurs in areas overlying underground mines which are
close to the surface. Another kind of subsidence that
results from mining is called trough subsidence. This
occurs when the overburden sags downward due to the failure
of mine pillars resulting in a large, shallow depression on
the ground in an elliptical or circular shape.
Horizontal ground movements may also be associated with this
type of subsidence. Insurance will cover any property
damage caused by subsidence of the ground due to mine
cave-ins, fires and other hazards (Mine Subsidence
Insurance, DEP). If the building has not sustained
earlier damage from mine subsidence it is possible for a
homeowner to receive monetary aid from the Mine Subsidence
Insurance Fund. In 1966 a law was passed declaring
that in the bituminous underground coal mining area
operators were liable for mine subsidence damage to
dwellings and structures. This law was amended in
1994. However, as the people of Centralia do not
really own the property they are living on, as the
government has repossessed it, it is doubtful they are
eligible for any mine insurance. Also the risk of
damage that may be caused by mine subsidence and the mine
fire are so high in that area that coverage would be
impossible for the people to secure. They have chosen
to live in such a high-risk area and therefor have moved to
the nuisance and assumed all risks brought by it.
Other Sites of Mine Fires
Mine fires are not unique to
Centralia, but are found throughout the state, country, and
even the world. The oldest known continuously burning
underground mine fire is in New South Wales, Australia. They
think the fire started when lightning struck an outcrop of
coal near the surface of the ground. This fire has been
burning for over 2,000 years (Times News Online 1999).
Around the world underground
mine fires rage. Some countries turn to the US for
help in dealing with them. A prime example of this is
Steve Jones of the DEP, who has recently had the primary
task to field train Indonesian mining personnel in mine fire
characterization, control and extinguishment techniques.
While on assignment in Kalimantan (formerly Borneo), he
supervised the exploratory drilling of two fires near the
towns of Balikpapan and Samarinda and the extinguishment of
five fires near Samarinda. The fires were threatening the
stability of the only road serving Balikpapan, Samarinda and
Two of the fires also
threatened the stability and safety of nearby homes, a
mosque and an elementary school. The fire near the
elementary school was visited by Governor Suwarna of the
Province of East Kalimantan. (DEP 2000) Other fires
rage in China, however these are far to deep and extensive
to put out (Jones 2000).
Even throughout the US mine
fires are not uncommon. Some examples include:
Consolidation Coal Company's Loveridge No. 22 Mine, Miracle
Run Portal located in West Virginia (underground coal), that
began in June 22,1999; Oxbow Mining Incorporated's Sanborn
Creek Mine, located near Somerset, Colorado (Underground
Coal) began January 26, 1999; and on Wednesday, November 25,
1998 at approximately 6:20 PM, a mine fire occurred at the
Cyprus Plateau Mining Corporation's Willow Creek Mine, which
is located near Price, Utah. The accident occurred
near the longwall tailgate area during normal coal
production. No injuries resulted from the incident,
however, several longwall crew members were knocked down by
the ensuing rush of air. An orange colored flame was
observed in the gob that appeared to move toward the face
area and then back into the gob. (MSHA 2000)
At this time, 45 underground
mine fires are burning in the state of Pennsylvania.
Fires that occurred within the state include: Fayette County
is home to the Percy Mine fire which has been burning for
over thirty years (Glover 1998). There is a possible
mine fire burning in Archabald, PA near the Valley View High
School. A brush fire has ignited the underground root
system of the trees. The ground is smoldering and it looks
like the center of the brush fire was an old stripping.
A fire has just been discovered burning in a culm bank near
Wayne Street in Carbondale, PA. OSM people are on scene and
a trench is being dug by heavy equipment around the fire.
This fire has been burning off of Dundaff Street in
Carbondale since before the 1960's. In the 60's people
got sick from the carbon monoxide gas and I believe one
person died. Close to 600 families had to move out of the
neighborhood over the years because of this fire. It
is still burning and the site being worked by heavy
equipment. Also in Carbondale, PA this fire is thought
to be out. It was starting in culm banks at the former
Powderly Colliery. This site has been dug up and
watered down and no sign of fire has been detected for about
two years. The fire may have spread to underground
coal seams and evidence of it may not be visible. A
mine fire has been detected in the Borough of Beaver Brook
near Hazleton. The mine fire started when garbage dumped in
a stripping pit was set on fire. Officials from the
Office of Surface Mining called in heavy equipment to try to
dig up the fire. It is not known at this time if the
fire has spread to coal seams (PA Mine Fire Facts 2000).
Letcher County is home to another mine fire, one that
started over 20 years ago, but many local reports trace it
back to the 1920s. This spring, the federal Office of
Surface Mining hired workers who spent more than four months
and $140,000 to keep the fire from spreading below one
family's cemetery. They succeeded, but couldn't completely
stop the slow-burning fire. (Williams 2000)
Mine reclamation was not even considered at the time
Centralia mining industry went under. The mines and
shafts were simply abandoned by the mining companies.
This is why the town was able to use one of the shafts as a
dump, which inevitably resulted in the mine fire we have
Because of situations like this, as well as acid mine
drainage and other problems caused by abandoned mines, the
Bureau of Mining and Reclamation has been founded. The
Bureau is under the States Department of Environmental
Protection and is housed in the Rachel Carson Office
Building in Harrisburg, Pa.
They are in charge of the Growing Greener Grants, which
provide money to clean up acid mine drainage, restore
watersheds, preserve farmland and open spaces as well as for
the maintenance of State Parks and the provision of new and
upgraded water and sewage treatment facilities.
Reclaim Pa, a program that maximizes the reclamation of
Pennsylvania’s mines also falls under their responsibility.
Mine Subsidence Insurance is provided on their website, as
they are responsible for providing help and information on
this topic. The Act 54 Report is a report on current
mining impacts on streams, buildings and other areas.
They are also responsible for resolving mine fires, mine
subsidence, high walls and other hazards that have resulted
from past mining practices, and for abating and treating
acid mine drainage (DEP).
The Growing Greener Grants are issued by the federal
government and provides $650 million dollars for the next
five years to clean up abandoned mines, restore watersheds,
preserve farmland and protect open spaces as well as
maintain State Parks and provide new and upgraded water and
sewage systems. As one may guess, the money is
stretched thinly over these diverse areas. However,
the restoration on abandoned mines can be tied into the
other areas that the grant provides funding for.
Also, in restoring the mines one can increase the number of
open spaces, as trees and grasses will be the first species
to take over the land. Eventually one can even promote
farming by allowing farmers to graze their cattle on the
slopes of the reclaimed mines. Also, reduction in the
acidity of the water flowing into a reservoir will decrease
the amount of treatment it will have to undergo to remove
minerals and other toxins released from the mine. This
will decrease the work the water treatment facility will
have to do, decreasing the cost to run it and freeing up
funding for other areas.
Reclamation Pa is designed to deal with the millions of
acres of abandoned mines that exist in Pennsylvania.
It is the collective term for the concepts the DEP has
developed to make abandoned mine reclamation more efficient
and easier. It includes legislative, policy, and
management initiatives that have been designed to enhance
mine reclamation efforts of operators, volunteers and the
DEP. The organization has four objectives, which are
To encourage private
and public participation in the reclamation effort.
communication between reclamation partners, thus improving
the efficiency of the act.
