FINLEYVILLE (KDKA) — Under a pallet is a product of 200 years of western Pennsylvania’s coal mining history – five-feet wide and 15-feet deep.

The sinkhole opened up in woods off the soccer field at Ringgold Middle School in December.

“We would most certainly alert parents to any dangerous situation that may arise on the property,” Acting Superintendent Dr. Karen Polkabla says, “but at this point there is no danger and all the students are safe.”

“There are three of them – there’s the one on the school property and two on private property,” DEP spokesman John Poister said.

Inspectors from the DEP will be on scene this week planning a fix.

“Unusually, when we do stuff like this we pour fill in to plug up the holes and that generally does it,” Poister said.

The project will not cost the homeowners or the school district a dime.

“That is part of our Bureau of Abandoned Mine Reclamation Program to address just that problem,” Poister continued.

The middle school, built in the 1960’s, is 30-feet to 60-feet above the old Presto Mine abandoned since 1929.

During construction, the potential for subsidence was taken into consideration, so the foundation was drilled into solid bedrock beneath the mine.

The school, located in Finleyville, Washington County, however, has had damage from another source. The soil it sits on contains a lot of pyrite which heaves with the freeze-thaw cycle.

“Studying some building that we closed last year – possibly moving the students to that building, possibly doing repairs at Ringgold Middle School or possibly building a new building,” Dr. Polkabla said.

That is on the district’s tab.

It’s a difficult situation, says Poister. “You’re never going to solve the problem unless you replace all the soil which is totally impractical.”

A solution to the sinkholes should come pretty quickly, but coming up with a plan for what’s ailing the middle school building will take a lot longer.

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Ringgold School District
Department of Environmental Protection

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