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Wells sinkhole creates big problem

By Staff | Jul 14, 2019

Crews work to at least partially fill a very large sinkhole that appeared in the Wells city compost site last week.

The city of Wells made a post on their Facebook page on July 1 stating, “NOTICE: The city compost site is closed until likely later tomorrow due to fixing a sinkhole. The street department is excavating and filling to make sure it is safe to use the area. When barricades are down, the site will be open.”

At their Wells City Council meeting on Monday, July 8, the council learned that what used to be a basketball-sized sinkhole grew to be approximately 40 feet across and 8-10 feet deep, according to street foreman Mike Pyzick, and it’s still only three-fourths of the way full.

“We don’t want to fill it all the way,” informed Pyzick. “Because if we need to do further work on the site, if there are bigger issues, we don’t want to have to dig it all up and redo it.”

“I think we are very lucky that nothing bad happened during this sinkhole,” said city administrator CJ?Holl. “Just think, a car could’ve driven in there, someone could’ve been removing debris from their vehicle and fallen in themselves. We are very fortunate and lucky we caught it.”

According to Pyzick, the basketball-sized hole has been filled in previously with no other issues. The location of the city’s compost site is above what used to be the city’s water treatment plant.

“Years ago where you can see the concrete in the sinkhole, there was a basketball sized hole that would appear periodically after rain. I was always instructed to get a load of rock out and fill it in, pack it and it wouldn’t show up again for months. Two weeks ago, that basketball sized hole showed up and exposed all the structure underneath which was much larger than what I had ever anticipated,” said Pyzick. “I was always thinking it was a 200-300 gallon septic tank or something like that and eventually we would catch up to filling it up. That is not the case. It was the old infrastructure of the Wells treatment plant.”

Pyzick stated back in the 1980s when Wells’ ponds and lift station were put in, the infrastructure was existing but never removed.

“No one has a reason why but what was left was left and now it has shown up,” he said. “CJ is right, we get lucky sometimes and this is one of them. A loader pounding across there, someone plowing snow, a citizen bringing compost down there didn’t fall. We had Dulas Excavating come down there and started ripping it up and found it was much bigger than we thought. So what we did was we got everything out of there, crushed it in, removed the concrete, we have things half separated, left it lay, burned it and covered it.”

Now soil samples are going in to Braun Intertec to determine what the soil contains and where it can go.

“We do not know what’s totally there,” added the street foreman. “What our suspicions are has an odor to it, but it’s also been the compost site for the last 20 or 30 years. So, what the horrid smell could be is decomposed leaves and grass and such. Do I know that 100 percent? No, but I think that is what our soil tests will determine.”

Results of the soil samples should be back by Friday, July 12 or Monday, July 15 to figure out the make up of the material.

The foreman stated the material, when it came out, was very odorous, was very sloppy and of course, had been a treatment site.

“So before we can dispose of it, we need to know what it is. Assuming it’s natural material, we can do what we want with it, but if it is hazardous we’d have to go a different route,” said Pyzick.

The soil sample testing will cost the city $2,500.

“The odor was a kind of petroleum odor, think of how it’s made, it’s decomposing material. It could be from the compost, it could be from the infrastructure,” stated Holl.