Increase reclamation by
reducing the remaining risks
Maximize funding for
reclamation by expanding existing sources and exploring new
ones (Mineral Resources Webmaster, 2000)
comprehensive plan for abandoned mine reclamation was issued
June of 1997 and revised in June of 1998. Governor Tom
Ridge and Secretary Jim Seif are credited with its creation.
The Comprehensive plan includes all of those acts mentioned
above. The purpose of the plan was to establish a
framework for organization. Coordination is needed
between the different organizations involved in the
reclamation effort and areas had to be designated for
funding according to their importance. For some reason
Centralia is not included in that list of important mine
fires that received funding. The plan is meant to be
used as a guide or framework for the organization of the
reclamation funding for the entire state of Pennsylvania.
All groups are meant to comply with the plan and take part
in it. The goals of the plan are listed below:
To focus expenditures
for the reclamation abandoned mine lands on maximizing
To develop partnerships
involving local citizens, local government and other groups
that promote abandoned mine reclamation.
To develop long-term
funding sources that would allow for long-term planning and
long-term funding commitments.
To encourage the
development and use of innovative technologies that reduces
the cost of reclamation.
To develop an aerial
approach to reclamation planning that will result in
reclamation and rehabilitation of an entire geographical
To coordinate the
activities of the Abandoned Mine Land program with the Mine
Regulatory program so that active mine operators are
encouraged to re-mine and reclaim where possible.
To insure that property
owners who allow the use of their lands for long-term
treatment of abandoned mine drainage are not subject to
personal or environmental liabilities because of the
projects. (Ridge, Tom 1998).
There are also a series of
guidelines for the awarding of Abandoned Mine Reclamation
Grants were established in May of 1996 by the Commonwealth
of Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection’s
Bureau of Abandoned Mine Reclamation. Grants must meet
certain qualifications in order to be approved. They
must have an approved rehabilitation plan and be submitted
by a municipality, a municipal authority, such as the town
mayor, or an incorporated nonprofit organization. The
grant may not be used for the administrative costs encored
during the reclamation project. It can and should be
used for project development, design, construction and other
directly related expenses. In a hydraulic area, the
biology of the stream must also be improved through the
completion of the project in order for the plan to receive
funding (Bureau of Abandoned Mine Reclamation Grants).
Once these criteria are met the application for the grant
may be submitted and the necessary fund may be appropriated
for the completion of the project.
Mine Subsidence Insurance may
be available for homeowners living in areas where mines are
either in operation or have been abandoned. This is
not included in funds for reclamation, but the application
is provided on the site. Mine subsidence is defined by
the DEP as movements of the ground surface as a result of
the collapse or failure of underground mine workings.
There are different kinds of subsidence, the most common
being sinkhole subsidence which occurs in areas overlying
underground mines which are close to the surface, see Figure
Figure 10. Sinkhole
subsidence (DEP, Mine Subsidence, 2000).
Another kind of subsidence
that results from mining is called trough subsidence.
This occurs when the overburden sags downward due to the
failure of mine pillars resulting in a large, shallow
depression on the ground in an elliptical or circular shape.
Horizontal ground movements may also be associated with this
type of subsidence. See Figure 11 for a diagram of
Figure 11. Diagram of
mine subsidence (DEP, Mine Subsidence, 2000).
Insurance will cover any
property damage caused by subsidence of the ground due to
mine cave-ins, fires and other hazards (Mine Subsidence
Insurance, DEP). If the building has not sustained
earlier damage from mine subsidence it is possible for a
homeowner to receive monetary aid from the Mine Subsidence
Insurance Fund. In 1966 a law was passed declaring that in
the bituminous underground coal mining area operators were
liable for mine subsidence damage to dwellings and
structures. This law was amended in 1994.
However, as the people of Centralia do not really own the
property they are living on, as the government has
repossessed it, it is doubtful they are eligible for any
mine insurance. Also the risk of damage that may be
caused by mine subsidence and the mine fire are so high in
that area that coverage would be impossible for the people
to secure. They have chosen to live in such a
high-risk area and therefor have moved to the nuisance and
assumed all risks brought by it.
Background of Mineral Rights
According to West's, a mineral right is an interest in
minerals in the land, with or without ownership of the
surface. It also includes the right to take minerals
from the land or to receive a royalty. This term
covers possession interests, entrance rights, and
occupation. Such rights can be sold or leased, and can
exist with stipulations on certain permissions.
(Volume 7, 1998) C.J.S. goes further in its definition
to include that it is the right of those occupying the land
to work it, which entailed deep excavations or open
workings. It put in its definition that the rights
include whatever was necessary to beneficial enjoyment, such
as the right to dig, or construct slopes or entries. It also
includes the right to some or all of the minerals present,
depending on specifications. The locator of the
minerals can lay claim to a new discovery or can claim those
mineral that have for some reason been forfeited or
abandoned. The locator can also include an agent who
makes a claim on behalf of someone else, or could be a group
of people rather than just an individual. Although not
specified as a requirement in statues, minerals are usually
discovered before a location is claimed. Date of
discovery is the most important aspect and in case of
dispute, it is what is used for settlement. If someone
enters a land that appears to be vacant, they then have
exclusive rights to any discovery they make there.
However, this last part is not applicable in the case of the
government and persons claiming under it. Relocation
was defined as the appropriation of mining ground that has
been forfeited or abandoned. For this claim to hold,
the lands must not be public and the prior rights of the
original locator have for some reason been terminated.
(Volume 58, 1992) However, when referring to location
of the mine, the term "mining title" is used.
Generally, it can be said that if one owns the surface, then
they in turn own all mines and minerals that might occur
below it. Minerals held within the ground are
considered property and covered under those rights, and once
they are mined, they are considered personal property.
Coals mining regulatory statues, especially surface and
reclamation, have been covered by the individual state.
These have been upheld as constitutional, and are usually
constructed in such a way that they are consistent with the
federal acts and regulations. Certain statutes exist
that give authoritative bodies certain powers, such as the
prevention of waste. However, these powers are limited
by state statues and must coincide with individual's rights.
Also, mine owners have the same responsibilities as property
owners when it comes to personal injury incurred in their
mine area. They are to be held responsible if damage
to water quality, flooding of the land or mine, or removal
of the lateral supports should occur. However, if the
mineral rights are severed from surface rights, then the
mine owners could be considered exempt from liability.
(C.J.S. Vol. 58, 1992)
Rights In Centralia
According to the May 1, 1995 Commonwealth
Court of Pennsylvania decision Borough of Centralia v.
The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, et. al., a 1951
resolution “provided for subsurface areas to be purchased by
Coates Coal Company, which in turn would convey all but two
of those areas to Centralia and the Centralia School
District. The resolution received necessary court
approval in the School District of Centralia Borough”.
Fourteen years later, the Centralia School District conveyed
its ownership interest in the subsurface areas to Centralia
(658 A.2d 840, 1995).
In this same court case, Centralia appeals the previous
Columbia Court of Common Pleas decision that said the
Commonwealth of Pennsylvania did not engage in “de facto”
taking of the coal under the Borough by condemnation.
