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Centralia clean-up a popular annual event

October 2019

For the 6th year in a row, volunteers descended upon Pennsylvania’s “Lost Town,” the Borough of Centralia, a mostly-vacant borough with an underground mine fire that has been burning beneath it for 57 years and counting.

Organized by the non-profit organization EPCAMR (Eastern PA Coalition of Abandoned Mine Reclamation), since its inception in 2015, the clean-up has become an increasingly popular annual tradition, with around 100 community-minded citizens of Pennsylvania and beyond the state, including current and former residents of Centralia attending this year, a number that included four Canadians from Simcoe County, myself included.

The seven hour drive certainly doesn’t deter me, as this was the fourth clean-up in which I’ve participated.

A once thriving community in the heart of Pennsylvania’s anthracite coal region, Centralia has become a popular place for thoughtless people who dump their trash down the deserted former residential streets; everything from household trash, to construction waste, furniture, appliances, tires, car seats, old children’s toys and lots spray paint cans.

The road signs telling motorists they are entering the “Borough of Centralia” were removed 3 years ago, and the overgrown lots where houses and buildings once stood seem to give some the impression that this is a forgotten ghost town. Nothing could be further from the truth.

While Centralia is home to only 6 residents now, down from a high of 2500 in the 1940s, and dismissed by many who hoped the borough would have disappeared long ago, there are still many enthusiastic volunteers who are determined to keep the community spirit of Centralia alive and who refuse to let it become little more than a garbage dump.

This year, a big focus was placed on cleaning up the dozens and dozens of empty spray paint cans thoughtlessly tossed in the ravines and low-lands off the notorious “Graffiti Highway,” the long-abandoned section on Pennsylvania Route 61 at the south end of the borough that has become an unintended tourist attraction. This is in spite of the fact that the road and adjoining lands are now privately owned by Pitreal Corporation.

The roadway was abandoned in 1982 due to subsidances and buckling of the asphalt surface that allowed smoke and steam from the mine fire to obscure visibility for drivers. On any given day, there are numerous ATVs, sport motorcycles and pedestrians walking the mile-long stretch of crumbling roadway, some carrying spray paint cans to contribute to the graffiti that adorns the asphalt.

A treasure-trove of old tires were also found in the wooded ravines, dragged out using a combination of muscle-power and the winches on the front of the many Jeeps brought to the clean-up by members of three Pennsylvania Jeep clubs: BlackTop Warriors Jeep Club, Wicked Jeeps and 570 Jeeps

EPCAMR executive director and clean-up organizer Bobby Hughes arranged for the use of two industrial trash bins in which to deposit the refuse, donated by Fought’s Disposal.

Although only one of the two garbage bins were filled to capacity, for a total of over 50 cubic yards of trash, this was partially due to the fact that some of the items, such as the 300 tires, the dozen televisions and over 50 garbage bags of spray paint cans (approximately 2500 cans) collected, will be either recycled or otherwise diverted from the regular waste stream.

Bridgestone Tire has been a supporting partner for the last several years, recycling all the tires recovered through their Bridgestone Tires4ward Program, keeping them out of landfills and saving EPCAMR the disposal costs.

Although EPCAMR and other corporations usually donate supplies and industrial garbage bins to haul away the trash, donations are always appreciated to help off-set things like the cost of food, drinks, water, tools, heavy duty garbage bags, gloves, cleanup supplies, hand sanitizer, first aid kits, refreshments, snacks for the volunteers and EPCAMR staff in attendance and haulage and landfill tipping fees.

Donations for Centralia clean-ups, or any of the other abandoned mine reclamation work done by EPCAMR, can be made on-line at www.givegab.com/nonprofits/eastern-pa-coalition-for-abandoned-mine-reclamation/campaigns/clean-up-centralia-for-centralians-past-present or to:

EPCAMR
c/o Robert Hughes, Clean-Up Event
101 S. Main St.
Ashley, PA 18706

Additional fundraising will enable the purchase of more surveillance cameras that can be placed around Centralia to catch illegal dumping, along with some 55 gallon drums that can be placed along the Graffiti highway for disposal of spray cans, unless they can get them donated.

