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article imagePennsylvania planning to extinguish long-burning coal fire

By Mike Rossi     Aug 24, 2014 in Environment
Pittsburgh - The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection has finally decided to set aside funding in an effort extinguish a several-year-old fire burning near the Pittsburgh International Airport.
How could a fire rage for so long without being extinguished?
It's underground.
The blaze is believed to have started six or seven years ago when lightning struck some of the coal-waste deposits strewn around the region. The leftover waste, amassed during early 20th century mining operations, had been festering in the area for decades before setting fire.
Officials think the fire currently threatening the Pittsburgh Airport is specifically tied to an unnamed mine which ceased operations in 1939.
Such mines readily dot the landscape of the Keystone state making it impossible for regulators to properly plan, fund and implement prevention practices, let alone extinguishing operations for those already alight.
Nearly 100 underground fires currently burn in Pennsylvania, the most famous being the Centralia Mine Fire which has smoldered without obstruction since staring in 1962.
Though the blazes are well-known for leaching toxic chemicals into both groundwater supplies and the atmosphere, they are generally left to burn unabated due to limited state funds. If not for its proximity to the Pittsburgh Airport and two natural gas wells, it's highly likely the Department of Environmental Protection would have allocated resources elsewhere.
The extinguishing process, set to begin in September, will take roughly 12 months and $1.4 million to complete.
The company hired to stop the fire, Earthmovers Unlimited, will "excavate 429,000 cubic yards of coal waste from the pile" in addition to dispensing millions of gallons of water and hundreds of gallons of flame-retardant chemical foam to put it out once and for all.
More about centralia, Pittsburgh, Coal, Coal fire, Pittsburgh International Airport
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