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Raising Awareness of the Dangers of Abandoned Quarries in the United States

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Abandoned Quarries claimed the lives of over forty people in the United States last year alone, including my 19-year-old son Jonathan Baksh. He was an excellent swimmer, but was unaware of the dangers abandoned quarries pose, when he traveled out of state to go swimming with his friends. He grew up in an area where there are no quarries, therefore quarry safety education programs were not taught at our schools, and quarry danger was not common knowledge in our community.

Quarries and mines are a fundamental part of the economy and are located in every state in the U.S. Once they are no longer financially viable, they are often abandoned and naturally become filled with underground water. On a hot summer day, they may look like the perfect place for a swim, but they are dangerous and deadly.

There are over 500,000 abandoned mines and quarries in the U.S. and the Dangers associated with these quarries are:

  • More dangerous than other bodies of water
  • Often have beautiful and inviting waters
  • Their increase in popularity is spread via social media without knowledge of the dangers
  • Deceptively deep waters at extremely cold temperatures, which can cause sudden cramps when swimming
  • Slippery slopes and unstable rock ledges
  • Hidden underwater dangers such as sharp objects, old machinery, junk cars, debris, etc.
  • Strong hidden under currents
  • NO lifeguards on duty
  • Rescue services are remote, and access is limited

The U.S. Department of Labor, Mine Safety and Health Administration (msha.gov) created a program Stay Out Stay Alive which is intended to educate the public about the dangers of abandoned mines. Unfortunately, the program is underfunded and too many lives are lost each year because young people do not learn of the dangers which abandoned mines and quarries pose.  

The Stay Out Stay Alive campaign is in place in the United Kingdom and it has been implemented to greater effect, bringing this lifesaving information to many more people, schools and communities. The same issues exist here in the U.S. wherever there are active and abandoned quarries, and we can all learn from sharing with each other. They have an active Facebook campaign page here: https://www.facebook.com/

Awareness of the dangers of abandoned quarries has to be initiated in form of a public safety campaign. We request that the existing campaign Stay Out Stay Alive be enacted as part of national awareness program in our schools similar to road safety or anti-drug campaigns.

Ten states with the most quarry deaths (2001-2013) via Geology.com

  • Ohio - 24
  • Pennsylvania - 19
  • California - 16
  • Arizona - 11
  • Indiana 12
  • Illinois - 10
  • Iowa - 9
  • Missouri - 9
  • Wisconsin - 9
  • New Jersey - 9

Jonathan's Story:

Photo courtesy of Mineral Products Association of Northern Ireland. Many thanks to the Department of the Environment, Northern Ireland for sources and information.



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