Thursday, November 23, 2017
Public safety

Pasco officials plan to test drinking water at stabilized sinkhole

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LAND O'LAKES — The massive sinkhole that destroyed one home and nearly swallowed another last week seems to have stabilized, Pasco County officials reported Monday. But there is much work still to be done at the site, they said, including testing the nearby drinking water.

PREVIOUS COVERAGE:Land O'Lakes sinkhole deepens slightly, now stable

The sinkhole's dimensions remain at 225 feet wide and 50 feet deep, said Assistant County Administrator for Public Safety Kevin Guthrie.

"The sinkhole is indeed dormant," he said. "We are in about hour 50 of no activity, which is good."

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection will perform another water assessment test Monday, officials said. The results are expected to be in by 3 p.m. Tuesday.

What began as a small depression under a boat parked in the front yard of a home along Ocean Pines Drive on Friday quickly grew into a giant pit that destroyed two homes and prompted officials to categorize at least 11 surrounding homes as unsafe.

Four of the 11 affected families were able to return to their homes on Saturday, said Pasco County Public Information Officer Doug Tobin. He said the county will be adding extra security to the neighborhood.

On Wednesday, Duke Energy will be removing power poles so cranes can get close to the sinkhole and begin cleanup efforts. Those electrical lines will be rewired and the poles will be replaced within the day.

Once the cleanup process begins, officials said, the site will become a no-trespassing area. Officials say they don't feel comfortable with the remaining evacuated families returning right away, due to safety concerns.

"We will do everything in our power to get those folks back into their homes as quickly as we can," Guthrie said. "(But) this will be done slowly, deliberately and methodically so we don't do any more damage to the situation than what's already occurred."

All the homeowners have insurance, Guthrie said, though he didn't know the details or extent of their policies. However, there were renters occupying the two destroyed homes and neither had renter's insurance.

"This is just devastating for our community," Pasco County Commissioner Kathryn Starkey said. "I'm very thankful we had no loss of life."

The United Way of Pasco County has started a fund to assist the families, Starkey said. She said all proceeds will go directly to the victims and zero administrative funds will be used.

Anyone interested in donating can text the word SINKHOLE to 41444 or can visit unitedwaypasco.org.

Contact Samantha Putterman at sputterman@tampabay.com. Contact Laura Newberry at lnewberry@tampabay.com

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