NEW PORT RICHEY — A large hole in the ground that swallowed up a portion of Spring Haven Boulevard, some fencing and a bit of a restaurant’s private property refuses to be filled.
Pasco County Emergency Management reported on the afternoon of Jan. 14 that the geological phenomenon previously described as a depression is now a confirmed sinkhole.
County crews first responded to the opening more than three months ago, on the morning of Oct. 5. The sinkhole is on the west side of Little Road, north of State Road 54, at the intersection with Spring Haven Boulevard. The sinkhole is not affecting Little Road and isn’t in the public right-of-way. It’s affecting the Spring Haven Homeowner’s Association and the Varsity Club sports bar and restaurant, and a portion of another nearby residential complex, meaning that a private engineering firm was obtained to assess and fill the sinkhole, not Pasco County Emergency Management.
Justin James is the president and CEO of Tampa-based Basic Engineering Inc., the firm hired to work on the situation since October. During a Jan. 14 phone interview, he said the company has believed the area has been showing sinkhole activity since it first opened. He said a pair of broken water lines may have skewed early assessments of the surrounding and underlying topography.
“The hole you can see is nothing compared to the hole you can’t see,” Jones said.
A county press release stated that efforts to fill the hole began Jan. 7, but by Jan. 11 “the fill material started to collapse back into the hole.” The county reported that the hole has grown about another 4 feet on the north side and is now about 50 feet wide.
The hole had been measured at about 46 feet wide and 130 feet deep once it stabilized about a week after opening in October. About 60 feet of that depth was below the visible water line, earlier reports stated.
A truer assessment of the sinkhole’s size and depth began coming into focus during recent attempts to fill it.
The basics of the fill process involve filling the hole with dirt, followed by pumping in concrete grout to solidify and stabilize the area, Jones said.
Jones said that about 800 cubic yards of dirt were initially pumped into the sinkhole before it reopened. Another 2,000 cubic yards have been pumped in and he believes crews are still 20-30 feet away from getting out of the ground water.
Jones said the sinkhole could be filled with soil and grout by sometime this week. How the ground responds remains more difficult to predict, however.
The county reported that the sinkhole remains wholly on private property and that the outside, southbound lane of Little Road remains closed.