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Toby Creek mine subsidence gets temporary fix, "Full restoration" expected to take longer

Trucks carry huge rocks behind Luzerne Lumber to fill a mine subsidence in Toby Creek.
Aimee Dilger
Trucks carry huge rocks behind Luzerne Lumber to fill a mine subsidence in Toby Creek.

Dump trucks lined up in Luzerne as crews piled clean fill into Toby Creek to close a mine subsidence.

The hole opened on Sunday along the waterway near Luzerne Lumber. It’s stifled the downstream flow of water and forced it underground.

The stream is now near 100% streamflow, said Colleen Connelly, spokesperson for the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). The work is expected to be complete by Monday.

Local firefighters and state and federal environmental organizations were on scene in Luzerne after 7 a.m. Sunday, said Jason Tarreto, emergency management coordinator for the borough of Luzerne. They decided to temporarily plug the opening into the mines beneath the borough.

"Full restoration is going to take much longer," he said.

DEP's Bureau of Abandoned Mine Reclamation will continue investigating the incident, said Connelly. DEP will continue to monitor the creek — a tributary of the Susquehanna River — for any long-term impacts.

On Sunday, Tarreto said there is no hazard. Luzerne residents were notified of the subsidence. EMA recommended they leave their homes, but it was not mandatory.

Bobby Hughes is executive director of the Eastern Pennsylvania Coalition for Abandoned Mine Reclamation (EPCAMR).

A mine subsidence is not surprising, he said. Coal companies often mined beyond stop lines.

"And those were usually where the streams were and the river," he said.

Hughes said the mines near Toby Creek were worked by at least three companies – Waddel's, Mill Hollow and the Raub Coal Company.

Connelly said the abandoned mine is known as the old Luzerne Mine. It closed in the late 60s early 70s.

Kat Bolus is the community reporter for the newly-formed WVIA News Team. She is a former reporter and columnist at The Times-Tribune, a Scrantonian and cat mom.

You can email Kat at katbolus@wvia.org