Thursday, October 8, 2009

Caves and Hydrology of Martin Mountain, Beans Cove, PA.

This detailed report of the existing physical conditions of Martin Mountain is submitted by Don Carns, Jr. It is reference to proposed housing developments and how these physical conditions could be affected by such developments.

I, Don Carns Jr., have been exploring and searching caves since I was 14 years old. I am now 53 years old. I am an acknowledge authority on tri-state caves. I am a National Speological Society member. I have been working on and exploring Martin Mountain in Beans Cove since 1973. I opened John Long’s Cave, Eby’s Cave No. 2 and New Years Cave. I have a list of 8 more caves to be opened. It is acknowledged in the caving community that Martin Mountain in Beans Cove probably has within it the largest cave system in the state of Pennsylvania.

There are numerous caves located on the ridge along with a large amount of sinks that receive surface water that quickly drains into the water table of Beans Cove. The known caves in the vicinity and on the property of Gladys Long (now deceased) are John Long’s Cave (1974), a hole along a fence on Long’s farm that is now temporarily closed and close to Lost Run, a sinkhole located in the field between Long’s barn and Keating’s farm (it is now filled by has been sinking for a number of years as reported by John Long prior to his death), Eby’s Cave No. 1 (formerly known as Donahoe Cave), Eby’s Cave No. 2. ( 1974), New Years Cave (1982), and the area on Donald Eby’s farm where Lost Run (the spot that gave the run its name) used to flow into (now by-passed by rerouting Lost Run). These two farms, Eby and Long, have many sinks on the properties, of which 90% receive water. There are closed caves on the properties opposite the Long and Keating farms such as Skull Cave, Sliding Rock Cave, a closed cave on the old “Morris” farm and active slumping (sinks). A cave is reported on the property line of the Covenant Village. Vernon Hendrikson took me to a closed sink on his property which, if cleaned out, would reveal cave passage. Developers could not close John Long’s Cave, a highly decorated and beautiful cave, because when it was surveyed in 1982, 18 rare bats were found in it! It must remain open for these bats to enter and leave. This is mandated by the Pennsylvania Cave Protection Act, No. 1990-133, SB 867, signed into law November 21, 1990.

In Chapter 3, Section 12 of the book, Tales of the Allegheny Foothills, the author, Vaughn Whisker of Everett, Pennsylvania, writes of Sinkholes and Springs. Beans Cove and Lost Run are cited with details.

In the late 70’s, a survey crew was sent out in the Beans Cove area to test for natural gas. The crew and John Long reported to me that on Long’s farm alone every hole drilled on that property had drilled through a cave. These holes were only 65 feet deep! On the adjacent farm, it was said that natural gas was hit on one test hole, again a hold 65 feet deep.

This ridge also has a fault line that runs its length. It was discovered when New Years Cave was opened and explored to its depth known thus far. It is known to the caving community as Kettermans Fault. Near Hidden Springs Camp Grounds is reported a place in the field where a person can hear water running under the ground’s surface. There are sinks located along Rice’s Road; they that are deep, but contain trash tossed in them since who knows when. A blow hole is also located on Rice’s farm. The blow hole indicates a large passage below the ridge. They, too, are inlets for ground water and one, if cleaned, would reveal a cave. In the summer of 2005, John Ganter, a government map maker and professional caver, did a brief one day “ground survey” of this mountain from Rice’s Road to the end of Eby’s farm. He mapped the sinks and sink holes that he saw in his walk. There are a lot of them; most are natural inlets for our drinking water. He did not see all of them.

My point is this: Martin Mountain is solid limestone with a sandstone cap from Maryland into Pennsylvania. The limestone is severely eroded; thus, there are caves and sinks in and on it. These caves and sinks receive water. All the caves receive water and 90% of the sinks drain water into the water table. If any housing were to occur on that ridge, the septic systems would drain into the water table quickly through these natural conduits and the eroded limestone below. Well contamination would normally take 50 to 100 years to occur, but with the existing natural conditions, would occur in a matter of a few years. After all, water and sewage drain downward into the ground, not upward like a geyser! The eroded limestone accelerates the process. These conduits include caves located just below the surface without an opening to the surface. I am sure there are many. The risk here is our wells being contaminated by these proposed housing developments. It is not actually a risk; it would be a sure thing! Any housing development may cause collapse of the passage below (due to the weight of structures on a weak cave roof) or the drilling of wells may cause sinkholes when an underground water cavity is drained. This could lead to property loss of a collapsing house or even injury or death. It happens in Florida and even in nearby Frederick County in Maryland. The hole by the fence near Lost Run on Long’s farm is an example. It just appeared one day with no warning! Two other sinks on the adjoining farm appeared suddenly; they were 15-20 feet across and 10 + feet deep! The area in dispute at this moment is Long’s farm. Interestingly enough, it and the areas adjoining it are also the sites of the most cave activity. This ridge is great for farming but not for housing.

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