Charlotte Sinkholes and Why You Need to Care About Them
You might not think plumbers care about sinkholes, but we certainly do, and so should you. Sinkholes—and we’ve been getting a lot of calls about them—often cause drainage problems that result in flooding and expensive property damage. Find out why we and other Charlotte plumbers are sounding the alarm about sinkholes and what you should do when you see one forming in your neighborhood.
What are sinkholes?
A sinkhole is a depression in the ground that has no natural external surface drainage. They typically happen in regions where the types of rock below the land surface can naturally be dissolved by groundwater circulating through them. When water from rainfall moves down through the soil, these types of rock begin to dissolve. This creates underground spaces and caverns. The ground usually stays intact for a period of time until the underground spaces just get too big. If there is not enough support for the land above the spaces, then a sudden collapse of the land surface can occur, creating a sinkhole.
What do sinkholes have to do with storm drain problems?
Here at E.R. Services we are getting a lot of calls about voids in the ground near storm water grates. Why? Here’s what happens:
- The storm drain is encountering mild problems, which disrupts the collection and funneling off of water. This results in erosion problems.
- Once erosion begins to take its toll, the water flowing downhill at a fast rate of speed tends to hit the lip of the metal grate and splashes up and down, creating an even bigger hole.
- This means the water starts going into the hole or to another area instead of flowing into the storm grate or through the catch basin in the proper manner.
- Not only is the water no longer directed to a safe and sanitary place, the sinkholes themselves can be very dangerous. Sinkholes can get pretty deep, becoming a hazard for children and pets in particular.
- Storm water that should flow into the storm drain may instead flow onto property and affect homes.
All of this erosion and misguided storm water results in storm drains breaking and not functioning properly.
Why do storm drains break?
Storm drains (also known as storm sewers) have catch basins inside them. Catch basins are important because they effectively separate out sediment and water from storm water such that the right elements are directed to the right places. When storm water enters the storm drain, the sediment settles to the bottom of the catch basin. When the water reaches a specific point, it drains into a pipe that leads to the main storm sewer line and then off to the main outlet.
If the catch basin sinks, eventually the connection to the main storm sewer line breaks. Because the catch basin no longer connects to the sewer line, it will simply collect storm water every time it rains. The water is not funneled to the proper places and just keep collecting there until it overflows. When that happens, the overflowing water causes even more erosion and the problem grows worse and worse.
Sometimes, water leaks out of the bottom of the catch basin and erodes the earth beneath it, leaving a void. The catch basin then sinks into the void and you’ll see a sinkhole develop.
Most sinkholes don’t make the news, but here are two recent sinkholes that were big enough to garner attention.
Most of the sinkholes we get calls about aren’t *this* bad yet, but unattended, sinkholes can become serious problems, and any sort of sink hole near a drain probably means you’ve got storm sewer problems and you need a catch basin repair.
What should I do If I notice a sinkhole forming?
It’s important not to ignore a sinkhole, even if it’s small. Take the following steps:
- Report the sinkhole to the City of Charlotte. Call 311 or submit an online form.
- If the sinkhole is anywhere near a storm drain, call a plumber to have them evaluate the storm drain to see if there are problems with the catch basin. This is especially important to report in a neighborhood where the HOA may not be proactive about these sorts of things or in parking lots where sinkholes can cause serious problems.
- In addition to sinkholes, watch for unusual drainage patterns, flooding or blockage of storm drains by debris that has been moved by storm water. Drains must remain clear in order to be effective.
Need Charlotte Storm Drain Repairs?
We’ve had a lot of storms this summer! If you suspect a storm sewer in your neighborhood or near your business is in trouble, give us a call. We’ll check it out and will provide a catch basin repair or replacement as needed.