Giant Sinkhole Threatens To Swallow West Virginia Police Station

Caused by a failing 90-year-old drain beneath the road, the sinkhole is spurring construction of a temporary bridge — and an impending $5 million permanent fix.

An enormous sinkhole in Hinton, West Virginia, that has threatened to swallow the town’s police station on Route 20 has spurred officials from the state Division of Highways to pour fill material under the road and start construction of a 120-foot bridge over the hole, per CNN.

“We just put it together like a big Lego set,” said Joe Pack, chief engineer of district operations of the West Virginia Division of Highways, in a press release Friday.

The sinkhole first appeared in June and was initially 6 feet wide and 30 feet deep. The police department moved personnel from the building in July and expects the building will eventually have to be demolished, WVNS-TV reported. Fill material proved to be a successful solution for under the road until rains from Hurricane Nicole earlier this month washed it all out — and made the sinkhole even bigger.

Construction of a temporary bridge began Saturday and is expected to take 24 to 48 hours. Officials will ultimately have to replace the 90-year-old drain beneath the road, which caused the collapse in the first place, with a new, permanent 300-foot steel alternative.

Several schools in the area were forced to move their classes online as a result of the gaping depression. David Warvel, the superintendent of schools in Summers County, told CNN that all sixth- to 12th-graders attended class remotely for all of last week.

The sinkhole was initially 6 feet wide and 30 feet deep but has only grown larger.
The sinkhole was initially 6 feet wide and 30 feet deep but has only grown larger.
West Virginia Department of Transportation

In-person learning will return when the bridge is built, while the permanent steel drainage structure is proving to be a more complicated issue. The state will soon be accepting bids for a contract for its construction, according to state Sen. Stephen Baldwin.

“A long term fix has been identified and will be put out to bid ASAP,” Baldwin wrote on Facebook. “It will cost around $5 million. The state will pay for it.”

According to the West Virginia Geological and Economic Survey, the state’s eastern region, which includes Summers County, is made of karst terrain — which is prone to sinkholes due to its porous limestone material and various other soluble rock formations.

Sinkholes are usually caused when the acidic groundwater dissolves that limestone — and other soluble rocks like salt beds, domes, gypsum and various carbonate rocks — and the ground beneath the soil gives way, according to the United States Geological Survey.

As it stands, construction of the bridge should be completed by the end of the day Monday, and the next stage of a more permanent fix will commence soon.

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