Seven houses have now been condemned in Land O’Lakes, Fla., thanks to the county’s largest sinkhole in 30 years.
Two homes were destroyed when the ground gave way on July 14, but the sinkhole has since expanded and now stretches 260 feet at its widest point, The Tampa Bay Times reported. Two more houses along its edge were condemned on Saturday, followed by three on Sunday, according to a Pasco County news release.
Ceres Environmental Services has been contracted to remove debris from the sinkhole, and five semi-truck loads were carted off on Saturday, according to the news release. On Monday, another contractor began removing contaminated water.
The full cleanup is expected to take months, the county said.
Sinkholes are the culmination of a process that can occur over centuries or even millenniums. When rainwater seeps into the ground, the acids in it gradually erode particular types of bedrock — limestone or sandstone, for example. Natural cracks and cavities in the bedrock slowly expand, and the soil above it begins to fall through. At first, the upper layers can still bear the weight of the buildings above them. But eventually, as the sediment slips through the cracks like sand through an hourglass, the ground gives way. Heavy rainfall can contribute to a sudden collapse.
Florida is especially prone to sinkholes — more so than any other state — because it is built on limestone. The composition of the sediment above the bedrock is also a factor, making some parts of the state more unstable than others. Central Florida, including the Orlando and Tampa areas, is at the greatest risk; parts of Northern Florida are also particularly vulnerable. Land O’Lakes is about 20 miles north of Tampa, in a region of the state known as Sinkhole Alley.
Fatalities from sinkholes are very rare. But in 2013, one swallowed up a man, Jeffrey Bush, as he lay in bed in Seffner, Fla., east of Tampa. His body was never recovered.
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