WADSWORTH, OH (WOIO) - Several people have been evacuated from their homes in Wadsworth after ground shifting caused foundations to crack and at least one wall to collapse.
Four condominiums and one house near the intersection of State and Reimer roads now bear signs that say they are unsafe. Bill Pelfrey's mom lives in the home next door to the condos, and he said there are cracks in the foundation as well as debris in the basement from a fallen wall.
He said his sister first noticed the cracks on July 1.
"The basement started cracking and the cracks were never there before, next day the cracks got bigger, then the next day they got bigger, even bigger and then a wall fell in," said Pelfrey. "Now inside her basement there's a bunch of great big rocks and dirt and the whole wall was laying inside the basement."
His mom wasn't home when the wall and debris fell in the place she's called home for more than 60 years.
"She's kind of in shock because she's been here for 60 years," said Pelfrey. "Mom and dad moved in, bought this 60 years ago, the house never had any problems before until now."
The Ohio Department of Natural Resources is investigating to see if a mine last used in 1905 is responsible for the earth shifting in the area.
ODNR spokesperson, Eric Heis, said the department knows there is a mine somewhere in the area, though little data exists on its extent or exact location. He said ODNR looks at the Wadsworth situation as an emergency.
"Kind of a Priority 1 for us, because it's something that impacts human health and obviously this does not happen often," he said.
ODNR crews are on scene drilling into the ground to see if they can locate any problems or voids. If a void is uncovered, Heis said, it would be filled with grout or concrete to shore up the ground so the buildings on top of it can then be fixed.
"(ODNR advises) county officials of the risk of building on abandoned mine lands, along with detailed maps of the impacted areas that we know about," Heis said, adding it is not illegal to build over an abandoned mine.
That was reiterated by the City of Wadsworth's Director of Public Service, Robert Patrick.
"(The city has) a number of areas around the city where there are old coal mines like this one, and we do have a process through our development process actually they're located on our zoning maps there are some things that they need to do if they build in one of these areas," Patrick said.
Patrick said that the city had to turn off utilities to the affected homes for safety reasons. He said the city did set up a way to ensure that sump pumps still work in the affected homes so that personal belonging aren't affected further.
Cleveland 19 asked Patrick to respond to people who may blame the city for allowing anyone to build over an abandoned mine in the first place.
"This is an unfortunate issue," he said. "It's on private property. I believe that the developer took the necessary steps that they needed to and like I said, there's no local or state laws preventing someone from building on an area like this and we haven't had any of these issues in the past and I don't know If any of the surrounding areas have had any issues like this."
Heis said the agency should have more information within the week.