SPRING HILL — Efforts to fill in four gaping sinkholes that opened Wednesday afternoon in a Spring Hill retention area have been put on hold until next week when the openings are expected to stabilize, a Hernando County Public Works official said Thursday.
"There's not much we can do until they've stopped settling," Public Works Assistant Director Steve Whitaker said of the sinkholes that developed just west of Mariner Boulevard and north of Elgin Boulevard.
"As far as we're concerned there's no danger,'' he said. "They're in the middle of a retention pond far away from any houses."
Witnesses said that the sinkholes began forming around 3 p.m. Wednesday in a football field-sized retention area on Curry Drive.
Carol Spadafino, who lives about two blocks away from the site, said that her neighbor heard a rattling sound as the ground began to cave in. When she got to the site, one depression had already grown an estimated 40 feet across and 15 feet deep, and had swallowed up parts of a grassy area in the retention area. A few minutes later three smaller sinkholes began to form.
"It's pretty scary because you just don't know how big they're going to get," said Spadafino.
Whitaker said that the sinkholes probably formed as a result of recent heavy rainfall. He added that such holes have been known to occur in retention areas because they are dug several feet below ground level and are closer to the water table.
"When the limerock underneath is weakened it starts to cave in," Whitaker said. "Spring Hill has a number of places where that's bound to happen at any time."
If the sinkholes have sufficiently settled by Monday, crews will begin filling them with a suitable clay material. Meanwhile, the area around the sinkholes remains cordoned off for safety.
Whitaker said that the sinkholes are the first ones reported in Spring Hill in some time and were far less damaging than the ones that appeared near Toledo Road in March, 2006.
Although no homes were damaged by those sinkholes, several home owners reported damaged septic systems and driveways. A cement truck driver narrowly escaped injury when his truck broke through a weak spot in the asphalt.
Logan Neill can be reached at email@example.com or 848-1435.