The Commonwealth Court affirms this decision, saying that
“No party has presently restricted Centralia’s right to
mine. There is no allegation that Centralia cannot now
mine the subsurface areas it owns because surface areas will
be taken and residents will be relocated. Nor can it
be established at this point that Centralia will cease to
exist or will be definitely prevented from mining it in the
future” (658 A. 2d 840, 1995). However, the decision
becomes complex as in a previous paragraph the Court states
that Centralia’s mineral rights would be “transferred to the
in which Centralia is located upon any annulment of
Centralia’s character” (658 A. 2d 840, 1995). It is
thus our understanding that Centralia may lose its coal
rights if the Borough of Centralia goes defunct – that is,
if everyone moves out.
SURFACE MINING CONTROL AND
RECLAMATION ACT OF 1977 (SMCRA)
The Surface Mining Control and Reclamation
Act of 1977 (SMCRA) “states a need for balance between
protection of the environment and agricultural productivity
and the nation’s need for coal as an essential source of
energy” (AGRIPEDIA, 2000). According to ACRIPEDIA,
Congress finds and declares in this act that:
Prime farmland cannot
be mined unless it can be restored to an equivalent or
higher level of yield.
Land must be returned
to the approximate original contour and land must be
restored to a condition capable of supporting the pre-mining
land use or a higher or better use.
permission to vary, with justification, from the letter of
the law or regulation. Example: Permitted if
post-mining use would improve the watershed.
Each state is to assume
authority for the program. They must establish a
mechanism for declaring lands unsuitable for mining if their
reclamation is not technologically or economically feasible,
contrary to local land use plans, or if the mining affects
fragile or historic lands.
An “orphan lands” fund
is created. Orphan lands are those lands that were
mined in the past and improperly reclaimed (All bulleted
information from AGRIPEDIA, 2000).
to the Chief of the OSM Management Section Division of Mine
Hazards in Harrisburg, PA, Lehigh Valley Coal Company and
Coates Coal Company cannot be held liable for any problems
associated with the Centralia mine fire (Steve R. Jones,
Apparently illegal dumping is still occurring
in Centralia, PA (see Figure 12 & Environmental Law Class
Picture of illegal trash dump pile in Centralia.
The illegal disposal of
household and construction wastes on the land and in our
waters creates problems for the environment, for people and
their quality of life, as well as for fish and wildlife
(Clean PA’s Forests, 2000).
There are many reasons why people may illegally dispose of
their trash. Legislative actions that may
inadvertently encourage illegal dumping include requiring or
modifying recycling programs, reducing litter cleanup
budgets, mandating compost programs, banning specific items
from landfills, and adopting litter taxes. Private
actions that may inadvertently encourage illegal dumping
include increasing disposal fees, changing the frequency of
local collections and disposal services, closing landfills
or transfer stations, increasing landfill tipping fees, and
rapid area growth and development (National Center for
Environmental Decision-Making Research (NCEDR), 2000).
According to Clean PA’s Forests, “individuals can face fines
imposed by nearly every branch of government, from local and
state police and local code enforcement officers, to the
enforcement by fish and game officers, and DCNR and DEP
personnel”. Additionally, fines can be imposed up to
$300 for violations of littering laws under the vehicle and
crime codes. Clean PA’s Forests also states that
“lands along the waterways are protected from violators with
penalties up to $100 under the Fish and Boat Code.
Under the Game and Wildlife Code, fines up to $300, which
can be doubled for subsequent offenses and additionally
assessed for $10 for each item, are imposed. And,
under PA Code Title 25, penalties as high as $25,000 can be
imposed upon persons hauling waste to any site other than a
DEP permitted facility”.
The PA State Forest Lands Beautification Act (Act 125) is
additional legislation regarding illegal dumping of waste.
Governor Tom Ridge signed this act into effect in December
of 1998. The purpose of this act is to “(1) To deter
illegal waste disposal practices on State Forest and State
Park lands and to ensure that waste is recycled or disposed
of properly. (2) To provide for the abatement of
illegal waste disposal sites on State Forest and State Park
lands and the threats to public health, safety and the
environment which are associated with such sites. (3)
To provide for the removal, recycling or proper disposal of
waste illegally disposed of on State Forest or State Park
lands. (4) To develop cooperative programs with local
communities for preventing the illegal disposal of waste on
State Forest and State Park lands or abutting lands” (PA
State Forest Lands Beautification Act 125, 1998).
With this act, a restricted Forest Lands Beautification
Account was created within the General Fund. For five
years after the act’s effective date, the fund may receive
up to $1.5 million annually that will be used by the PA DCNR
to carry out the purposes of this act. The PA DCNR is
also authorized to make grants to local agencies and
nonprofit organizations to establish and administer programs
under the act, and may enter into contracts and agreements
with PA agencies, local agencies, corporations,
partnerships, associations, etc. to carry out the purposes
of this act (PA State Forest Lands Beautification Act 125,
FROM BURNING OF COAL, WASTE AND ILLEGAL DUMPING
combustion of coal results in emissions to the atmosphere
and the production of combustion waste that may contain
toxic substances that could threaten public health or harm
the environment (EPA, Miller 2000). The burning of
household waste and tires also produces emissions and
combustion wastes that are harmful. These emissions
and wastes have the potential to pollute the air, water and
from coal burning include carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide,
sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, particulates (fly ash),
toxic metals (lead, arsenic, nickel, mercury, chromium,
beryllium and cadmium), and small amounts of radioactive
elements (uranium and thorium) (Miller 2000, Boyce 1997).
The radioactive elements can also include radon, radium,
polonium, bismuth, and lead all daughter elements of uranium
and thorium (Gabbard 2000). The combustion wastes of
coal can contain silicon oxides, aluminum, iron, calcium,
magnesium, titanium, sodium, potassium, arsenic, mercury,
sulfur, uranium and thorium (Gabbard 2000). The
concentrations of these substances in the emissions and
wastes will vary and will depend on the chemical make up of
the coal and the conditions under which it is burned.
from uncontrolled burning of tires can include carbon
monoxide, sulfur oxides, nitrogen oxides, volatile organic
compounds (VOCs)1, polynuclear aromatic
hydrocarbons (PAHs)1, dioxins, furans, hydrogen
chloride, benzene, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and
metals (arsenic, cadmium, nickel, zinc, mercury, chromium
and vanadium). In a laboratory simulation of an
uncontrolled burn of tires, the EPA measured concentration
levels of over 40 VOCs1, 25 semi VOCs1,
20 PAHs1, and several metals. Actual case
studies produced approximately the same results (EPA 2000).
The melting of tires in an uncontrolled burn can produce
significant amounts of liquids and solids containing
dangerous chemicals (EPA 2000).
from the burning of household garbage can include furans,
dioxins, arsenic, cadmium, chromium, beryllium, lead,
mercury, vinyl chloride, benzene, particulates, sulfur
dioxide and nitrogen oxides (Curlee1994). Combustion
waste commonly contains high concentrations of heavy metals
and trace amounts of furans and dioxins (Curlee 1994).
