Pa. homeowners warned about mine subsidence risks

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PITTSBURGH — The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection urges homeowners to check updated mine maps to determine if their home or other buildings are at risk of mine subsidence.

More than 1 million homes in Pennsylvania sit atop abandoned mines. Mine subsidence occurs when the ground above an old or abandoned mine cavity collapses. A subsidence event can occur at any time and cause sudden, significant damage — often exceeding $100,000 or total loss of the structure.

Mine subsidence is not covered by a standard homeowner’s insurance policy. DEP administers low-cost mine subsidence insurance (MSI) coverage through the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. The average policy of $160,000 costs about $7 a month, and senior citizens are eligible for discounted rates.

“If you’ve checked before and think your property is not at risk, now is the time to check again,” said John Stefanko, deputy secretary of active and abandoned mine operations. “We’ve revamped the maps on the Mine Subsidence Insurance website (www.pamsi.org) for a more interactive and precise view.”

Proper coverage

Radio public service announcements and ads on social media and other websites will be encouraging homeowners to make sure they have proper coverage, and how to sign up for the insurance. Using geographic information systems online, DEP combines location data with mining data to show where specific properties are in relation to old and abandoned mines.

DEP’s MSI program uses the data to identify coverage areas.

Processing thousands of paper maps into a digital format and uploading the data into the GIS system takes time. DEP has completed the process for tens of thousands of maps with thousands more to be entered.

Risk areas

The website (www.pamsi.org) regularly updates as historical maps and risk areas are discovered. Much of the underground mining in Pennsylvania occurred over a century ago — long before DEP existed — and many areas that were originally mined long ago have been remined.

Consequently, the department may have hundreds of maps and a dozen different series for just one area.

“DEP is continuously improving our maps and data for underground mining. That’s why we recommend property owners need to check back periodically,” said Stefanko. “Our goal is to have the best underground mine mapping easily accessible to anyone who wants to view it.”

Homeowners should visit www.pamsi.org or call 1-800-922-1678 to check if their home is over an abandoned mine and for more information on the Mine Subsidence Insurance Program.

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