Mine collapse may have damaged northeast Ohio condos

Residents forced from their homes
Posted at 4:29 PM, Jul 17, 2017
and last updated 2017-07-18 10:48:31-04

WADSWORTH, Ohio -- On the two-year anniversary of living in her condo, Connie Bechtel was forced to move out.

Within the last few weeks, a large crack formed in her first floor ceiling. Several other cracks developed along her basement floor and walls.

State officials haven't determined what's caused the land to shift around her home. But a mine shaft collapse -- as far as 85 feet below ground -- is among the possibilities, according to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.

Bechtel lives at the Cornerstone Condominiums in Wadsworth, Ohio, about an hour south of Cleveland. One of her inside doors won't close. She has propped up two-by-fours to keep it from swinging open.

She wonders if the condo is sinking.

"It's making all kinds of noise, just popping and binging. And the upstairs, you hear big thuds like somebody is falling on the floor," Bechtel said.

City officials posted notices to vacate Bechtel's home, three other condos and a nearby house where an elderly woman lives.

In the elderly woman's home, a foundation wall collapsed, spilling dirt, debris and concrete into the basement.

"The house is about ready to fall through the ground it looks like," said Bill Pelfrey, the woman's son.

ODNR is trying to determine what caused the shifting and damage. On Monday, a crew was doing exploratory drilling.

If the abandoned mine is to blame, ODNR spokesman Eric Heis said it would be grouted to fill the voids. Contractors would repair the buildings.

However, it's not clear when or if the residents will be allowed to return to their homes.

For now, Bechtel is moving her belongings to a storage facility and isn't sure if she would feel safe moving back in.

"It's a little scary," she said. "I'm angry because I feel like the city has failed us."

However, Robert Patrick, the director of public service for Wadsworth, said there are many mines throughout the city, including the neighborhood where the condos were built more than a decade ago.

"This is the first time that something like this has occurred," Patrick said.

Patrick said he's not aware of any state or local laws that prohibit developers from building over mines. But Wadsworth does require builders to do a coal mine subsidence study, which was done before construction began at the Cornerstone development.

Pelfrey said his mother has mine insurance, which could cover the damage to her home.

But Bechtel does not have mine insurance and said both her personal insurance plan and insurance through her HOA don't seem willing to provide coverage.

"It would take a whole lot of work to get my house back square and repaired. They're telling me that's going to be like $200,000," Bechtel said. "As for what I'm gonna do, I don't know."