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Sinkhole answers don't provide relief
Sinkhole answers don't provide relief
By SUE REID
There has to be a public interest for the City of Solon to do work on private property, Public Works Director James S. Stanek said last week.
Mr. Stanek's comments followed ongoing discussion at last week's City Council public works committee meeting with residents KingMan and Pamela El-Jamah, of 33072 Springside Lane. The couple had appealed to both City Council and to the public works committee for assistance with sinkholes in their back yard.
Based on continued research, the residents' issue is unrelated to city infrastructure, officials said.
"This is a private-property issue and not a city issue," Councilman and committee chair Robert N. Pelunis said. He said that the city would like to help residents with every issue on their property, but they cannot.
"There has to be public interest in us doing work on private property," Mr. Stanek said. "There is a line and I'm fearing we are going to cross it."
In an effort to identify the El-Jamahs' problem, the city had dye-tested all of the sinkholes and pumped 3,000 gallons of water into them and to every storm sewer and sanitary sewer within a quarter mile of the property. They also enlisted the opinion of a geotechnical engineer to observe the situation.
Michael Schumaker, a senior geotechnical engineer from Camp, Dresser and McKee who was present at the public works meeting, said he looked into the question of whether the city owns utilities on the El-Jamahs' property that would contribute to the sinkholes.
Following his observations at the property, Mr. Schumaker said he concluded there are no city-owned pipelines present on or underlying the private property or in the vicinity of the sinkholes. He also said that solution-prone bedrock and underground mining, both of which can contribute to sinkhole formation, do not appear to be present at the private property based on the preliminary research conducted to date.
Ms. El-Jamah said she is not contending that there are pipes belonging to the city in her yard, but rather that there is a drainage issue.
"We have a storm-water management problem," Ms. El-Jamah said.
She attributed the drainage issues to development within the area of her home. She noted drainage problems on neighboring properties in the area. Ms. El-Jamah said she believes the sinkholes have something to do with the city's system and referred to properties upstream draining onto her property.
"There are safety issues, and I have significant concerns," she said. "These are drainage issues. We are the catch basins for all the upstream properties."
In describing the situation occurring at the El-Jamah property, Mr. Schumaker said there were four depressions or sinkholes on the property, which varied from 15 to 20 feet in dimension. The depth of the surface depressions at the sinkholes varied from about 3 feet at the largest sinkhole to about 1.5 feet at the smaller. All of the sinkholes appeared to be in line with one another, he said.
Mr. Schumaker said that the sinkhole development may be attributed to the collapse or deterioration of existing private pipes which are not presently known to exist at the site, decay of buried organics, significant ground-water fluctuations which could have caused soil consolidation or other geological factors yet to be determined.
Councilman and committee member Edward H. Kraus said he visited the property and was "pretty shocked," especially by the largest sinkhole. He said he has not seen anything like it. There are multiple sinkholes on this property and on the adjacent property and sinkholes across the street, he said.
"That's sort of a red flag to me that there is a problem in the area," Mr. Kraus said. "The question I have is, 'Why is this particular area prone to this?'"
Mr. Schumaker said he would recommend that the property owners monitor the sinkholes to see if they are getting significantly bigger and encroaching on the house.
"Is there a potential for spreading further?" Mr. Kraus asked.
Mr. Schumaker said it is difficult to say. He said there is a potential it could continue to grow, but he does not see an immediate safety concern.
Mr. Stanek said that he believes there is a sub-surface issue causing the El-Jamahs' problem. "For the city to get involved in a sub-surface issue when we don't need to be, I think we're making a mistake."
"As a resident of Solon, I expect the storm-water-management issue to be addressed," Ms. El-Jamah said. "It's dangerous." She has lived in the city for over 20 years, she said.
Ms. El-Jamah said this issue has to go through the city's storm-water management committee and then back to engineering.
"This is not being caused by anything being attributed to the City of Solon," Mr. Pelunis said.
"We want an answer," Ms. El-Jamah said. She said the city allowed the development to go in the neighborhood. The couple also questioned if permits were obtained for landscape work done on neighboring properties.
Mr. Stanek said he would check into that. In addition, he said, he will look at the topography maps and see about water running to their property.
"No private property should become the catch basin, and the city has to maintain that," she said.
"This is a safety issue," Mr. El-Jamah said.
Mr. Pelunis said the city will continue to investigate the issue and get back to them in a couple of weeks.
There was also a question raised about a structure adjacent to the El-Jamahs' property, which is an apparent pump house, and whether there are any reasons it would have contributed to the sinkhole.
Mr. Pelunis said he would like to get answers as to exactly what this structure is. He said the public works department will get back to the El-Jamahs within a couple of weeks.
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