Officials: Centralia Sinkhole Unrelated to Underground Fire

February 18, 2019 Updated: February 18, 2019

CENTRALIA, Pa.—State environmental authorities say a 100-foot sinkhole found in a central Pennsylvania town almost completely emptied by a decades-long underground fire is unrelated to the blaze.

The (Bloomsburg) Press Enterprise reports that a Department of Environmental Protection crew started work on Feb. 15, to fill the sinkhole near Route 61 in Centralia. Work is expected to continue this week.

The Department of Environmental Protection’s Bureau of Abandoned Mine Reclamation says it’s due to mine subsidence on a different underground coal seam, and mine maps indicate such things occurred before the fire.

A $42 million federal relocation program moved more than 1,000 people out of Centralia by the late 1980s because of the fire that’s burned underground since 1962. Only a few people who sued for the right to remain still live there.

map
Map of areas in the U.S. with bedrock that is susceptible to dissolution in water. In these areas, underground cavities can form, and sinkholes may occur (U.S. Geological Survey)

Sinkholes are difficult phenomena that have impacted many homes in Central Florida. The area is prone to sinkhole formation as voids and cavities grow over time in the underlying limestone bedrock. Eventually, the weight of the earth above the underground cavities collapses to form sinkholes.

According to the U.S. Geological Survey’s website, sinkhole damage has cost at least $300 million per year on average over the last 15 years.

NTD News reporter Melanie Sun contributed to this report.

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