Pasco’s recommended sinkhole fix: Leave it

Pasco County staff has recommended installing a decorative fence around the massive sinkhole that opened last summer in the Lake Padgett Estates community in Land O' Lakes. [LUIS SANTANA   |   Times]
Pasco County staff has recommended installing a decorative fence around the massive sinkhole that opened last summer in the Lake Padgett Estates community in Land O' Lakes. [LUIS SANTANA | Times]
Published January 30
Updated January 30

DADE CITY ó Pasco County officials say itís too expensive and unsafe to try to repair a massive sinkhole in the Lake Padgett Estates neighborhood.

The recommended fix, offered by Kevin Guthrie, assistant county administrator for public safety, is to install a decorative fence and do some cleanup work. The estimated cost is $50,000.

"That will not fly," Christie Zimmer, a real estate agent and Lake Padgett Estates resident, said before the Pasco Commission met Tuesday in Dade City to discuss possible fixes.

The cavity, originally estimated at 230 feet wide and 50 feet deep, swallowed two homes and left seven more uninhabitable after it opened July 14 on Ocean Pines Drive. It is now about 10 feet deep and resembles a drainage pond.

A plan favored by residents at earlier community meetings called for rebuilding Ocean Pines Drive. Thatís no longer considered safe because of the unstable underground and the potential for further environmental damage from the construction work.

Could someone be driving down the road someday and have it fall in?

"I will tell you," Guthrie said to commissioners, "we cannot eliminate that as a possibility."

Commissioners previously panned two ideas as too expensive: grouting the hole and restoring the site to its previous condition for use as a passive recreation park carried an estimated price tag of $8 million to $12 million; building a bridge over the sinkhole could cost up to $4 million.

That left two options: leaving Ocean Pines Drive closed and installing a $50,000 decorative fence around the unrepaired hole or buying at least two condemned houses and connecting the hole to nearby Lake Saxon. However, under the latter option, the county would have to build two cul-de-sacs to maintain traffic flow, bringing the expected cost to $2.5 million. Guthrie said the county also would need to acquire environmental permits to connect to the lake, which could cost as much as $100,000.

The county considered installing sheet metal pilings on both sides of Ocean Pines Drive, effectively damming the sinkhole water, and rebuilding the residential street between the pilings. The estimated cost was $800,000.

But additional geotechnical studies indicated that some of the suggested repairs would need at least $500,000 worth of grouting. Installing the pilings, initially considered a likely alternative, is now being called "highly problematic, cost prohibitive (and) not recommended," according to information provided to commissioners.

"Weíre abandoning the idea of rebuilding that road," County Engineer Margaret Smith said.

Commissioners asked their staffers to study whether they could install a T-intersection to allow public safety vehicles to turn around on Ocean Pines Drive. Guthrie said he will schedule additional community meetings before reporting back to commissioners for a final decision.

Contact C.T. Bowen at [email protected] or (813) 435-7306. Follow @CTBowen2.

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