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The Journal Gazette
City works to repair Lakeside sinkhole

1930s clay pipe fails; wastewater erodes levee soil

Michelle Davies | The Journal Gazette
Crews work Wednesday on a large sinkhole that collapsed on the Pemberton Dike, a levee built behind Lakeside Middle School to protect the neighborhood from flooding.

– City crews worked Wednesday to fix a failed sewer pipe that created a sinkhole 20 feet deep in a Lakeside neighborhood.

Public Works spokesman Frank Suarez said the 24-inch sewer pipe failed, and the rushing wastewater ate away the soil until it created a hole 10 feet across and 20 feet deep. The clay pipe was installed in the 1930s, Suarez said.

Most of the core of the city, geographically, has sewer pipes between 75 and 99 years old.

Complicating this repair is that the sinkhole is in the Pemberton Dike, a levee built behind Lakeside Middle School to protect the neighborhood from flooding. There is also a gas line there; its yellow pipe now dangles in midair inside the sinkhole at the end of Cody Street, just east of Pemberton Drive.

The smell of raw sewage wafted up from the hole Wednesday morning and rushing wastewater could be heard as it left the broken end of the pipe on the west side of the hole and re-entered it on the east side. Officials have fenced off the area but warn there is significant undermining inside the hole, making it dangerous to approach.

There is also a four-inch pipe running north and south through the hole, but crews Wednesday morning weren’t sure what it carried. The broken sewer pipe and the gas line run east and west through the dike.

Officials aren’t sure when the pipe failed, but the sinkhole it created was reported Tuesday afternoon.

Suarez said crews Wednesday morning had bypassed the broken section so it could be worked on; Wednesday afternoon they were setting up a pump to drain the pipe and sinkhole. Work should be done in a day or two, he said.