Missouri sinkhole keeps on growing

Sunday, January 7, 2007 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 12:56 a.m. CDT, Sunday, July 20, 2008

SPRINGFIELD — City officials have no plans to plug an expanding sinkhole near Sequiota Cave outside of Springfield — at least for now.

“From the park’s point of view, we want to see its impact on Sequiota Cave and figure out what’s best for the community,” said Bob Belote, assistant director of the Springfield-Greene County parks system. “We’ll want to observe it for a while and maybe see what else we’ve got out there.”

The sinkhole, which was found Wednesday by a City Utilities worker who was surveying water lines, is responsible for a plume of heavy red silt flowing from the cave. Officials have been concerned the silt could end up in Lake Springfield.

The sinkhole is about 75 feet wide, 125 feet long, 20 feet deep and keeps growing, officials said.

Gary Pendergrass, environmental affairs manager for City

Utilities, said it appeared the

sink­hole was caused by a winter

storm on Nov. 30 and Dec. 1. The

sinkhole developed beneath a 6-inch water main, which failed and broke apart, hastening the sinkhole’s collapse, he said.

“We had water flowing into the sinkhole from both directions,” Pendergrass said.

The water has been shut off, and it’s possible the sinkhole will stabilize more quickly on its own, Pendergrass said.

But Robert Hawkins, who owns the land in which the sinkhole formed, worries that it could hinder his plans to develop the 600 acres of pasture and timberland.

“I’d hate to see that whole area condemned as a ‘watch out what you do there’ area,” Hawkins said Friday at a meeting of the Watershed Committee of the Ozarks, which monitors any potential problems with water supplies in Springfield and Greene County. “I’d like to see it stabilized so it’s not going to continue to grow.”

Matt Forir, a parks department naturalist and cave expert, disagreed.

“This is a natural geologic event,” he told the committee. “We should leave it alone and let it run its course. I think it’s best we don’t monkey around with it at this point.”

Pendergrass said it was possible an undiscovered cave could be below. “There is a pretty sizable void underneath there,” he said.

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