Even if the waste does not burn, its presence poses a
potential for contamination of soil and water from the
leachate. There have been over 100 potentially harmful
substances identified in landfill leachate (Hitchcock Jessup
dioxide contributes to global climate change (global
warming), sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides contribute to
acid deposition while nitrogen oxides and VOCs can
contribute to the creation of ozone at ground level, a
serious health threat. Many of the other emissions and
substances in the combustion wastes are either known
carcinogens or can lead to other serious health problems or
last 30 to 40 years many environmental regulations, along
with their amendments, have been enacted to reduce or
eliminate the emissions of toxic substances to protect
public health and the environment.
The Clean Air Act (CAA) was
established “…to protect and enhance the quality of the
nations air resources in order to promote the public health
and welfare and the productive capacity of its population”
and has two standards (Wolfe 1988). The first standard
is the national ambient air quality standard regulating the
concentrations of pollutants in the surrounding air see
Table 2 and 3. The second standard is point source
emission limitations regulating the source of the pollution
regardless of the ambient air quality.
Table 2. National
ambient air quality standards.*
*This is not a complete list.
Consult the CAA for a complete list. Source PADEP
The CAA has set limits on the
emissions of sulfur oxides, nitrogen oxides and carbon
dioxides just to name a couple. Under this act each
state is responsible for implementing these standards and
either establishing stricter limits or limits on substances
not covered under the CAA. Pennsylvania has
established a list of 188 toxic air pollutants with many of
the above-mentioned metals and VOCs on that list see Table 4
Hydrochloric acid (Hydrogen Chloride)
Substances in emissions will vary and this list may not be
complete depending on the combustion of household waste.
For a complete listing see PADEP List of 188 Toxic Air
CAA is meant to target the
emissions from industry, incinerators, power generation and
automobile exhaust and may not apply to the Centralia site.
Though the CAA has a provision that allows the EPA to
require any individual owning or operating an
emission source to establish and maintain records, make
reports, use and maintain monitoring equipment or methods,
sample emissions and provide other information that may
reasonably be needed (Wolfe 1988). At the Centralia
site there are bore holes that were used for a study of the
site in 1983 but at the time of this writing I had not heard
from the PADEP as to any on going emissions monitoring.
presence and the burning of household waste and tires is the
result of illegal dumping. The Resource Conservation
and Recovery Act (RCRA) regulates the disposal of
non-hazardous and hazardous waste. RCRA sets the
criteria for a sanitary landfill and prohibits the disposal
of waste at open dumps. RCRA defines an open dump as
an area where solid waste is disposed of other than in a
sanitary landfill (Wolfe 1988).
In 1990 an amendment to the
CAA established new guidelines for waste to energy (WTEs)
generators. These new guidelines required WTEs to
reduce emissions of furans, dioxins, heavy metals, sulfur
dioxide, hydrogen chloride, nitrogen oxides, organic and
acid gas emissions utilizing maximum achievable control
technology (Francis 1994). The amendment also required
the EPA to issue limitations for lead, cadmium, and mercury
(Francis1994). Due to individuals illegally dumping
their waste and its subsequent burning, substances regulated
by the CAA are getting into the air.
The extent of the area that
may be effected by emissions from Centralia depends on a
number of variables including but not restricted to type of
contaminant, prevailing winds, atmospheric conditions and
A byproduct of any type of
burning is combustion waste (ash products). This waste
contains many of the same harmful substances that are in the
emissions. These wastes either sit on the surface
(household waste ash) or are underground (coal ash).
Wastes on the surface are subject to erosion and surface
water run off where there is a potential for these
substances to get into streams, rivers or lakes. The
substances and chemicals in wastes located under ground have
the potential to migrate to water tables contaminating the
The EPA has ruled that “coal
combustion waste is non-hazardous but these wastes contain
toxic metals when improperly disposed of may pose a threat
to public health and environment”. These wastes are to
be used in approved recycling methods or disposed of in
sanitary landfills capable of handling them. The
combustion waste from incinerator plants of non-hazardous
waste is still under debate but it also contains
contaminates that are potentially harmful.
At Centralia coal waste
accumulates underground. These wastes can be subjected
to percolation of water from above or even exposed to the
surface where a subsidence event has taken place. Once
exposed to water the waste can produce a leachate that can
contain toxic substances which has the potential to
contaminate groundwater. The EPA maintains and updates
a list of hazardous wastes with maximum concentrations
needed for toxicity (see Table 5) (Hitchcock Jessup 1992).
Many items illegally dumped at
Centralia are non-regulated household hazardous wastes.
Old paint and paint related products, pesticides, batteries
and car care products. There are items being dumped at
Centralia that require special handling procedures such as
old tires, oil products and car batteries. Even
without burning, this waste poses a potential threat.
Leachate containing lead from batteries and old paint,
chemicals from cleaning products, pesticides, car oil and
antifreeze can migrate to surface waters or contaminate the
soil (many substances in this leachate are on the above
mentioned EPA list). In a sanitary landfill best
technology has been applied to prevent or reduce the risk of
contamination to water sources and soils.
The Clean Water Act (CWA) was
enacted to protect the waterways of the United States.
The principal objective of the act is to “Restore and
maintain the chemical, physical and biological integrity of
the nations waters. The act set three major goals; 1)
Eliminate all discharge of pollutants into navigable waters
by 1985, 2) Waters would become swimmable and fishable
wherever attainable by July 1, 1985, 3) Prohibit the
discharge of toxic pollutants in toxic amounts (Wolfe 1988).
The CWA allows individual states to set either stricter
limits on contaminants or to set limits on contaminants not
included in the CWA. The act also requires states to
develop, gain approval from the EPA and to implement
guidelines and programs to achieve the goals of the CWA
Once a water source has been
contaminated, whether it is groundwater or surface water,
municipalities utilizing said water source must conform to
the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA). This regulation
was designed to establish drinking water standards for
public water supplies. A public water system is
defined as having at least 15 service connections or
regularly serves at least 25 individuals.
The SDWA has established
primary maximum contamination levels (MCLs) and secondary
maximum contamination levels. Several metals that could be
present in the wastes and emissions at Centralia are on the
primary MCL list (see Table 6).
Under SDWA the municipalities
are also required to provide well head protection.
They are required to protect the surface and subsurface area
surrounding a water well and or well field that supplies a
public system. This may prove difficult in communities
neighboring the potential burn area such as Mt. Carmel or
Ashland. The PADEP through the 1983 GAI report has
established a potential burn area. These communities
are outside that area but have a potential to receive
contaminates from the burn site.
It is important to note that
the distance contamination will travel in groundwater
depends on a wide set of variables of aquifer conditions and
the types of contaminants (Miller 1980). Equally
important is the fact that once contaminated it is difficult
and expensive to clean up and the contamination can persist
for years, decades or even centuries (Miller 1980, Boyce
Under the CAA and CWA any
citizen may bring suit against anyone including the United
States government and other government agencies for
violations of the CAA and CWA. Under RCRA citizens are
allowed to bring suit against any person or government
entity alleged to be in violation and suits may be filed for
past as well as present, management or disposal practices
that have contributed to a hazard. Under the SDWA any
citizen may commence a civil suit against a party alleged to
be in violation of this act and a suit can be brought
against the EPA for failure to perform a nondiscretionary
The provisions of these acts
allow citizens to sue state governments for violations.
