Cleanup of a massive sinkhole in the Lake Padgett community in Land O’ Lakes was expected to begin as early as this week, weather permitting.
The Pasco County Commission approved $1.3 million to remove the debris, eliminate the public health threat and secure the site. The action came at a special July 31 board meeting.
Here’s the breakdown on the board’s $1.3 million expenditure:
- Debris removal at 21825 Ocean Pines Drive and 21835 Ocean Pines Drive by Ceres Environmental Services: $640,099
- Fill, from various contractors: $300,000
- Water hauling (Environ Waste): $30,000
- Tip fees: $14,750
- Initial response expenditures: $78,194
- Contingencies: $237,137
The $1.3 million is for the initial “phase one” cleanup, not the absolute sinkhole repair of completely filling the site, grading it and so on, according to county officials.
After phase one is finished, the county will take a break and determine what to do from there.
Regarding the debris removal by Ceres Environmental Services, County Administrator Dan Biles said the company first will try the dragline methodology, via a long-reach excavator.
The company may also resort to other methods to complete the task, Biles said.
Ceres will remove and dispose of floating debris, will pump and remove contaminated water, and will stabilize the southeast portion of the sinkhole with granular fill.
The cleanup task should take somewhere between two to four weeks, Biles said.
During a July 27 news conference, Kevin Guthrie, the assistant county administrator for public safety, said “I want everybody to have a clear understanding the county is not going to pay taxpayer dollars to completely remediate the sinkhole, bring it back up to pristine condition as it was before and step away.
“We are removing the immediate danger of life and health, which is the debris and the contamination, and then we will move on to that next phase, whatever the (County Commission’s) wishes are at that point in time.”
The sinkhole originally opened on July 14 at 21825 Ocean Pines Drive, where it engulfed two homes and a boat.
The now “dormant” sinkhole measures 235 feet wide and approximately 50 feet deep — believed to be the largest in county history. Despite extensive property damage caused by the disaster, no injuries have been reported.
Possible long-term options range from leaving the sinkhole alone, to filling and repairing the sinkhole, or connecting it to a nearby lake. Estimates on filling the entire sinkhole would require approximately 135,000 cubic yards of dirt.
Determining that next step, Guthrie said, will be a “methodical process.”
Guthrie added: “We probably have about three actual, doable contingencies. We will be talking to the board about what their possibilities are, along with the associated costs.
“We’re going to let the board make some important decisions, because at the end of the day, it’s…the taxpayer’s money, and we need to make sure we’re doing the right things by the taxpayers,” Guthrie said.
Last week, the county sent out demand letters and notice of financial responsibility to the homeowners, renters, and companies that did remediation work in the past.
Guthrie reiterated the sinkhole damage is a private matter between each affected party’s insurance company, and the county eventually will seek as much reimbursement as possible.
However, at least one of those insurers has told the county it’s not their problem. And, another argues they’ve already paid a property owner and have no further liability.
Meanwhile, five families still remain displaced. Pasco County Community Services has collaborated with United Way of Pasco to provide 90-day relocation assistance for the affected renters and property owners.
And, over the past week, site activity — including presence from county agencies —began tapering off, after a fencing enclosure was installed on the roadway leading up to the sinkhole on Ocean Pines Drive.
That didn’t stop some residents and sightseers from getting a firsthand look at the destruction.
William Dillon, a Land O’ Lakes resident, marveled at the site Friday evening.
“It’s going to be quite a project getting that stuff out of there,” he said.
He also expressed sympathy for the families affected.
“I just feel sorry for them,” he said. “It’s just terrible.”
Nancy Teague, a nearby Lake Padgett resident, likewise, was in awe of the sinkhole.
“Can you imagine how many millions (of dollars) it would take in concrete to fill it?”
Published August 2, 2017