After a young girl’s leg fell into a sinkhole on Cedar Street near the corner of Cedar Street and First Avenue over the weekend, City Manager Gene Greene said they are stepping up investigating options for replacement or repair of the aging storm sewer system along First Avenue.
According to a Facebook post by her mother, the young girl was playing on the small dead-end section of Cedar Street on the Ohio River side of First Avenue when her leg fell into the road. Thankfully, she reportedly escaped the incident with only minor scrapes on her leg. The City of Gallipolis Police Department responded to the scene and roped off the area.
Sinkholes along First Avenue are nothing new. The City just repaired a sink hole in the backyard of a private residence near the PUA off of State Street and Greene said there are two others, in addition to the Cedar Street sink hole.
“They’re all related to storm sewers. That happens when you have flooding like we’ve had this year and the rains that we’ve had this year. They contribute to that,” said Greene.
Greene went on to explain that the flooding and rains pressurize the aging system, which causes leaks in weak spots. Based on information he received from those who were around when the system was first installed, Greene said the shoring used during the installation of the lines was made of wood, which has started to rot and has caused some sections to settle. That settling has created low places that hold water. Each time those places fill up with water, which seeps into the ground, it causes more issues.
“It just goes hand in hand and one thing leads to another. Pretty soon you’ve got a bad place there,” said Greene.
One of the first things the City plans to do is to actively enforce the heavy trucks ban on First Avenue. Under section 339.02 of the Charter “No person shall operate a vehicle exceeding a size as specified in Section 339.03 (please click link for those specifications) or exceeding a grow weight of five tons, upon on any street in the Municipality other than a State route, except those local streets designated as a truck route and marked as such by appropriate traffic signs, and except when such operation is necessary to load or unload a property, to go to or from the usual place of storage of such vehicle or to perform any other legitimate business or act other than passage through Municipality. Operators of vehicles so deviating from either a State route or a designated truck route within the Municipality shall confine such deviation to that required in order to accomplish the purpose of the departure.”
The first offense is a minor misdemeanor. The second offense within one year is a 4th degree misdemeanor. Each subsequent offense within one year is a 3rd degree misdemeanor.
Cost is an issue with the replacement of the system, as well as the repair of existing sinkholes. Greene estimates replacement of the City’s entire system would cost millions of dollars. Just the repair of the State Street sinkhole would have cost approximately $21,000, Greene said, if they had used a contractor. Instead, the City rented the equipment they needed and repaired the sinkhole in-house. While this is a possibility for further projects, manpower is also a concern, as there are only eight employees in that department, who also have to take care of the other problems that arise, such as water and sewer leaks and road repairs.
“We can do it cheaper, but it might take us a little longer, because we’re not prepared for [projects] like that,” said Greene.
Greene and City staff are investigating options to begin discussions about fixing the issue.
“We’re trying to stay on top of it and doing the best we can with what we’ve got. It’s just going to be a process of elimination. We’re going to have to start looking at it a little closer,” said Greene. “We have no control over the weather. We’re going to fix everything that shows up, but there’s no real way of telling where the next spot’s going to be.”
He plans to bring the subject up at the next City Commission meeting.
In the meantime, should the public notice areas that appear to be sinking, you can report those to the City Manager’s office at (740) 446-1789.