Unfortunately this is a costly endeavor and may not have an
outcome on the behalf of the citizen. In recent years
the U.S. Supreme Court has issued rulings stating that
states cannot be sued (Seminole Case and Union Gas). A
citizen may also sue for liability and or nuisance instead
of under one of these acts.
A problem with suing for an
alleged harm caused by the Centralia fire is it is just one
potential source of many for contamination leading to the
injury. It could be difficult to prove (other than
right at the site) that a health problem, environmental
damage or water contamination is solely related to the fire
and illegal dumping at Centralia. Air pollution can
travel from other sites and with many mines in the area
contamination of water could be from several sources.
Even though the emissions and wastes contain known
carcinogens it could take years for a cancer to show up and
it may prove difficult and expensive to develop a link to
the Centralia fire. Of course prevention of such
injuries is the best recourse.
According to Steve Jones from
PADEP Department of Mine Reclamation the state has decided
to let the fire “burn its self out” as any affective measure
as at this time is too costly to employ other effective
methods for extinguishing or containing the fire.
Unfortunately only time will tell if burning itself out
proves to be more costly in the long run. There are
known hazards associated with emissions and the combustion
waste of coal and household waste.
the dangers associated with the burning and the states
current position on putting the fire out the residents
remaining in Centralia need to be responsible for any health
problems they may acquire with a possible link to said
emissions. Anyone visiting the site that is aware of
the danger or anyone who visits for the purpose of illegal
dumping should be held responsible for any injury or health
problem that could be linked to the burn site.
On the other hand the state of
Pennsylvania has some responsibility and thus could be
liable for harm or injury. There are at least 4 paved
roads leading into the site with many navigable dirt roads
traveling through out the burn area. These roads allow
easy access for illegal dumping, for individuals that use
the area for recreation or those who are just curious.
There are indicators that the area may be unsafe such as
smoke, the heat of the ground and gaping holes but these are
also the same things that bring in curious observers.
On a recent visit I found no signs stating the dangers of
the site, there was no “no trespassing” signs and I found
only one sign prohibiting dumping.
could cut down on the amount of illegal dumping and visitors
to the site by limiting or eliminating the areas of easy
access. Fences and or gates could be placed across
flat areas and roadways. The placement of “no
trespassing” and “danger” signs would cut down on the number
of visitors thus reducing their exposure to toxic
If illegal dumping is limited
or even eliminated and areas cleaned up that contain trash
that has not yet burned a potential source of contamination
to the air, water and soil can be reduced providing some
measure of protection to the safety and health of the public
and the environment.
HEALTH RISK ISSUES
Risks that homeowners and
their families may face due to their choice to live in
Centralia include exposure to Carbon Monoxide and other
gases released by the fire as well as the possibility of
falling into sink holes which suddenly open up due to the
failure of the underground pillars of coal as they are
burned. A child has already fallen down into one of
these crevasses, never to be seen again. This is a
real concern, as the area has become a tourist attraction.
Upon my own visit to the area a young family was exploring
the smoldering debris around a sinkhole. They had
children there as young as six years old. Children and
the elderly are the most susceptible to environmental
pollution (News Release, 2000). Studies have also
shown that particulate matter is especially harmful to the
elderly. In several cities the mortality rate among
senior citizens has risen on days with higher particulate
counts (Francis, 1994). The unborn fetus is also
extremely vulnerable to chemical exposure (Lappe, 1991).
Young children are especially sensitive due to the tendency
they have to put things into their mouths, including soil.
Studies have found that children may ingest substantial
amounts of soil, up to 200mg per day. Some children
who have a particular affinity for dirt have been found to
ingest up to 60 grams of soil in a day (Calabrese, Edward J.
1999). This poses a serious threat for young children
visiting Centralia as shown in Table 7. One can pick
up actual rocks of nearly pure sulfur right off the ground.
Coal mines have also been known to contain arsenic, barium
and other heavy metals.
Estimate of acute toxicity associated with soil pica
episodes in young children at U.S. EPA soil screening
concentrations (Calabrese. 1999).
(g soil /event)
Dose from soil (mg/kg
(mg/kg body weight)
irritation, nausea, and vomiting
||GI irritation and
vomiting in children
Aminolevulinic acid dehydratase
ND= Not Determined (no acute
toxicity doses in humans were identified)
Estimated dose based on an assumed body weight of 70kg.
There are also large amounts
of trash and other refuse that has been dumped into the mine
and is still continued to be dumped there. Trash
includes everything from old refrigerators to car tires.
This certainly is not a healthy area for children to be
allowed to play in, yet there are no deterrents to keep them
and their families out. This could become a real
liability for the state of Pennsylvania. The land has
been repossessed by the state due to its instability from
the underground fire. In spite of this there are few
warning signs posted around the sight and no fences to keep
people out. There is more prevention of trespassing
around active landfills to keep people out then there are
around this burning dump. Here children are allowed to
explore and play freely, something they would never allowed
to do at the town dump, yet that is exactly what the
Centralia mine fire is. The fire began in a mine shaft
that was being used as the town dump. The area is
still used as a dump and yet this dump has become a tourist
attraction where children and their parents can come on a
weekend afternoon to explore and play.
bacteria have also been found in the soil. These
bacteria are heat tolerant and some are even chemobacteria,
meaning they live off the chemicals in the gasses coming out
of the vents (Dr. Tammy Tobin-Janzen).
In a study done by the
University of Washington, bituminous coal, containing 3.43%
Sulfur and sub-bituminous coal, containing .61% Sulfur, were
burned to study the evolution of these sulfur bacteria.
Sulfur dioxide (SO2) is the major sulfur species
that appeared. The second species was hydrogen sulfide
(H2S). The total sulfur released from coal
is strongly related to the amount of organic matter in the
coal. Centralia coal, which happens to be anthracite,
a coal low in Sulfur concentrations, consists of .61% Sulfur
and released less then 10.0% of the total amount of sulfur
in the coal. This is approximately .061% of the total
amount of sulfur in the coal. The amount of Nitrogen
the coal released was also studied. Centralia's coal
required negative activation energy in order for it to
release its stored nitrogen. Nitrogen released from
the coal is converted to nitric oxide as it enters the
atmosphere (Zghoul, Ali Mahmoud, 1984).
Children may ingest these
bacteria along with the soil. No studies have been
done to determine the effect of these unique species, as
they are very rare and contact between them and young
children is also quite infrequent. However, due to
Centralia’s tourist attraction young children are being
exposed to these bacteria, which may or may not be harmful
to their fragile systems.
Another risk for these young
tourists are the levels of mercury, carbon monoxide, sulfur
dioxide, particulates, methane, and metals, including lead,
arsenic, nickel, chromium, beryllium and cadmium coming out
of the vents along with the nitric oxide. Nitric oxide
becomes ground level ozone once in the air. This is
highly toxic at only 10 micrometers in diameter.
