Barhite: Sinking feeling: What’s with all the sinkhole news?Written by Brandi Barhite | Community Ombudsman | firstname.lastname@example.org
It seems like every week there is another report of a sinkhole. A man disappears when a giant sinkhole opens in his bedroom. A sinkhole swallows part of a resort near Walt Disney. World A sinkhole closes a road.
I turned to Lewis Land, a geologist with the New Mexico Bureau of Geology and Mineral Resources, who said evidence indicates that sinkhole development has increased because of a spike in groundwater pumping for irrigation.
Land said true sinkholes are karst features; a karst is a type of landform that results when circulating groundwater dissolves soluble bedrock like limestone and gypsum. Land said almost the entire state of Florida sits on limestone bedrock.
In addition to the Sunshine State, Land said sinkholes are common in western Illinois, western Kentucky, southern New Mexico, Puerto Rico, Jamaica and southern China, among others.
In Toledo, the June sinkhole was caused by the collapse of combined sanitary and storm sewers.
“Many of the sinkholes we read about in the papers are caused by old sewer lines or water lines that have caved in, causing overlying roadways and parking lots to collapse,” Land wrote in an email.
When it comes to sinkholes, most people think of the standard model, he said, which involves the collapse of a cave roof. However, this type of sinkhole is rare.
When a cave forms in the underlying bedrock, the overlying sand or clay might wash down into it and create a cavity in the soil, according to Land. If the soil is well-compacted, a soil arch could form over the cavity and collapse, causing the most damage.
“Those are the types of sinkholes that always make the news,” Land said.
But why does it seem that every type of sink hole — damaging or not — is in the news lately?
The reason is actually quite simple.
Land said we hear more about sinkholes these days because of growing populations, especially in the sinkhole mecca of Florida. More witnesses equal more reporting of sinkholes.
That seems like a solid theory.
Brandi Barhite is the community ombudsman for Toledo Free Press and Toledo Free Press Star. She can be reached at email@example.com.