NEW PORT RICHEY — The ground depression that opened sometime Tuesday between two homes in the River Ridge area is different from the sinkhole that swallowed a pair of houses in the Land O’ Lakes area in July 2017, Pasco County’s top public safety official said Wednesday morning.
“This is a private matter,” Ken Guthrie, assistant county administrator for public safety, said during a news briefing regarding the hole that opened between houses at 11439 and 11433 Dorian Court, in River Ridge.
Because the hole is not on any public land, the briefing at 11 a.m. Sept. 5 would be Pasco County’s lone comment on the incident, unless something “catastrophic” were to occur, Guthrie said.
“This is an insurance issue, at this point,” Guthrie said the homeowners have been told.
Guthrie stressed that neither family was home at the time the hole opened. One of the homeowners only discovered the hole after returning home from an appointment around 8 p.m. Sept. 4. As a result, county officials “don’t have a time frame” on exactly when the hole opened, he said.
The other family involved in the incident was out of town at the time of the collapse but was headed home Wednesday, Guthrie said.
Both affected families declined help from the Red Cross and are making alternative shelter arrangements, the county said.
The county initially said the hole is roughly 40 feet across and 20 feet deep. Wednesday morning, Anthony Mastracchio, the deputy county building official, said the hole had shown “a little bit of movement” since it was discovered.
Roughly 50 percent of the hole is beneath the house at 11439 Dorian Court, the county said.
The hole is not threatening any other houses at present, Guthrie said. The county, however, does not have a geotechnical engineer on its staff, he said, so he couldn’t provide details on the exact nature of the hole and what had caused it.
The county has posted signs on both houses marking them as unsafe for entry and the homeowners are aware of the potential danger, Guthrie said, adding, however, “we’re not going to post a sentry” to keep people from going in the houses.
The people who were in town Tuesday did go into one of the houses to retrieve insurance papers and other items but then left, Mastracchio said.
Despite the warnings, Guthrie said neither house has suffered any structural damage so far. Whoever built the houses did a “great” job, he said.
In addition to destroying two houses in the Lake Padgett area of Land O’ Lakes last year, the large sinkhole there prompted the county to declared five other nearby houses unfit for habitation.
The county looked into ways to try to fix the area around the Land O’ Lakes sinkhole but officials in January determined the best course was to do nothing other than carry out some stabilization of the area and repair the public roadway damaged by the hole. The rest of the damage was a private matter, officials said.