Sinkhole Presentation Educates Area Residents

By Tamas Mondovics

It was sinkhole crash-course 101 for about two dozen members of the Greater Seffner Area Chamber of Commerce during a presentation as part of its monthly luncheon meeting earlier this month.

Location-wise, the event held at the First Baptist Church of Mango was as appropriate as any as sinkholes are a risk in Hillsborough County due primarily to the region’s geology, but especially to Seffner residents when it is a daily concern.

“With the recent sinkhole activity and devastating losses in the Seffner area, many residents are concerned about their risk potential,” the Chamber’s press release said as part of the invitation to the program, which was sought out by great interest, considering the recent sinkhole tragedy only a few miles down the road at 240 Faithway Dr. which claimed one of the bedrooms as well as the life of 37-year-old Jeff Bush, who was in the room at the time.

The massive, deadly sinkhole measured close to 30 ft. across at the top and much more below the surface,  prompting area residents, government officials, engineers, rescue workers as well as law enforcement personnel near and far to get up close and personal with the reality of the dangers that lurk beneath the ground.

In hopes of educating the public, representatives from Helicon Foundation Repair shared information with those present at the Chamber’s event learned about the most common types of sinkholes, the most common methods for repair as well as how to recognize the signs of possible sinkhole activity at their property.

Helicon Field Director, Jason Norrie, spoke at length about the most common causes of a sinkhole, specifically mentioning the biggest culprit and perpetrator.

“Pumping water from the ground is a main reason,” Norrie said. “When the water table drops, the limestone cavity is exposed to further erosion processes which eventually result in the collapse of the cavity, causing a surface indenture, or sinkhole.”

Helicon Quality Control Manager, Matt Carlson, also joined the presentation and explained that on the surface, sinkholes may develop progressively as subtle, bowl-shaped depressions, or they may collapse suddenly into steeply sided, water-filled craters.

“The latter is the type we see most in Eastern Hillsborough County,” Carlson said, adding that these ‘collapse’ type of sinkholes are the most uncommon in Florida as they happen suddenly where the overburden is thick with soils and heavy clay. “Collapse sinkholes are deep, steeply-sided holes in the ground and are frequently triggered by fluctuations in the water table.”

Upon hearing about the Seffner Chamber’s sinkhole presentation, Riverview resident, Ashley Allen, did not hesitate to sign up for the event in hopes of learning more on the topic.

“Hearing about the Seffner sinkhole tragedy I was fearful about something like it happening to my home,” Allen said, adding that the presentation gave her a bit of much-needed comfort. “The presentation was very educational and answered a lot of my questions.”

While drumming up a bit a business, Norrie wanted all present to remember something that he said is easily and often ignored.

“Don’t forget your neighbors,” he said. “Some of the telltale signs begin in your neighbor’s yard. Share with them what you know and remember vigilance is key. If you suspect a problem or see any of the signs, be sure to call a professional.”

The Chamber’s luncheon meetings are held the second Thursday of each month from 12-1 p.m. at the First Baptist Church of Mango,11619 Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd., Seffner.  For more information, visit them at www.seffnerchamber.com or by email to info@seffnerchamber.com or call 627-8686.