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Sinkholes in Florida

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Sinkholes in Florida

Sinkholes are often caused by issues stemming from damaged or corroded sewage pipe and drain pipes. They are a clear indicator that there is an issue underground. Florida sinkholes may appear overtime as the drain pipes underground begin to erode. This is why our underground utility experts emphasize the importance of pipe maintenance.

What is a sinkhole?

According to the United States Geological Survey, a sinkhole is defined as a "depression in the ground with no natural surface drainage". This means that any water collected above a sinkhole will drain into the rocks beneath the surface. 

 

The USGS explains that sinkholes form when these rocks are made of minerals that are soluble in water, usually limestone or evaporites like salt. As the water from the surface makes its way down it dissolves some of the minerals away, creating holes and cracks. With time, the soil and sediments above the cracks and holes begin to slump downwards and therefore a sinkhole is formed. 

Florida sinkholes come in many forms. In fact, there are three major types of sinkholes - solution, cover-subsidence, and cover-collapse. Below we will break down and explain what makes them different.

Solution Sinkholes - These types of Florida sinkholes occur where the rock is exposed at the ground surface or only has a thin covering of soil. These may appear as dips in the streets that are filled with water.

solution sinkhole

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Cover- subsidence sinkholes - These types of sinkholes happen when the overburden is sandy and doesn’t stick together well. As the hole underneath forms, the, the sediments will sink down, eventually causing the surface to cave in.

cover-subsidence sinkhole

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Cover- collapse sinkholes -  According to the USGS, if the overburden is made up of a lot of clay. Then the sediments will stick together more. When the weight becomes too much to bear, the surface layers will eventually give in and collapse. Cover collapse sinkholes are usually the most difficult to detect since they tend to grow underground without any visible signs on the surface. Worst of all, this type of sinkhole will usually collapse without warning.

Cover-collapse_sinkhole.png

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What Causes Sinkholes in Florida?

Sinkholes are a common feature of Florida's landscape. They are only one of many kinds of karst landforms, which include caves, disappearing streams, springs, and underground drainage systems. Karst is a generic term which refers to the characteristic terrain produced by erosion processes associated with chemical weathering, a dissolution of limestone or dolomite which are the two most common carbonate rocks in Florida. Dissolution in carbonate rocks begins when they are exposed to acidic water. Most rainwater is slightly acidic and usually becomes more acidic as it moves through decaying plant debris. 

Limestones in Florida are porous, allowing the acidic water to percolate through the strata, dissolving some limestone and carrying it away in solution. Over eons of time, this persistent erosion process has created extensive underground voids and drainage systems in much of the carbonate rocks throughout the state. Collapse of overlying sediments into the underground cavities produces sinkholes. When groundwater discharges from an underground drainage system, it is a spring such as Wakulla Springs, Silver Springs, or Rainbow Springs. Sinkholes can occur in the beds of streams, sometimes taking all of the stream's flow, creating a disappearing stream. Dry caves are parts of karst drainage systems that are above the water table, such as the Florida Caverns in Marianna.

 

Other subterranean events can cause holes, depressions, or subsidence of the land surface that may mimic sinkhole activity. These include subsurface expansive clay or organic layers which compress as water is removed, collapsed, broken sewer and drainpipes or broken septic tanks. As well as, improperly compacted soil after excavation work, and even buried trash, logs and other debris. Often a depression is not verified by a licensed professional to be a true sinkhole, and the cause of subsidence is not known. Such events are call subsidence incidents.

Why are sinkholes are so common in Florida?

Sinkholes are an increasingly deadly risk in Florida, due primarily to the region's geology. The state is largely underlain by porous limestone, which can hole immense amounts of water in underground aquifers. As groundwater slowly flows through the limestone it forms a landscape called karst, known for features like caves, springs, and sinkholes. The water in aquifers also exerts pressure on the limestone and helps to stabilize the overlying surface layer, usually clay, silt and sand in Florida. Sinkholes form when that layer of surface material caves in.

The collapse can be triggered by a heavy overload, often caused by a downpour or flooding, or when water gets pumped out of the ground. When water leaves the cavities within the limestone, the pressure that supported the surface material also goes. Depending on various factors, that overlying later can give way abruptly, as it does occasionally in Florida. Florida's groundwater has been disappearing as the population grows.

To slake a thirsty state's population, Florida has been aggressively pumping out groundwater, destabilizing it's limestone bedrock and contributing to the growing number of sinkholes in Florida.

Sinkholes are even more common in Florida during winter months, specifically January and February, when farmers pump groundwater onto crops to keep them from freezing. The other peak in sinkholes occurs in May and June, when are typically dry months with the year's lowest groundwater levels. These factors combined with unstable rainfall patterns make sinkholes and ever-increasing threat to Floridians.

Always hire a professional

Something we stand by is to prevent the damage before it happens. Yes, even sinkholes can be prevented. Sinkholes are formed underground and can at times show obvious signs before they are seen on the actual surface. Unfortunately, there are no guaranteed ways to determine if there is a sinkhole forming however, there are some ways you can tell if something is happening underneath the surface.

According to the National Geographic sinkholes are common in areas where groundwater can naturally dissolve the rocks below the land surface. Just last year about a dozen sinkholes were reported in Florida.

As previously mentioned, there are some obvious signs of sinkholes appearing. However, in other cases it may not be so clear. Always consult the help of an expert when determining if your home is at risk.

Cloud 9 Services, Inc. is state certified, licensed, and insured. We are leaders in helping property owners who need sinkholes in Florida repair. It is important to be proactive and protect your property before a major damage affects your property.Our experts are trained to handle any job and will respond in a timely manner.

Attention to the Details

First, you might notice a few cracks or a patch of the road that doesn’t match the rest of the road. Maybe its sinks in a little, Take note of that and over time see if it keeps getting worst.

Next, give us a call. It’s FREE! (407-481-2750) we will be able to quickly identify the source of the problem and how to fix it…

Turns out this sinkhole in Winter Garden was caused by an older cracked pipe.

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