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Sinkholes are Another Concern for Construction Workers

Walnut Lawn Sinkhole
A section of Walnut Lawn near Kansas Expressway is now a giant hole as crews work to strengthen the ground after the recent discovery of a sinkhole./Credit: Scott Harvey

Nearly 16,000 sinkholes have been verified in the state of Missouri by the Geological Survey Program, and recently, construction workers are the ones finding them.

The one on West Walnut Lawn was found while officials were testing water pressure before adding additional water mains. City Utilities Communications Manager Joel Alexander says events like this are why workers test first.

“It appeared in one area near where a pipe they were working on had a small leak on it, that area showed up first. They went ahead and let the water run, and then low and behold, here came the larger sinkhole. Our crews do is just block off that area, call for assistance from the city to make sure that they can shut down the street,” Alexander said.

With sinkholes being no stranger to Springfield because of its Karst topography, Andy Mueller, assistant district engineer for the Missouri Transportation Department, assures that sinkholes are kept in mind for this area when planning construction.

“We identify many of them during our design phase of our projects, when we do our subsurface investigation. But when we come across a void when we’re constructing a roadway, we barricade that area off so our folks can take a closer look and identify what hazards may be there,” Mueller said. 

However, when sinkholes are discovered like the one on Walnut Lawn, the next step is for workers to fill in the sinkhole with large stone and a concrete cap that contains rebar. City Utilities has started this process, but the road will most likely remain closed until next week.

With more sinkhole discoveries appearing in the news, the question now is whether or not there has been an increase in this natural phenomenon. Doug Gouzie, professional geologist and professor at Missouri State University, says not to worry.

“I haven’t seen any data that say there are more sinkholes now, and I’m not sure I would think that there are. I think it may just be our modern times with more video cam, and more people living and being in areas where things happen,” Gouzie said.

Read an earlier report on sinkholes and the potential dangers for homeowners.

For KSMU news, I’m Anna Thomas.