LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WHAS11) — When a Florida sinkhole opened up in February, 2013 and swallowed a man whole, Americans began focusing on the dangers of sinkholes. Then on April 23, a sinkhole in Chicago caved in taking three cars with it. The hole itself was 320 feet deep. Both gained national attention and for many people that live along the Bullitt County and Jefferson County line, it’s the fear they live with every day.
You don’t have to walk too far in Kentuckiana without seeing some kind of sinkhole. It’s the nature of our landscape, in some areas more than others. Could what happened in Florida happen here? Some residents say yes.
Doug and Shirley Sparger moved to Blankenship Estates in Hillview for the tranquil environment. What they didn’t bank on was that their home would sit right in the middle of two sinkholes.
“I’m worried that our house could fall in,” says Shirley Sparger, a Hillview resident.
“I had 20 to 30 loads of dirt hauled in . There’s another live sinkhole over there and whatever you put in it it disappears. Gone forever,” says resident Doug Sparger.
On the side of the road, more dirt sits. Doug plans to use this to fill the main hole again. He’s not sure what else to do, so he doesn’t make it worse.
“I had an option to fill it all in but I was afraid the weight might cave it all in so I just left it like it was,” says Sparger.
In the backyard, new grass marks the spot where an 8 foot hole opened up right in the middle of Shirley’s garden.
“It started out small and it kept getting wider. So that’s when I dropped a rock down and I never heard it hit bottom, ” says Shirley Sparger.
Up and down this street it’s the same story. This yard has four sinkholes all a matter of feet from one another. Then in one backyard, WHAS11 found the worst case .
In a neighborhood where there are typically a lot of sinkholes, typically what residents do is fill it with whatever they can find; whether it’s wood or gravel but within days it starts sinking and sinking and sinking.
Jerry Vandevelde the President of Louisville based GEM Engineering, is considered a national expert in the field of sinkholes. He says they are caused when water doesn’t drain from the area and instead starts to erode through the bedrock most commonly in limestone which is what most of Kentucky is built on.
“All the limestone in Kentucky is slowly eroding. We are not making any new limestone.
But it occurs over geological time; hundreds and thousands of years. If water continues to form over this, it will erode the banks and this will gradually spread, ” says Jerry Vandevelde with GEM Engineering.
It starts small, then can erode to something larger but this doesn’t usually happen overnight.
But for the residents of what’s now known as sinkhole city, they worry it’s a matter of time before the one of these gives way.
“It is a big concern and you don’t know how deep it’s going to go,” says Shirley Spranger.