Sulfur dioxide is attributed to respiratory problems in East
Germany where it occurs in high levels. Vaporized lead
also results in chemical poisoning to the brain and bones
due to the circulatory system adsorbing the lead from the
lungs. Cadmium is also highly toxic, with as little as
5 mg being lethal to humans. In smaller doses it has
been known to cause the “Itai-itai” (ouch-ouch) disease in
Japan. The disease is most prominent in middle-aged
and elderly women and is characterized by an extreme
fragility of the bones. Cadmium also binds to
metallothionein and is stored in the kidneys. Once the
kidney become saturated, hypothesized to be around age 50,
it is secreted into the blood stream and can trigger
malignant hypertension. Mercury is also highly toxic
to most organisms. Methylmercury has caused illness
and death due to its accumulation in the food chain
(Francis, 1994). Arsenic is adsorbed through the lungs
and gastro-intestinal tract. The chemical
coagulates proteins and can substitute phosphate in chemical
processes, preventing the production of ATP. This
results in the organism slowly starving to death and it is
unable to produce energy (Manahan, 1989). Radioactive
toxins including Uranium and Thoreen are also emitted in the
gases. These compounds break down into radon, radium,
and protactinium, polonium, bismuth and lead. The
breakdown of these radioactive elements in the lung is known
to result in and increased risk for lung cancer (Francis,
1994). These chemicals are produced only from the
There are also tires, plastics
and other garbage burning in the bottom of the mine.
Smoldering tires admit various toxins similar to those from
the coal. VOSA, volatile organic compounds, PAH's,
polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, dioxins, furons and PCB’s
are also emitted. Plastics burning emit Vinyl
Chloride, which is highly toxic to humans. The best
known of the plycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons is
Benzo(a)pyrene and is found in air, soil and water.
When combined with oxygen in the lungs it is a known
carcinogen (Manahan, 1994).
The children visiting with
their parents while I was at the mine stayed for a few
hours. The kids played very close to the vents, as
they were curious about them. This exposes them to
high levels of these gasses, which are known to be harmful.
The gasses were in high enough concentrations that I had a
headache after being at the area for only four hours.
It is possible that some harm may come to the children who
have been exposed to these gases for several hours.
When Sam Frank interviewed Centralia’s mayor, Lamar Mervine,
he was told that while they had a carbon monoxide indicator
near their bedroom on the second floor, it had never gone
off. This could be due to the fact that they live in a
two-story home and the gas would dissipate as its rises from
One of the most commonly asked
questions about the Centralia mine fire is who is liable?
The answer to that question is one of the most convoluted of
all answers concerning questions about Centralia. Under
Title 30, Chapter 13, section 551 of the United States Code
is the Declaration of Policy, which states that “It is
recognized that outcrop and underground mine fires in coal
formations involveserious wastage of the fuel resources of
the Nation, and constitute a menace to the health and safety
of the public and to surface property. It is therefore
declared to be the policy of the Congress to provide for the
control and extinguishment of outcrop and underground coal
fires and thereby to prevent injuries and loss of life,
protect publichealth, conserve natural resources, and to
preserve private and public surface property.” (Buck, 1991)
This policy states very clearly that it is the role of the
government to properly extinguish outcrop and underground
coal fires, but what the policy does not entail are monetary
issues. Such issues would include is the fire in an area
where it needs to be extinguished or can it be allowed to
burn out naturally? Is the cost of extinguishing the fire
greater than other fire control remedies such as
compensation and relocation of people and property? The
Centralia mine fire could have been extinguished when it was
first learned there was a fire in 1962 with relatively
little cost and effort. Due to a lack of knowledge of the
potential danger the fire could cause, improper actions were
taken to put out the fire and it grew in size, danger
potential, and cost of extinguishment. By the time local,
state, and federal officials were ready to take serious
steps towards putting out the fire, it had grown so large it
would have cost in the hundreds of millions of dollars range
making it too large a project for even the federal
government to fund. The other option was to move the people
from danger by means of compensation, which was first
offered to Centralians by the federal government in 1984 due
to exposure to noxious gases and subsidence. By January of
1992 with fewer than 100 residents remaining the government
declared eminent domain seizing rights to properties.
The last company to own the mine was Coates Coal Company.
Coates Coal Co. was not required to clean up the mining site
under the Mining Act of 1872 Mine and Mineral Law, 1998). In
the early sixties when mining was no longer profitable
operations ceased and the mineshafts were sealed and the
rights were conveyed to Centralia and later to the Borough
of Centralia. According to modern findings all the shafts
were sealed except for one which would be all the fire would
need to spread. A short while after the transfer of the mine
to the Borough it was declared a town dumpsite. The
residents would haul their garbage to the 75 foot wide and
50 foot deep hole and thoughtlessly deposit the rubbish in a
pile. Unknown to the Centralians who were happy to find a
place to put their trash was that large trash piles have
been known to spontaneously combust. This raises the
question of whether liability can be placed on the Coates
Coal Company for not properly sealing all the mine shafts or
on the residents of Centralia for putting possibly
combustible material in a coal mine shaft.
At the time the fire began in 1962, there were no laws
governing liability, other than common law and almost no
environmental laws at all. It wasn’t until the creation of
the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and
Liability Act of 1980, which is more commonly known as
CERCLA or the Superfund Act, that suit could be brought
concerning an inactive site. The primary objective of the
Superfund program is to clean up the worst abandoned
hazardous waste sites in the country. Owner or operators of
an inactive hazardous waste site must notify the appropriate
state officials and convey information to them as to the
nature of the site. States, in turn, compile this
information and submit it to the Environmental Protection
Agency for the development of a national inventory of
hazardous waste sites. The most serious sites will be placed
on the National Priorities List. Those sites not
sufficiently hazardous to be on the National Priorities
List, or are currently under investigation, are listed in
the CERCLA Information System (CERLIS) (USBR, 2000)
The key component for a site to be classified as a Superfund
site is the presence of hazardous material. It seems that
Centralia has all the qualities of a Superfund site much
like that of Love Canal or Valley of the Drums, but in 1976
the Resource Conservation Recovery Act defined wastes so
that Centralia was excluded from Superfund money. The EPA,
by administrative choice, “excluded from the definition of
“solid wastes” certain materials subjected to “in-situ
mining techniques which are not removed from the ground as
part of the extraction process.” This is because the EPA did
not consider the waste left in place “discarded” or
“recycled”, although this is not true for waste that would
be withdrawn from the mine such as coal mining waste. The
waste removed from a coal mine is “solid waste” but is not
considered “hazardous waste” unless there are extenuating
circumstances such as contamination from a source other than
normal coal mining waste. Mining waste is strikingly
different than most hazardous waste in that mining waste
constitutes such large volumes and the “hazards” of mining
waste can be controlled fairly easily with fairly low cost
measures especially when compared to preventative measure
for highly dangerous hazardous waste.
Since coal mining does not produce hazardous waste there is
no strict liability involved. Strict liability is “a legal
doctrine that makes some persons responsible for damages
their actions or products cause, regardless of any “fault”
on their part” (http://injury-law.freeadvice.com).
A reason why laws seem so “lenient” on mining operations is
because when mining was most prevalent in the 1800’s, there
was little knowledge about hazardous to workers or to the
environment. Profit was the most important issue and it
wasn’t until many years later that acts like The Federal
Mine Safety and Health Act of 1977 were passed for miners
safety and acts like CERCLA to protect and repair the
Eminent Domain is one of the major legal issues that has
evolved because of the underground mine fire at Centralia.
