UPDATE: The Department of Environmental Protection says it cannot confirm the Jeansville mine fire has been extinguished, according to Times Leader news partner Fox 56.
Here is part of a statement released by DEP:
“The DEP continues to utilize a contractor, Hazleton Shaft, to extinguish the fire and is working with them to drill additional monitoring holes to determine if coal material continues to burn beneath the surface. The department’s goal is to extinguish the fire on both the active mining and the abandoned sections of the 25-acre mine fire area.”
The agency says it was not part of Wednesday’s press conference with politicians, and a meeting will be held in the coming months to report on the status of the fire.
WASHINGTON – U.S. Rep. Lou Barletta visited the village of Jeansville on Wednesday to announce an underground mine fire there has finally been extinguished.
The fire was burning near Hazleton, which is the Republican’s hometown.
Barletta was joined by state Sen. John Yudichak, D-Plymouth Township, and Banks Township Supervisors Joe Clark and Charles Schalles, who also helped organize efforts to extinguish the fire. Additional attendees included representatives from Hazleton Shaft Corporation and the site superintendent, Derrek Singley.
The fire, which had likely been burning underground approximately 30 to 40 years before it surfaced, was discovered in 2012 by Hazleton Shaft, which was conducting mining operations in the area. At the time, the fire was burning roughly 25 acres of abandoned coal shafts.
“While it took six years and the combined efforts of officials on all levels of government, we are all glad to tell the people of Jeansville that this fire has finally been extinguished,” Barletta said. “When I first learned of the fire, I feared it would be another Centralia, and I’m sure local residents felt the same.”
Barletta said he was determined to do everything possible to ensure the fire was put out once and for all.
Barletta said he was grateful to Yudichak, state Rep. Tarah Toohil, R-Butler Township, and to Clark and Schalles of Banks Township for all they did to help coordinate local and state authorities in the effort.
“It just goes to show what can be accomplished when all levels of government and the private sector work together to ensure the well-being of our local communities,” Barletta said.
After becoming aware of the fire and the public safety hazard it posed, Barletta said he pressed for a solution. In September 2015, Barletta convened a meeting with the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and state and local officials to exchange information about the fire, understand the full impact on local residents and ecosystems, and explore resources available to extinguish it.
Two months after that meeting, Hazleton Shaft was awarded a $9.3 million contract, funded in part with federal dollars.
DEP will continue to monitor the site for the next few months.
Reach Bill O’Boyle at 570-991-6118 or on Twitter @TLBillOBoyle.