Sinkholes in south side neighborhood remain mystery

Published: May. 31, 2013 at 5:46 AM EDT|Updated: May. 31, 2013 at 11:32 AM EDT
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SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) - Sinkholes on Savannah's south side have been eroding a residential block, and the reason remains a mystery.

Kenneth Gardner said the 4-foot deep sinkhole beside his Quail Hollow Court driveway appeared overnight. After a sinkhole swallowed a Tampa man in his home in March, the one in his front yard makes Gardner nervous.

"When you think back to the news of that gentleman in his bed and the hole opened up and swallowed him and they never found the body, yeah it kind of makes you wonder whether you'll step out the front door and find everything gone."

Gardner's neighbor had a similar sinkhole appear suddenly in his driveway. Several homes on the block have cracked driveways and obvious dips in their front yards.

WTOC called the city and a crew was sent out Thursday afternoon to find the cause of the problem. City spokesman Bret Bell said leaking or broken water or sewer lines are the likely cause. Test results are expected Friday.

Eric Johnson - president of the engineering firm Hussey, Gay, Bell and Deyong and former state senator - inspected the property Thursday at WTOC's request.

"The (sinkholes) you see on national TV, the big ones, have to do with limestone and the rock that washes away," Johnson said. "Our rock is 200 feet down, so this is unlikely to be a traditional sinkhole. It's more likely to be a washout from a leaking sewer pipe or storm water pipe that's washed the dirt out underneath. Or it could be that there's old debris, landfill out here that's rotted and pulled out."

The prevailing theory in the neighborhood is that fill dirt is to blame. Residents believe when this subdivision was built in the 1980s, the developer dredged a pond and filled in the lots where the affected homes sit.

The city of Savannah asks that anyone with a sinkhole, washout or other erosion issues call the city helpline by dialing 311.

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