Century-old brick sewer cause of downtown sinkhole

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INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — A 15-foot sinkhole in the intersection of Pennsylvania Avenue and Ohio Street is there result of a century-old brick sewer line rupture, according to Citizens Energy Group. 

The rupture occurred Wednesday afternoon causing a large sinkhole to open up in the roadway. 

Dan Considine, representative for Citizens Energy Group, explained the rupture happened at the intersection of two large-diameter sewer lines. 

“What happened is the hole 15 feet down is filled with water and the soil above it has collapsed down,” he said, explaining that while on-lookers call it ‘Indy’s largest pothole,’ it is much more complicated than a pothole. “Until we really get in there and see what were the extent of the damage we won’t have an exact time frame of when the intersection will be back open.” 

Considine said the problem is aging infrastructure. He doesn’t have an exact age for the ruptured sewer line, but said many in central Indianapolis were built more than 100 years ago, some in the late 1800s. 

To fix the problem. Considine says crews will need to excavate a 20 by 20 foot space around the sinkhole to properly repair and fill it, and must avoid striking any of seven other utility lines in the intersection. 

“These are marking for the other utility lines,” he said, referring to several colored paint lines freshly marked in the intersection. “It indicates how busy it is under the street. So just under the street here you’re going to have sewer, water, natural gas, steam lines, chilled water lines, phone lines, and electric.” 

An active weather pattern may delay that excavation until Friday, according to Considine. As of Thursday afternoon, he expects the intersection to be closed until at least Friday evening. 

“Getting this back open is a high priority but again we have to be very careful here because we have a lot of utility infrastructure above where the failure is so we don’t damage it,” he said. 

As for if this breach could happen elsewhere in the city, Considine says it’s possible. 

“These failures can occur. We are investing literally hundreds of millions of dollars into sewer system every year,” he said. “In fact since 2011 we’ve invested $1 billion in the local sewer system and part of that has been to replace and reline old sewer infrastructure like the one we’re standing over today.” 

Meanwhile, the sinkhole has become somewhat of a tourist attraction, drawing crowds of pedestrians with cameras to take a look at the hole. Crews request pedestrians and drivers exercise caution in the busy downtown streets and that they help make workers’ safety a priority. 

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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