In 1962, the small town of Centralia, PA was burdened by a large mine fire. After many failed attempts to put it out, the fire grew bigger and moved underneath the town, cracking streets and leaking toxic gases into the air. For the health and safety of Centralians, families and businesses had to be relocated or forced out. Due to much controversy, three residents remain who refuse to leave their beloved town that is now made up of empty streets, sidewalks, and barren land where homes, businesses, and buildings once stood. Today, the location is known as PA’s most historic mine fire. The area is also now so isolated that Centralia has recently been subjected to a large-amount of littering and illegal dumping. EPCAMR plans to change the look of the landscape down in the Borough, despite the lack of residents., who aren’t around to be able to help.
On Tuesday, July 15th, EPCAMR headed out to Centralia to assess the amount of trash and illegal dumping sites in the area for a possible Fall Cleanup around the now-barren town. With volunteers, interns, and one of our partners– The Pennsylvania Environmental Council, NE Office (PEC) in tow, the group met up with the Director of “Centralia: America’s Lost Town” , Joe Sapienza II, recent graduate, and some of his film crew members from Drexel University, for a tour and to get a site assessment of the area– the first step in cleaning up Centralia!
Our first stop to survey for trash was where the original fire in Centralia started near the Odd Fellows Cemetery. At this location, we found a few old mattresses and a large illegal dump and burn site with piles of litter, as well as, the start of many illegally-dumped auto tires. Towards the other end of town, off Meyers Street, the crew walked down an abandoned road or rail line which was once headed towards Mt. Carmel, to find more illegal dumping going on. The abandoned area was strewn with several wood piles, garbage bags full of household items, many more tires, furniture, and even the front bumper of a JEEP. The crew then parked in an empty lot where the famous Coddington’s Gas Station once stood (one of the main areas for tourists to park their cars in Centralia) and walked down along an abandoned road surrounded by culm banks. Here, we found even more piles of trash scattered throughout the landscape.
The July 15th site assessment showed that there is a strong need for a future cleanup in Centralia. EPCAMR has gotten approval of the State to move along with the cleanup project. We are confident that we can accomplish this effort as we have completed hundreds of cleanups for nearly the last two decades and are already making contacts to put the wheels in motion. During the site assessment, the group ran into at least 12 other tourists in the area. EPCAMR Executive Director, Robert Hughes, had a conversation with a few of the individuals about Centralia and the Fall Cleanup EPCAMR was planning on doing. Several of the tourists were happy to hear about the initiative and were willing to help as future volunteers with EPCAMR. Many folks were also interested in a possible future historical interpretive project EPCAMR was also considering for Centralia. We would love to see small wooden plaques with historical information around Centralia for tourists to read about the town and what happened in 1962 that left it abandoned. A handful of people EPCAMR spoke with were also excited about the idea of adding picnic tables or benches in Centralia for the tourists that visit this historic site. We hope people interested in Centralia and working with EPCAMR will join us as future volunteers for a Fall Cleanup in Centralia set for October 25th from 9am-4pm with a 10am start and a 9am volunteer registration!
EPCAMR Staff and Joe Sapienza II will be coordinating a Fall 2014 Community Cleanup at the location of PA’s most historic mine fire in the Town of Centralia, PA on Saturday, October 25th. Recent film graduate students Joe Sapienza (Director) and friends from Drexel University, have been working with us to coordinate a cleanup in the Town that is pretty barren right now and isolated from the world, except for a handful (3 families) of residents that remain. We’ll be registering volunteers at 9am near the former Coddington Gas Station, just down the street from the St. Ignatius Cemetery.
We are looking for dozens of volunteers for the cleanup that will help EPCAMR to set the wheels in motion for a possible future historical interpretive project that we’re considering for the Town, if we can get the State behind us. Hear stories from the EPCAMR Executive Director on his internship days with the PA DEP some 20 years ago, as he monitored around the Town for mine gases in one of the Churches and along the coal banks that were on fire in the Buck Mountain Vein. Get a chance to meet the Director of the short film on Centralia that has been just recently released. Hear more on a full length documentary on Centralia that Joe is beginning to work on too.
An IndieGoGo fundraising effort is going to go live to assist us with funds for supplies, refreshments for the volunteers, water, tools, and to assist with paying for dumpsters and some wildflower seeds for the areas that we will be cleaning up. IF YOU DONATE, there are SWAG gifts in return, so please check out the link. EPCAMR is committing $700 towards the effort up front, plus Staff and other resources. http://vimeo.com/104065441
We have permission from one of the property owners (Pagnotti Enterprises) to place a dumpster on their property near the Odd Fellows Cemetery at the one cleanup location and we are actively working on securing permission from Blaschok Coal Company to place a dumpster in another area that can be seen in our Vimeo Cleanup Centralia Project video.
Follow the link on Facebook to join the effort as an EPCAMR Volunteer! https://www.facebook.com/events/628137517302486/?ref=22&source=1