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The Tentacle


September 25, 2003

Are Sinkholes Truly A Serious Concern? You Betcha!

David 'Kip' Koontz

Sinkholes are things you don't think about until they happen. In Frederick, they happen more often than you would think, but, hey, one of the industries that have been successful in Frederick County is quarrying, so one has to expect that some sinkholes would occur.

The problem, though, might be where they are occurring in relationship to where we have allowed development, or where there are important components of our infrastructure.

The sinkholes that come to mind most frequently are those that sink in around the Lafarge quarry on Reich's Ford Road.

Though one can't forget that while in office County Commissioner David Gray's backyard in Walkersville was struck by a sinkhole, and not too long ago a sinkhole opened up on New Design Road, not all that far from former County Commissioner Ilona Hogan's house - places not too distant from other quarries.

Not too many years ago, on Interstate 70 a series of sinkholes opened along the east bound lane of the Lafarge quarry between Market and South streets to the north of the quarry's edge.

Tests were done, with monitoring taking place in the ground about every three feet to see if there was the potential for additional potholes in that area.

This is the area near where the East Street/I-70 interchanges is being built and very, very close to where a 5,500 square foot, 40 feet deep sinkhole that opened up during Tuesday’s rainstorm, closing I-70 and MARC service for most of the day.

Additionally who can't forget the gentleman driving home from a night of enjoyment only to find himself and his car swallowed up by a sinkhole on South Street/Reich's Ford Road right under the I-70 bridge on the east side of this same quarry?

Recently, two sinkholes opened in the office complex where I work off Spectrum Drive on the southwest side of this same quarry.

We regularly feel the blasts used to loosen the stone from its bedrock.

Between my office and the quarry's edge sits more offices, a hotel, several restaurants, Target, Home Depot, Border's, Staples and many other stores.

I only point this out, not to cause fear, but because I have to question are those who authorized construction so close to a quarry's edge sure that the potential for a sinkhole opening up under one of the retail establishments isn't a possibility?

After all, we were told that the area on I-70 near where the behemoth sinkhole just opened up was given the a-okay.

I am concerned for our safety as while it may be a one in a billion or so odds (who know?) that the new East Street/I-70 interchanges may experience a sinkhole, or that one may open under a retail establishment, is anyone looking into the ground around this area in light of its history and current events to ensure that it is safe?

Should they be?

Maybe they are hoping that the current rains will replenish the water table (which have been depleted by mining and the drought) hence shoring them up enough to ensure long-term safety.

It would be my hope that some kind of experts will do an in-depth study of this area to see if indeed safety is a concern.

In the meantime, should we all tread lightly?



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