Currently, all of the property in Centralia has been
condemned for the excavation of the mine fire, but there are
still residents who are squatting.
Eminent domain is defined as the “the right of the nation or
state, or of those to whom the power has been lawfully
delegated, to condemn private property for public use, and
to appropriate the ownership and possession of such property
for such use on paying the owner a due compensation to be
ascertained according to law,” (C.J.S., 29A). There
are many aspects of eminent domain including what is
considered a public use, what property is subject to taking,
what constitutes a compensable taking of property, and the
rights of the property owners.
Under eminent domain, when a property is taken for public
use it is condemned. This condemnation can occur when
property is taken for safety reasons, and in some cases for
private use that benefits the public. An example of
taking private property for a public use is in mining.
In some jurisdictions mining is so important for society
that private property can be condemned for a mining
operation. The mining industry is considered a public
use. This depends solely on the constitution of the
state in which the mine is located (C.J.S., 29A). In
Centralia, the property in the town was condemned in order
to excavate the mine fire and stop its spread to neighboring
towns, to prevent subsidence and gas leaks into the houses.
One condition of the power of eminent domain is that there
must be a public necessity and this necessity must be
combined with a public use. This necessity does not
have to be absolute, but it does have to be a reasonable or
practical necessity. This has to combine the
greatest benefit to the public with the least inconvenience
and expense to the condemning party and property owner
Another issue that must be considered when using eminent
domain is what constitutes the property being condemned.
By definition it “includes everything which is embraced by
the term where used in its legal sense,” (C.J.S., 29A).
This includes not only the soil, but everything attached to
it, such as trees, herbage, water, mines, minerals, fences,
buildings and other structures. Any building including
houses can be taken or removed under the right of eminent
The power of eminent domain belongs to the federal
government. It has the “authority to acquire any
property within the borders of the United States for those
public uses which are within the powers conferred on it by
the Constitution, regardless of the uses to which the
property is being put,” (C.J.S., 29A). Within the
federal government this power belongs to the legislative
branch. The nature and extent of the taking under
eminent domain as well as the time, manner and circumstances
under which this power is exercised, the location of the
property to be taken, and the purpose to which the property
is put are all legislative questions.
Some of these issues can be
judicial, but ordinarily the courts have no concern.
The courts have full authority to determine the proper
limits of eminent domain and to prevent abuses of the power.
The courts tend to interfere on questions of necessity,
extent and time of taking when there has been fraud, bad
faith, or abuse of discretion. Questions other than
public use and compensation are legislative and can not be
reviewed by the courts (C.J.S., 29A).
Another major issue when
dealing with eminent domain is the compensation to the
property owner. Compensation means “a full indemnity
or remuneration for the loss or damage sustained by the
owner of property taken or injured, (C.J.S., 29A). Not
only must there be compensation, but it must be just
compensation. This must be the full and perfect
equivalent in money of the property taken, but does not
include compensation for any personal losses to the owner.
This compensation must also be certain and reasonably prompt
for the owner of the property. Proceedings for the
federal government tend to differ from the state
governments. The amount that the federal government
pays is not subject to regulation by the state in which the
property acquired is located.
There are many different
factors that can be considered when determining the just
compensation for a particular property. The
legislature usually has the authority to prescribe the
manner in which compensation is determined.
There are many specific cases
that may or may not receive compensation under eminent
domain. A few of these instances are listed here.
Where damages are suffered generally by all property owners
in the area of condemned property, they are deemed
consequential or incidental (C.J.S., 29A). A property
owner is entitled to lateral support. If this support
is weakened or destroyed, there must be compensation under
eminent domain provisions (C.J.S., 29A). Injuries to
people are not included in takings of property. Any
bodily injury is not compensable under eminent domain
(C.J.S., 29A). Hazardous waste sites are another
example that is not covered by eminent domain. When the
government enters a site or adjacent land to clean it up the
owners are not compensated under the Comprehensive
Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act of
1980. Liability in this situation falls on the party
that created the site (C.J.S., 29A).
There are also many factors
that determine how much compensation an owner receives for
his or her property. Congress may require that certain
elements of value are paid for even if the constitution does
not require payment. The compensation is measured by
the owner’s loss, not by what the taker has gained.
The owner is entitled to the full equivalent in money of the
property taken, but is not entitled to more than just
compensation. Consequential damages resulting from the
taking are not included in just compensation. The
taker does not have to pay for opportunities that the owner
may lose due to the loss of property. To sum up all of
these situations, “the courts must take into account all
facts and circumstances bearing a reasonable relationship to
the loss occasioned an owner by virtue of his property being
taken,” (C.J.S., 29A).
As a general rule just
compensation can be considered to be the fair market of the
property. The market value of a property is defined as
“the highest price estimated in terms of money which it
would bring if exposed for sale in the open market with a
reasonable time allowed in which to find a purchaser, buying
with knowledge of all the uses and purposes to which it was
adapted and for which it was capable,” (C.J.S., 29A).
Using this market value is not
the law, just an element that can be considered to help
determine the just compensation. This also means that
sentimental value can not be included in the compensation.
The market value is not the amount of money that the owner
paid for the property, it is the cost or reproduction or
replacement less depreciation (C.J.S., 29A). Any
values considered peculiar to the owner or condemner can not
be taken into consideration when determining the value of
the property. The market value is not the
“speculative or remote value, or what could be obtained for
the property under peculiar circumstances, when a greater
than fair price could be obtained,” (C.J.S., 29A).
Another aspect that can not be considered is the willingness
or unwillingness of the owner to sell their property
Another method used to
determine fair market value is by considering similar
prices. If a similar property in or near the town has
been sold recently the price it sold for could be considered
the fair market value.
Fair market value is not the
absolute method used to determine the value of property; it
is just a practical standard. If a condemnee wants the
court to apply a different method to determine the fair
market value of their property, they must bear the burden of
demonstrating to the court that the value of the property
can not be reasonably measured by the fair value approach
(C.J.S., 29A). In some cases the condemned property
has no market value or an inadequate market value. In
these cases the elements affecting the market value are
disregarded and the intrinsic or actual value of the
property, or its value to the owner, may be considered or
recovered. All of the relevant circumstances must be
considered when determining the value of the property.
The relocation cost is
another aspect considered with eminent domain. There
are authorities that agree with both sides of this aspect.
Usually the owner can not receive compensation for
relocating personal property on land taken for public use.
In some cases relocation costs are recoverable as part of
just compensation. In this case the cost of removing
personal property is a proper element of damage (C.J.S.,
Under the Federal
Uniform Relocation Assistance and Real Property Acquisition
Policies Act of 1970, anyone who is required to relocate due
to eminent domain is entitled to reimbursement for the
expenses necessarily incurred. The purpose of this act
was to standardize the type and amount of relief available
to dislocated persons regardless of the agency involved.
Under this act, a person is entitled to reimbursement only
after the property has been acquired by an agency (C.J.S.,
There were a few ways of
determining the fair market value of a house in Centralia.
One method considered the market value of the house as if
there was no problems from the mine fire. These families
also received relocation assistance under the Uniform
Relocation Act. Other families received compensation
as their property was with the mine fire, gases and high
temperatures, even if this meant they could not afford a
similar house in another area with the money they received.
