continue to ignore earthquake threat
Special to the
Courier & Press
Friday, December 4,
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
subsurface of Posey County and the river in several different
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
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
The dangers of
these events are real. and the potential for another seismic
event in this region grows each day.
citizens wish the Corps of Engineers would take these facts into
account before issuing the final permit
for the ConAgra
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.