Two houses condemned, cleanup resumes after Pasco sinkhole widens about 30 feet

Cleanup work resumes after two days of earth shifting at the edges.
Published August 5 2017
Updated August 6 2017

LAND O'LAKES — Contractors have resumed sinkhole cleanup after halting the operation when huge pieces of shoreline collapsed into the hole Thursday and Friday nights.

Building inspectors also condemned two homes Friday night that had previously been evacuated.

The destabilizations have widened the sinkhole by about 30 feet, pushing it to an estimated 260 feet at its widest point.

Officials aren't sure what caused the destabilization, but think seismic vibrations from trucks and construction equipment around the hole could be to blame.

However, Kevin Guthrie, assistant county administrator of public safety in Pasco, said widening was expected with increased activity and there's no reason to believe the hole is active.

The sinkhole opened July 14, destroying two homes and forcing the evacuation of another 11 residences. Five of those houses were cleared for residents to return two days later. Not all have, fearing more problems with the massive pit outside their homes.

The two additional homes were condemned Friday night after building inspectors found their foundations had shifted. Inside, inspectors found buckled tile, cracked walls and split granite.

Guthrie said he personally met with the homeowners and that they were relieved, saying this gives them some closure and ends the worry of wondering what will happen to their home.

In resuming sinkhole cleanup, contractors have begun dumping truckloads of crushed limestone and boulders into the hole to stabilize one side. Today, workers are expected to push a small platform barge equipped with an excavator into the void to begin removing debris from the middle.

Guthrie said that in cleaning the sinkhole, the top priority is to be deliberate and methodical to ensure no one gets hurt.

"If we have to slow down, we slow down," he said. "Speed is not of the essence here."

Guthrie said the cleanup will take two to three weeks barring any more problems with the hole's edges.

The Pasco County Commission awarded Ceres Environmental Services the $640,000 contract early last week to clean the sinkhole. Contractors began picking debris off the surface Thursday before having to halt on Friday.

Officials are also still waiting on results from the Department of Health after testing area wells for contamination.

Contact Chris Bowling at cbowling@tampabay.com or at (813) 435-7308. Follow @chrismbowling.

             
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