Engineers: Let the Land O'Lakes sinkhole reconnect with Lake Padgett

Researchers explain why additional homes have been condemned by Pasco sinkhole, bringing total to 7

LAND O’LAKES, Fla. – A seventh home was condemned on Monday due to a growing sinkhole that scientists say could be trying to connect with Lake Padgett.

“We have had a lot more activity over the weekend, and cracking in some of these foundations,” Pasco County Spokesman Doug Tobin said. “We think it's probably the aggravation of existing depressions.”

The shape of the sinkhole, which led to four homes being condemned over the weekend, might explain why it’s been so unpredictable, according to engineers from the University of South Florida.

Instead of a typical funnel or hourglass, the sinkhole is shaped more like a bowl. 

“That's likely where all this movement is coming from,” USF Engineer Nick Albergo said.

The bowl shape is why the opening at the bottom of the sinkhole could be a longer fissure, said Albergo, who described it as potentially a crack that’s shaped like finger.

“It is elongated,” he said. “And actually travels away from where you might see it manifested at the top of the limestone.”

A natural reconnection?

Homes in the area were built on wetlands that engineers believe could be trying to naturally re-connect, underground and now above ground, with Lake Padgett.

“You look at the aerial shots prior to these homes being built and many of these homes were right in the middle of the lake,” Tobin said.

This could also explain why the edges of the hole keep widening, said officials, who added that water will continue to seep into the sinkhole until its stabilized.

“No different than if you are digging in beach sand, and you're close to the ocean,” Albergo said. “You start with a relatively small hole, you get to the water table, and the next thing you know the walls start falling in.”

USF engineers believe reconnecting this hole to the lake is what’s needed to restore balance.

“What I’m suggesting is that rather than wait and let nature do that on its own, which is unpredictable and less defined,” said Albergo, “Go ahead and cut the channel. Stabilize the banks.”

Once the walls are stabilized, engineers say neighbors should be able to breathe a lot easier.

But Gisela Villa Senor, who lives near the sinkhole, says some residents are doubtful.

“They keep putting dirt in it. And the dirt, is going to keep moving,” she said. “We are nervous because we don't know if it's stable yet.”

Villa Senor said it's unsettling to watch the sinkhole claim more houses.

“I would like to know if they can control it,” she said. “And if this is going to affect the whole area here.”

© 2017 WTSP-TV


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