Channel 11 investigates: Areas most prone to mine subsidence

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PITTSBURGH - The calm of the country drew in John Goral’s father.

He sought a retreat in Mercer County to timber, farm and pass along to future generations.

"This is pretty dramatic,” Goral said of the property.

The land now a sanctuary for wildlife has become a nightmare for Goral.

“They threw their hands up in the air and you're basically, we can't do anything," he said.

An abandoned mine collapsed 15 years ago about a mile away from his home.

It sent a massive amount of water into the valley below.

Dense forest, corn and hayfields are now marshland.

"It's pretty sad,” he said as he showed Channel 11’s Trisha Pittman the damage. “This was all forest, all the way over to that hillside across there."

The water continues to flow, even impacting neighbor Kathy Dunlap.

She runs two sump pumps all day long so the standing water in her basement doesn’t rise to the level of her furnace.

"I'm not going to put thousands of dollars into a piece of property under a house that may fall in on me for all I know," she said.

Dunlap can’t sell her house and doesn’t have mine subsidence insurance, something the Department of Environmental Protection recommends.

"It's pretty unpredictable as to when and where the next event's going to occur," said Ed Motycki of the DEP Mine Subsidence program.

According to the DEP, one million homes are undermined in Pennsylvania.

Most of them are in Southwestern Pennsylvania.

However, only 56,000 homeowners have insurance from the mine bureau.

"Without insurance, the people are pretty much left on their own. And there are instances where people abandon their house," said Motycki.

To find out if you live in an undermined area, call the state mining bureau and ask for a free packet of information outlining your property.

It will include information on mines in the area and maps showing if your property is at risk.

The DEP said $57 a year will get owners $100,000 worth of insurance coverage.

Since 1961, the agency has handed out $27 million in claims; $20 million of that is just in  Southwestern Pennsylvania.

To contact the DEP Mine Bureau, click here.