From left, Mayor Jim Staff directs traffic as Calvin Grace and Kenny Smith assess the situation.Latest street washout occurs at Main and Ridgeley
By DON FLETCHER
News Staff Writer
A sinkhole that developed in the northbound lane of Main Street on Saturday, June 8, was the second such subterranean washout to occur beneath a major Atmore thoroughfare in the past three weeks.
The first, blamed on a leaking water line that in turn caused a breach in a sewer line, cropped up on West Craig Street on May 20 and led to blockage of that busy street for 24 hours.
The most recent crater occurred just a few feet from where the city’s most-traveled traffic artery intersects Ridgeley Street but disrupted the flow of vehicles for only about four hours. It was discovered by Fire Chief Ron Peebles as he drove to work early Saturday morning.
Mayor Jim Staff, who directed traffic from the middle of Main Street while city crews worked to locate and plug the water leak, said Monday that the problem — attributed to a slow leak in a decades-old drainage culvert — had apparently been festering for quite a while before it came to the surface.
“It was coming from that concrete drainage ditch, and it apparently had been for years,” Staff said of the water that washed the dirt from beneath the street, adding that the culvert was covered in a thick layer of concrete, making the job of leak location a more difficult one. “It had a concrete top. I don’t know why in the world it would have had all that concrete on it. I guess when they poured the culvert they had some left over and they just dumped it in there.”
One city streets department employee worked with a jack hammer to break apart the reinforced paving material while another operated a front hoe to remove the rubble as it was created.
The mayor said city crews filled the trench with enough dirt to accommodate the sluggish seepage for a lengthy time. But, he added, since Main Street is a segment of Alabama Highway 21, city officials would have to wade through a bit of red tape before workers could return to more permanently fix the problem.
“It’s safe now, full of dirt,” he said. “It will take probably close to two days to get it fixed. It will take a day to dig it up, and about a day to patch it. It’s an old pipe, and we’ll have to dig it up after we deal with ALDOT [Alabama Department of Transportation] and get the OK from them.”
And, while the mayor said the sinkhole looked worse than it actually was, he agreed that it wouldn’t have taken much for the situation to have deteriorated into a major problem.
“It looked serious but it really wasn’t,” Staff said. “It’s a good thing the fire chief spotted it. I’m just glad one of those big transfer trucks didn’t drive across it, because we could have had a mess if one had.”
City Street Department Director Calvin Grace and other city employees were on hand as was West Escambia Utilities Manager Kenny Smith.