EPCAMR will further be planting apple trees before next year’s clean-up, using funding provided by ISI Inc. and the Mental Insight Foundation through their “Apple-achian” Collaborative Initiative, along with milkweed and native wildflower seed planting, using some of the excess funds generated, given the significant impact of past clean-ups and the increased awareness of illegal dumping in Centralia.

Additional sponsors and supporters of the clean-up include coalition of partners like Pagnotti Enterprises, Inc., Power Creek Power Operating LLC, Northampton Generating Company, LP, The Pennsylvania Environmental Council, Keep Pennsylvania Beautiful, Centone Productions, Joe Sapienza II the director of Centralia: Pennsylvania’s Lost Town, several of the remaining local residents, including Tom Hynoski (Fire Chief of Centralia, Pennsylvania).

U.S. Representative Dan Meuser, a Republican serving PA’s 9th District, which includes Centralia, stopped by over the lunch hour to personally thank all the volunteers and offer his support.

The participants for 2019:

Kathleen Quinn-Farber, Nicholas Farber, sarah Hartranft, Brad Noll, Erika Noll, Xavier Noll, Ray Sterner, Karen Bouks, Harry Messerschmitt, Mike Frymyer, Tanya Yunginger, Avery McCracken, Robert Zimmerman, Steph Snavely, Joshua Griffins, Scott Farler, James Koharski, Bruce Forsyth, Amy Saraka, David Saraka, Kayleigh Saraka, Heather Joseph, Skip Joseph, Michelle Stauffer, Eric Stauffer, Jeff Crum, Danielle Moyer, Patrick Flyte, Melissa Flyte, Michael Funaro, Patricia Funaro, Ed Thomas, Beverley Sheremeto, Robert Nagle, Kay Polukis, Rob Polukis, Branson Stivers, Kyle Jones, Jim Mohal, Patrick Rooney, Ted Merrimon, John Doherty, Joanne Bonn, Elmar Bonn, Shneour Hewtc, Andrea Chik, Jon Chik, Dustin Kelsey, Nathan Frymeyer, Kevin Bittenbender, Joshua Doyle, Bill Trumper, Kayden Trumper, Frank Senglar, Cristy Sweeney, Mike Sweeney, Alyssa Hopfer, Bryan Melka, Carne Melka, Stacey Valent, Harold Mervine, Tom Conniff,

I copied this from the sign-in list. If your name is missing or misspelled, please contact me and I will make the correction.

For more information on “Pennsylvania’s Lost Town” check out my past  articles, including my first one –

Read an article about the first clean-up I attended here:

Also visit:

https://www.centraliapa.org/

Sources: https://www.shensentinel.com/news/volunteers-renew-effort-to-combat-dumping-in-centralia?fbclid=IwAR3cfcOqqDrgDxTXEMdGR5or-9hQhf8F8SkHQqqxB0dEUPnZmc2_73rl8eo, https://www.dailyitem.com/news/local_news/centralia-sees-th-annual-cleanup/article_f72d8d9c-e175-5b49-9179-28c1fd41fc97.html, https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=1754451561401082&set=pcb.2503430343219897&type=3&theater, https://www.centraliapa.org/centralia-pa-needs-your-help-annual-cleanup-day-october-19-2019-reminder

About the author

Bruce Forsyth

Bruce Forsyth served in the Royal Canadian Navy Reserve for 13 years (1987-2000). He served with units in Toronto, Hamilton & Windsor and worked or trained at CFB Esquimalt, CFB Halifax, CFB Petawawa, CFB Kingston, CFB Toronto, Camp Borden, The Burwash Training Area and LFCA Training Centre Meaford.

Permanent link to this article: https://militarybruce.com/centralia-clean-up-a-popular-annual-event/

2 comments

  1. Russell Nelson

    I estimate that we picked up at least 2500 spray cans.

    1. Bruce Forsyth

      Hi Russell,

      Thanks for the information. Bruce

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