City has better idea about sinkhole’s cause

Published 11:08 pm Thursday, May 21, 2015

Sometimes it takes looking at a problem from a different perspective to find the answer.

The city of Selma has a better idea of what caused a sinkhole near Church Street and Water Avenue last Saturday after engineers were able to get a closer look.

According to Mayor George Evans, Public Works Director Tommy Smith and the city’s engineering consultant, Ray Hogg, got a better understanding of the hole after examining it from a boat on the Alabama River.

“It was very obvious with what happened when we pulled up next to the bank,” Hogg said. “You could see where the dirt went. It was right there in the river, and it came out of the pipe.”

The hole formed Saturday afternoon after the dirt surrounding a pipe collapsed, causing a telephone pole to fall into the road. The road has been closed at the intersection since the hole formed.

By getting a better look at it, Hogg and Smith know exactly what happened.

“It is because of a corrugated metal pipe, and there’s no telling how old it is. Over time … it corroded and rusted out,” Hogg said. “I think last Friday’s [rain storm] was simply the straw that broke the camel’s back.”

The hole is between 25 and 30 feet wide and more than 20 feet deep, according to both Hogg and Smith.

“You can’t imagine how big the hole is unless you walk up there and look at it. It is huge,” Hogg said.

There are no drawings that tell them where the pipe comes from, but they are positive that it is for storm drainage.

“The pipe probably services all the storm water coming north of Church Street and coming south to the river,” Smith said.

Since looking at the hole early Wednesday, Hogg said it has grown even bigger.

“I went yesterday and looked at it, and then I went down there this morning after the real intense storm we had yesterday afternoon,” Hogg said. “A lot more has washed out, so every time we have a heavy rain time the hole gets worse.”

Hogg and Smith haven’t had much time to come up with a solution, but they agree it won’t be an easy task to fix.

“Finding out what the problem is going to be the easiest part of this because it’s similar to what happened at Bienville Park where we had to replace that pipe last year,” Hogg said. “But [this hole] is much deeper and probably a lot more complicated to fix.”

While the hole is bigger than it was when it first appeared, Hogg said there is no immediate danger.

“I don’t think there is any eminent danger today, but if it is not at least stabilized, over time it could erode back into the road,” Hogg said.

Councilman Cecil William pointed out at Thursday afternoon’s work session that it may be a problem the Army Corp of Engineers can help with.

Mayor Evans said the city is currently looking into grants that could help them fix the problem, which could get expensive by the time it is completed.