The Times West Virginian

Local News

March 21, 2014

Section of Pleasant Valley Road caves in due to old mine shaft

FAIRMONT — A section of Pleasant Valley Road has caved in due to an old mine shaft.

Workers with the West Virginia Division of Highways who were on the scene Thursday morning said the hole was nearly 20 feet deep and the width of one lane.

The hole is located on Pleasant Valley Road near the Marion County Department of Homeland Security & Emergency Management Center.

“Officials have known about (the hole) since Tuesday,” said Donald Mundell, chief of the Valley Volunteer Fire Department. “The 911 Center put small cones by the hole, but cars and school buses were still hitting it.”

“(Wednesday afternoon), we thought it was a pothole and had it patched by 7 p.m.,” said DOH worker Jeff Pethtel. “(Wednesday) morning, the road was collapsed.”

West Virginia Division of Transportation engineer Greg Phillips said the hole was caused by mine subsidence. West Virginia has several mine subsidence-related problems.

“Due to bad winters and wet springs, the ground is saturated with water,” Phillips said. “A cavern is made by the water and it (cannot hold the road).”

Phillips said these are referred to as “blowouts” because the road eventually collapses. He said the process for fixing these holes takes at least a week.

“(The DOH) follows a process of filling these holes so a sound foundation can be made,” he added. “But sometimes they can continue to sink.”

A person who lives near the hole said Thursday that cars were violently hitting the hole the day before and that this was not the first deep hole in the area.

According to Pethtel, crews cleared debris from the hole before observing it.

“The hole was determined to be caused by mine subsidence,” Phillips said. “The Department of Environmental Protection is going to bring in specialists to evaluate how it can be fixed.”

One of the workers went into the hole and observed that the mine shaft stretches quite a distance, Phillips said. The shaft may stretch to below the Marion County 911 Center.

The section of Pleasant Valley Road affected by the mine shaft is closed and the timetable for it to reopen is not known. The West Virginia DEP is in charge of fixing the hole.

Email Richard Babich at rbabich@timeswv.com or follow him on Twitter @rbabichTWV.

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