Record rain has caused large number of sinkholes

Stuck truck 3.jpg

An Elizabeth City sanitation truck is shown stuck in a sinkhole on East Burgess Street, Tuesday, Aug. 7. City officials said the recent record rainfall is helping cause a number of sinkholes in roads in the city.


By Jon Hawley
Staff Writer

Saturday, August 11, 2018

In Elizabeth City, a new symptom of last month's record rainfall has popped up — or down, as the case happens to be.

City officials on Thursday complained of numerous sinkholes forming in roads, the worst still being the one on East Burgess Street. That hole caught a city garbage truck last week.

City Manager Rich Olson said Thursday that the truck, hoisted out by crane, was damaged but still operational. Public Utilities Director Amanda Boone said a utility line collapsed under East Burgess Street due to intense rainfall.

Olson reported city crews have fixed the sinkhole on East Burgess and filled it with dirt and gravel, as they have for sinkholes on McMorrine and Raleigh streets. Once the dirt and gravel have settled, the city will put a patch over them, he added.

City officials on Thursday and Friday also reported sinkholes in Selden, Church and Byrum streets, all apparently due to Elizabeth City getting almost a foot of rain last month.

Olson said it's unusual for so many sinkholes to form in a short time, but said he's not concerned about widespread damage to city utilities. Sinkholes can indicate compromised water and sewer lines.

However, the Burgess Street sinkhole lends urgency to the city's sewer project for Burgess Street. Olson and Boone said the project remains a high priority, but they couldn't rule out cutting it from this year's budget. The city may have to push back the project to afford an even higher-priority water project, they said.

The higher-priority project involves fixing deficiencies with the city's reservoir for untreated water. State officials have cited the city for allowing too much bacterial contamination in the reservoir, though city officials maintain the city's water treatment still makes the water safe to drink.

Olson has estimated putting a cover over the reservoir could cost $500,000, an expense the city hasn't budgeted for.