There’s a new documentary in the works about Centralia, Pennsylvania and its infamous mine fire. The film is called RED ASH: Burning Rights. It’s being produced by a team led by Lys Sparrow and Gianfranco Serraino.
RED ASH: Burning Rights isn’t your traditional documentary about Centralia PA. It doesn’t entirely focus on the story of how the mine fire started and why it forced the town’s residents to relocated.
Instead, RED ASH uses Centralia as a backdrop for exploring the environmental impact of using coal as a fuel source. In particular, it looks at the disposal of fly ash – a potentially hazardous byproduct of burning coal.
Fly ash is closely connected to the efforts to contain Centralia Pennsylvania’s mine fire. It was pumped into the abandoned mines and used in the late 1960s and early 1970s to form a barrier to prevent the fire from burning under the town.
Unfortunately, this effort was not successful. By the early 1980s it was clear that the fly ash barrier had been breached, and the mine fire was moving under the borough of Centralia PA.
Besides the failure to protect Centralia, RED ASH raises additional concerns about the use and disposal of fly ash. It explores how heavy metals can leach out of the ash and into groundwater. This is timely given the announcement of a fly ash project in Locust Summit, Pennsylvania just west of Centralia.
The documentary also examines the numerous conspiracy theories surrounding the efforts to extinguish the Centralia mine fire. These include the idea that the federal government hoped to relocate the residents of the town in order to access billions of dollars worth of anthracite coal.
RED ASH: Burning Rights is still in production. Once completed, it should be a fascinating look at the environmental issues connected with Centralia PA and the fly ash used to contain its mine fire. You can view two trailers for the film on this page, or visit the film’s official website here.