The scourge of coal mine subsidence has struck again in the metro-east, this time causing damage to about 14 homes and forcing Belleville to condemn two of the houses until repairs are made to ensure the safety of the residents.

The homes are off Michael Drive and Patricia Lane near the intersection of North 17th Street and Illinois 161.

Scott Tyler, director of the Health and Housing Department for Belleville, said two of the homes had significant damage and were condemned this week until repairs can be made. The city’s building commissioner inspected the homes and Tyler said it was determined that “People wouldn’t be able to stay there due to the fact it was a safety hazard.”

One of the residents heard some “creaking” noises in his house, Tyler said.

About a dozen homes in the neighborhood had minor damage while others in the area did not have any visible signs of damage.

“The building commissioner went through several homes out there,” Tyler said.

Mine subsidence happens when the roof of an underground, abandoned coal mine collapses and causes the ground above the mine to shift, or “subside,” because of the collapse. Pillars of coal that were used to support the mine shafts can deteriorate over time and cause the mine to collapse.

Walls and floors of buildings, sidewalks, driveways and roads can crack when mine subsidence occurs. Natural gas and water lines also can be damaged.

Homes, schools, commercial buildings and roads in the metro-east have been damaged by mine subsidence over the past several decades.

One of the metro-east schools damaged by mine subsidence includes Swansea’s Wolf Branch Middle School, which is currently being renovated after a portion of the building had to be torn down.

Some children in the Michael Drive and Patricia Lane neighborhood attend Wolf Branch.

In an effort to prevent natural gas leaks in the Michael Drive and Patricia Lane area, utility crews have been installing flexible supply lines between meters and the homes, according to an email from Rachel Torbert, deputy director of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.

Torbert also said utility crews have responded to fix water main breaks in the area linked to the mine subsidence.

Residents said they lost water service on Saturday and again on Monday.

Torbert said an engineer from the DNR’s Abandoned Mined Land Reclamation Division responded to the scene this week and that about 14 homes have been affected by the mine subsidence.

“Other than the installation of flexible natural gas service lines by Ameren Illinois, no emergency action was warranted at this point in time,” Torbert said.

As far as the two condemned homes, Torbert referred questions about those two sites to the city.

Torbert said the area impacted will “continue to be monitored for many years to collect data and monitor the ground settlement related to the mine subsidence.”

Joseph Monroe, the district operations engineer for the Illinois Department of Transportation, said the subsidence has caused cracks on Illinois 161 near the Michael Drive neighborhood but the roadway remains “safe and operational.” He said IDOT is working with the Illinois State Geological Survey and crews will monitor the road conditions for any changes caused by additional ground movement.

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Mine subsidence is having a major effect on a Belleville neighborhood located near Illinois 161 and Old Caseyville Road. The homes located on Patricia Lane and Michael Drive have a range of damage. The driveway is lifting up at a home on Michael Drive. Derik Holtmann [email protected]

Residents check for mine subsidence damage

Idaria Goodwin and Katie Donohue live across the street from each other on Patricia Lane but have had vastly different experiences so far.

Goodwin’s home already shows several areas of damage while Donohue’s home so far has not been damaged. But Donohue said she has been told that could change because mine subsidence can occur over a period of years.

“We’re counting our blessings thus far,” said Donohue, who operates a home-based daycare service.

For Goodwin, the damage is now visible but at first she wasn’t aware of what was happening.

The damage includes cracks in her exterior brick wall, a crack in an interior wall and the separation of her patio and driveway from the house.

It all started on Thursday, May 6 when her daughter asked if their storm door was broken because she couldn’t open. After Goodwin was able to push it open, she thought perhaps the jam was caused by rapidly changing temperatures. Next, a visitor to her home had trouble opening another door in the home and the neighborhood lost water service.

Word eventually spread through the neighborhood that mine subsidence had caused the damage.

“Every day we’re going around our house checking to see if there’s any extra cracks, any new cracks, any bigger cracks and I’ve been recording them on my cellphone so when my insurance company does come, they can see the progression from one day to the next,” Goodwin said.

Goodwin, who is a personal trainer, said residents have been banding together and trading information on how to deal with the mine subsidence.

“We’re close-knit and we’re in a cul-de-sac and so we want to know who’s coming in and going out, who to trust, who not to trust,” she said.

“We don’t want anyone to take advantage of” residents, Goodwin said.

Mine subsidence insurance

Torbert said property owners should contact their insurance agent to report a mine subsidence claim. Insurance companies that contract with the Illinois Mine Subsidence Insurance Fund can report a claim and begin the investigation process, she said.

The Illinois Mine Subsidence Insurance Fund is a private organization that was established based on a state law that Belleville residents and metro-east lawmakers helped get passed in the 1970s, according to the fund’s website.

The Belleville residents who lobbied for government action included homeowners who had mine subsidence damage in the Canterbury Manor subdivision off North Belt West, which is less than a mile from the latest damage reported off Michael Drive and Patricia Lane.

St. Clair County is one of 34 Illinois counties in which insurance companies must offer customers mine subsidence insurance.

Torbert said additional information regarding the Illinois Mine Subsidence Insurance Fund, the claim process, and coverage can be found online at

The subsidence in the Michael Drive and Patricia Lane area is the first such case in St. Clair County this year and last year there was one in the county. Statewide, there are an average of 15 emergency mine-related projects each year, Torbert said.

Tyler suggested residents go online to check out the Illinois State Geological Survey’s interactive map that shows coal mine locations throughout the state. Go to to access the map.

Tyler, who noted that many areas of Belleville are located above abandoned coal mines, urged residents to make sure they have mine subsidence insurance for their homes.

“I would suggest to anybody in the general area to carry that on their insurance because … it’s not that much more,” he said. “Boy it can really save you in a spot like this because you just never know where these are going to pop up.”

Mike Koziatek joined the Belleville News-Democrat in 1998 as an assistant editor and is now a reporter covering the Belleville area. He graduated from Marquette University in Milwaukee and is from St. Louis.

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