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What you need to know about sinkholes

My yard is settling. Do I have a sinkhole?

It's possible, but sinking and settling can be caused by a number of factors, including shrinking and expanding clay, buried organic material and broken pipes. If the settling is affecting your house, testing by a licensed engineer with a professional geologist on staff or a professional geology firm may be warranted. Contact your insurance company. Property insurers may pay for testing, but may not cover damage from any settling that is not caused by sinkholes.

I think I do have a sinkhole in my yard. What should I do?

Clean sand or soil often can be used to fill small sinkholes. If the hole is causing the walls in your house to sink, sag or crack, stay out of the house and call your property insurance adjuster. County emergency management offices also frequently assist when a home is in danger.

How long does it take for the sinkhole to stop growing?

When an underground cavity grows to the point where the ground begins to collapse, the hole can take minutes to hours to open. Erosion can continue for several days.

A sinkhole opened in the middle of my street. Whom should I call?

Local law enforcement authorities and the city or county public works department. Private roads generally must be repaired by the owners.

A sinkhole opened in my neighbor's yard. Should I be concerned?

Most sinkholes are isolated. Only if the hole is large is there generally cause for concern.

Will watering the lawn lower the water table level and thus cause sinkholes to develop in our neighborhood?

Private wells for lawns usually are not large enough to cause sinkholes. More likely causes for collapse are drought, heavy pumping of groundwater, new construction, blasting and heavy rainfall.

Is there a government agency that will come and inspect my sinkhole?

There is not. The Florida Geological Survey will answer questions and offer advice on how to handle your situation. The phone number is (850) 488-9380. Also, visit the survey's Web site.

Source: Florida Geological Survey. Read a full list of frequently asked questions and answers, along with contacts and links.

What you need to know about sinkholes 05/07/09 [Last modified: Friday, May 8, 2009 12:31am]
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