More sinkholes in The Villages
Article Courtesy of The Daily Commercial
|By BILL KOCH
Daily Commercial Staff Writer
Posted July 27, 2002
THE VILLAGES - Keeping news about sinkholes mum is becoming increasingly difficult in The Villages.
In the last two months, an estimated 20 sinkholes have opened in the sprawling retirement community of about 25,000, billed as “Florida’s Friendliest Hometown.”
“I ain’t very happy,” Baranowski said. “[Officials for The Villages] say it’s OK and that there’s no problem, but that’s not the case. They don’t admit it’s not the first time it’s happened.”
Baranowski has pictures of the two sinkholes at Lake Oakleigh and Lake Huntingdon at the Oakleigh Golf Course in The Villages of Marion.
Crews last week worked to bolster the foundation of a newly built home with cement after a 12-foot-wide sinkhole opened Wednesday in the Sunbury Place of Belaire subdivision of The Villages.
Sinkholes, engineer Nicholas Andreyev says, are facts of life in Florida that area residents have to learn to accept.
“Basically they’re everywhere,” he said. “There’s hundreds that have occurred with the change of weather.”
Andreyev, a consultant for The Villages, has investigated about 300 sinkholes since the rainy season began two months ago.
Andreyev said near-to-the-surface underground limestone ridges are to blame for making the terrain in west-central Florida especially prone to sinkholes. The area’s recent heavy rains have aggravated conditions by putting pressure on mostly low-lying surfaces which cause the sudden depression of land.
“We are going through this period of change. We’ll probably see more [sinkholes] in the ponds,” Andreyev said. “When [the weather] equalizes, it’ll stop.” He predicts the occurrence of sinkholes will drastically lessen at the end of September when the rainy season ends.
Andreyev said residents of The Villages shouldn’t worry about their houses dropping into sinkholes, which are rare on the higher foundation ground used in construction.
At least four sinkholes opened on land behind Dalton Drive in the Villas of St. Simons of The Villages last month, one in a resident’s backyard. Those sinkholes caused a stir in the Dalton Drive neighborhood. A number of residents complained that they paid $43,000 and $55,000 premiums for a “water view” when they purchased their houses only to witness their 4-acre backyard pond disappear within hours.
“I asked for a water view,” Dalton Drive resident Barbara Down said last month. “I’m a little hot under the collar now. You can’t sell homes with sinkholes.”
A record-length three-year drought has caused underground water levels to drop to record lows, causing fears among most local and environmental groups of looming water shortages. Sinkholes usually occur during the rainy weather following a dry spell.
Add to that Sumter County’s location. It is the Southwest Florida Water Management District’s northern-most county.
“The further you move north in this district
the closer the aquifer moves to the surface,” said water district spokesman
Michael Molligan. “In Hillsborough County and to the north you start getting
more sinkhole activity because the clay confining layer is thin enough
to be breached. The thinner the layer, the more possibility you have of
sinkholes opening. But it’s hard to predict with any accuracy where they
are going to happen.”