This was because of the Surface Mining Control and
Reclamation Act. If the fire were ignored, it would
artificially establish some value that is not related to
present realities. This cut the value of the houses by
about 20% (Dekok, 183). Pennsylvania’s eminent domain
statute barred penalties of this nature, but Centralia was a
federal project so the statute was inapplicable.
Centralia the first three houses were relocated in 1969.
These houses were relocated because of the high temperatures
in their yards and basements and the high gas concentrations
in their homes (Dekok, 73). The next eight houses to
be relocated were done so in 1980. These eight houses
were located outside of the fly ash barrier. These
families received the fair market for their houses as if the
mine fire did not exist. Also the seven families that
currently lived in their houses received up to $15,000 in
relocation assistance. This was funded by the U.S.
Office of Surface Mining (Dekok, 117). In 1981 there
were 29 families eligible for relocation because they were
so close to the fire. The fair market value of these
houses was reduced by 20% and they had only 40 days to
accept the offer and find a new location to live. They
did receive up to $15,000 in relocation assistance,
depending on where they decided to move. All but two
of these families decided to relocate at this time (Dekok,
November 18, 1983 the House of Representatives approved a
bill containing $42 million for the relocation project at
Centralia. This project was completely voluntary; the
properties were not being condemned. This time the
people were given the fair market value for their house, the
mine fire was not a deduction. The money would come
from both the Abandoned Mine Lands fund and the Pennsylvania
state government. These families also received
the $15,000 relocation assistance money (Dekok, 276).
Between 1985 and 1991 545 residences and businesses of
Centralia were relocated (DEP, 1996).
condemnation procedures were initiated against the remaining
53 properties. The property owners took legal action
against this action and lost. As of right now there
are 36 residences still occupied in Centralia. These
squatters could be relocated at any time if the government
decides to enforce the eminent domain (DEP, 1996).
When the land that is to be condemned contains minerals the
market value of the minerals must be shown with the value of
the property. Usually the property must be considered
as a whole, but when different parties own the mineral
rights and the land they must be valued separately.
The owner of the mineral rights must also receive
compensation for the loss of the minerals on the land.
In 1992 Centralia petitioned
under eminent domain that the "surface acquisition and
relocation will be a de facto taking of surface areas it
owns," (658 A.2d 840; 1995). Since the Borough of
Centralia owns the mineral rights to the property being
condemned they feel that they would be abandoning these
rights if they leave their property. There has also
been no compensation for these mineral rights from the
government in the eminent domain process. If there
were no residents remaining in Centralia, the Borough would
no longer exist and the mineral rights would be transferred
to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Because they
would be giving up their mineral rights, the residents
remaining in Centralia may be able to argue for just
compensation for their subsurface rights as well as the
PEOPLE OF CENTRALIA
Centralia has been a coal-mining town since the nineteenth
century. Its population composed of mostly immigrants coming
to America in search of work. It was the quintessential
small, hard-working American town until it was decided to
use the abandoned coal mine shaft as a town garbage dump. In
the summer of 1962 the garbage in the shaft caught fire and
began burning what would become the longest burning mine
fire in Pennsylvania’s history to date. The fire began what
would become an ongoing debate tearing the residents to
opposite sides of the dispute and pitting locals against
state and federal officials. It seems that the people
involved with Centralia can be separated into three groups;
locals who want to stay in Centralia, locals who want to
leave Centralia, and government officials (state or
In the early days it appeared as if the fire would be under
controlled and eventually extinguished. There had been mine
fires before in Pennsylvania and around the world and those
were brought under control so the Centralia fire seemed of
little concern. In 1967 test drilling revealed that the fire
had spread to much larger an area than anyone had thought
and in 1969 dangerous levels of carbon monoxide forced some
families to evacuate their homes. It was at this point that
some of the residents began to understand how dangerous and
close the fire and products of it such as gas and subsidence
could be. Over the next ten years state and federal agencies
would spend $3.3 million on trying to put the fire out. By
1982 the effects of the fire were not as unconscious, a
portion of Route 61 had to be closed and rerouted because of
subsidence and a twelve-year old boy barely avoided injury
when he almost fell into a subsidence hole. It was at this
time that a town referendum showed that the residents were,
for the first time, in favor of relocating the town by a
two-to-one margin. This created a major division between
locals who were once friends and even problems within
families. In one case a husband and wife were disagreeing
about moving or staying and the argument ended up with the
husband stabbing his wife to death and then lighting himself
on fire. Residents who did not want to relocate felt
as if they were in no danger or could not afford to move.
wouldn’t be here if we felt there was a need to move” said
Mrs. Womer, a 67 year old resident of Centralia. “There are
no signs of danger here. We have not suffered in any way,
shape, or form. Why, this is a wonderful place to live. It’s
a wonderful place to raise children” (Severo, 1983)
Some residents began to form opinions about the federal
agencies and the validity of their efforts to extinguish the
fire. It is known that there is still a great deal of raw
coal under Centralia contained in the Buck and Mammoth coal
seams. Some estimates claim that there is as much as 40
million tons of pure, profitable anthracite lying under the
surface. When the Coates Coal Co. gave rights to the mine to
the Borough of Centralia, they also gave the mineral rights.
This means that as long as there is a Borough of Centralia,
no one can mine in the area without permission from the
Borough. Some residents such as Lamar Mervine, who is
currently the mayor of Centralia, believe that the
government does not want to put out the fire so that the
residents will have to move out giving the mineral rights to
the government. “The state doesn’t want the fire out,’
claims Mervine ‘They want us out!” This seems to be a
generally accepted theory among remaining residents who
refuse to move for one reason or another. When interviewed
by a member of the Susquehanna Environmental Law class,
former Centralian’s claimed they wished that they had not
moved. That they took the governments deal because it was a
good offer and they thought all the other residents would
move shortly after.
It wasn’t until 1984 that Congress appropriated $42 million
relocate Centralia businesses and residences. Between 1985
and 1991 approximately 1,000 occupants of 545 residences and
businesses were relocated, most of which were to nearby
towns such as Mount Carmel and Ashland. In 1992 the state
struck what was considered by the remaining 53 residents to
be an “insulting final blow”, Eminent Domain had been
declared giving the state rights to the remaining
properties. To this day the few enduring residents
that reside in Centralia do not own the property they live
Centralia was once a working class central Pennsylvanian
town with over 1,100 residents, most of whom worked in the
coal mines. They carried a strong attachment to their
town, and when faced with tragedy, were reluctant to accept
the bitter truth- that their beloved town was gripped by an
unrelenting inferno that would force it out of existence.
The underground mine fire started in ignorance, spread too
far and too fast for the amount of initiate and funding
needed to extinguish it. Now the area is faced with
hazardous emissions, dangerous subsidence, and a government
that has given in to a “Do Nothing” course of action.
After several attempts to fight back in court, the final
outcome was that eminent domain overcame, legally forcing
the citizens to vacate the area that carried with it a
sentimental value, even more precious than the unmined
anthracite that smoldered below.
For specific compounds see EPA article Air Emissions
from Scrap Tire
available at the EPA web site.