Area residents continue to ignore earthquake threat


Special to the Courier & Press

Friday, December 4, 1998


With the recent passage of Earthquake Awareness Week in Evansville -- and a similar observance focusing upon

the issue in the state of Kentucky during October -- area residents have again been warned of the dangerous potential

for seismic activity in this region.


For many years, seismologists and geologists have been warning this part of the country about how the New Madrid

fault system is long overdue for a major seismic event. 


That does not seem to deter advocates of unshackled economic growth and industrial development, who apparently

care little about the uncontrollable forces of Mother Nature. 


Yes, it has been a long time since the earth shook wildly around here.  I believe I was in marching band practice one

Saturday morning in the bowl at Reitz High School when a few of us fell to our knees in amazement. 


When we were inside the gym, we discovered a huge crack in a concrete wall.


For weeks after that, there was much conversation on the West Side about the dangers of mine subsidence in the vicinity of

"Seven Crossings," the railroad grade crossing at Broadway Avenue in the midst of the Howell railroad yards. 


Some people were amazed that the old mine shafts had not collapsed -- the coal tipple was apparently not far from the yards. 


Memories of such conversations linger as we approach the New World Order and the senseless construction of the $225 million

Con Agra soybean processing facility in nearby Posey County on the Ohio River.


Less than one quarter mile from the proposed site are two huge seismic faults in the Pennsylvanian rock formations beneath the

relatively flat surface topography. 


These faults traverse Diamond Island and the flow of the Ohio River.  One of them, the Heusler fault, extends

north to the other side of Indiana 62. 


In this region, the fault forms the northwestern border of the Heusler oil field, which remains in production. 


Accord to a 1980 mineral survey map of the region produced by G. F. Tanner,  J. N. Stellavato and  J.C. Mackey of the

Indiana State Geological Survey, test drilling and core samples in the region have shown that the fault plane has been penetrated

by wells in the area at anywhere from 45 to 140 feet below the surface in the region of the oil field.


Precise core samples from within the immediate vicinity of the proposed ConAgra facility were apparently unavailable when

the research for this map was compiled. 


The area is, however, designated a "heavy liquefaction" region in the event of an earthquake.  This means the soils in the region

turn to putty when the earth opens up.


These facts were repeatedly brought to the attention of state officials of the Department of Natural Resources, the governor's

office, the Army Corps of Engineers and local Posey County elected officials, but to no avail. 


It did not seem to deter them from approving the zoning variance and all of the permits which thus far have been approved.


Proponents from the "Development uber alles" crowd would have us to believe that none of this matters. The most important

thing is for SIGCORP to have yet another hungry customer for steam and electrical power produced at the A. B. Brown power

station and the new co-generation plant recently proposed.


They might point to the fact that the General Electric LEXAN Plastics facility is located amid no less than four similar faults which

stride the subsurface of Posey County and the river in several different areas. 


It is for this reason that the GE plant has long been identified as one of the top 50 industrial plant locations in the country'

with the potential for a major, catastrophic event which could lead to the deaths of thousands of area residents.


No matter;  it hasn't happened yet, has it?  Let's just keep repeating our previous mistakes.


If anyone cares to discount the dangers of earthquakes, they need only to recall just a few years back, when seven miles

of the Santa Monica freeway had to be rebuilt after the last earthquake to shake southern California.


The dangers of these events are real. and the potential for another seismic event in this region grows each day.


Some concerned citizens wish the Corps of Engineers would take these facts into account before issuing the final permit

for the ConAgra facility.


The rest of us are only left to wonder if our voices are ever heard by those who have the capacity to say "No."

David Coker is an Evansville free lance writer.