Exuding passion and tireless energy day after day as a research scholar, professor, and author may be exhausting for some, but for Dr. Glenn Stracher, East Georgia State College professor of geology and physics, it’s simply a way of life. For more than fifteen years, Dr. Glenn Stracher has been working diligently on the enormous coal and peat-fires research project, gathering information for it from all over the world.
Dr. Stracher recently he was contacted by Pennsylvania’s E-Trib, a digital new edition, on his research dealing with coal fires of that state. E-Trib is an upgraded edition of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, Greensburg Tribute Review, and the Tarentum Valley News Dispatch.
A top story in the E-Trib was that Pennsylvania’s Department of Environmental Protection announced last week that they would spend $1.4 million to put out several coal fires burning near the Pittsburgh International Airport. These fires now threaten to disrupt air travel and cause an explosion at a major gas pipeline.
A coal fire burning for many years sounds extraordinary, but underground long-burning fires are relatively common in the state, thanks to Pennsylvania’s abundance of abandoned coal waste piles and closed underground mines. The coal in the piles and mines act as a readily ignitable fuel source, should a stray ember from a cigarette or a lightning bolt strike in the right place. The toxins from the fires leach into the soil and groundwater, as well as the air, where they contribute unnecessary carbon dioxide to the world’s already overburdened atmosphere.
Dr. Stracher added, “There are people who work around the world in mines and the coal piles are right outside their houses. There’s smoke all over the place and people get sick from the gases. But it’s not as visible a disaster as a tsunami or hurricane, so fires get less media attention, but it’s still a worldwide phenomenon.”
Stracher continued, “Thousands of such coal fires are burning around the world on every continent except Antarctica. The United States is home to hundreds across several states, including Pennsylvania, Alabama, Colorado, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming. But you hear very, very little about these coal fires, and they’re an international problem. He points out that a typical coal spoil fire emits 45 to 55 gases, some of which are toxic and carcinogenic.”
Stracher’s research into coal-fires has been publicized by media worldwide including Australia, England, Japan, China, and the United States by international radio, television, and publications such as National Geographic and American Mineralogist.
Dr. Stracher began his teaching career at East Georgia College, (now East Georgia State College) in 1992 and is an internationally known research scientist, frequently cited and consulted about his important work with catastrophic coal mine fires burning around the world. In addition, he is an outstanding teacher, exceptionally devoted to his students, exemplified by multiple listings in “Who's Who Among America's Teachers” and “Who’s Who in America, Science and Engineering.”
Realizing the global significance of wild coal fires and the fact that little was known about them, Dr. Stracher seriously began investigating these fires in 2001. Since that time and starting from scratch, Dr. Stracher has established an international collaborative research effort devoted to investigating all aspects of coal fires burning around the world. He has established international collaborative research projects with scientists and engineers from North America, Europe, South Africa, and Asia. These projects are devoted to investigating the origin, environmental, and health effects of coal fires, the methods used to combat the fires, and the by-products of coal combustion including gases exhaled from surficial vents and fissures as well as the condensation products of combustion. His work has resulted in numerous publications in peer reviewed journals including a publication in the International Journal of Mathematical Geology in which he mathematically derived a pressure-temperature stability diagram, for the condensation of anthracite gas, from thermodynamic data in the literature.
Hundreds of coal fires burning around the world occur in opencast and underground mines. Many of these fires are burning out of control and efforts to extinguish them have failed or are cost prohibitive. The overall effects of coal fires on the health of earth demand intense study because of their sizeable contribution to the myriad of environmental pollutants induced by human activities.
Coal fires produce environmentally catastrophic effects including land subsidence, the emission of noxious gases into the atmosphere, and stream and soil pollution. As a consequence, floral and faunal habitats are destroyed. These fires are responsible for numerous human diseases including skeletal fluorosis, hyperkeratosis due to arsenosis, lung cancer, bronchitis, stroke, pulmonary heart disease, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.