Late last week an 80-foot sinkhole was dug out along Weaver Road where it meets Glade Road across the street from the Lenlock Shopping Center. The heavy rains had washed out disintegrating pipe and dirt that surrounded it, leaving an underground cavern under the southbound lane that was discovered when a small hole opened in the asphalt.
Shonda Altemus, a stylist at Yonok’s Beauty Salon in the Lenlock Shopping Center, said the hole in Weaver Road initially was about the size of a doormat on Thursday. On her way back to work from a lunch with her family, she said, she saw a man standing beside his truck, looking down into the hole while talking on his phone, as though he was reporting the problem.
Bob Dean, Anniston’s director of Public Works, said the city was notified of the hole on Thursday afternoon, and once one of the public works employees realized the size of the cavern beneath the asphalt — which he said could hold two pickup trucks — a city crew worked until midnight to secure the site.
“They looked in the little hole and saw that there was this cavern in there,” City Manager Don Hoyt said. “They had to start opening it up to see where it stopped, where the cavern ended.”
Dean said it was lucky that no one was hurt. “I’m surprised that car didn’t just sink down in there and go through the pavement” he said.
The City Council on Tuesday approved $85,000 in emergency funds to repair 200 feet of pipe and stabilize the road near the sinkhole.
Because of the emergency nature of the project, Dean said, competitive bid laws do not apply, so repairs to the pipeline should begin within days.
City Engineer Kevin Ashley pipe for the project will begin arriving on Thursday. Based on logistics, he said, the contractor, Chase Plumbing and Mechanical of Chattanooga, Tenn., will probably begin construction Monday morning.
Dean said the contractors will slip a new reinforced plastic pipe into the existing pipe and use hydraulics to push it through, filling the space between the pipes with grout. New pipe, he said, will be installed under Glade Road and northward for 200 feet to the next junction box, essentially a concrete box supporting the pipes. The city will then refill the hole around the pipe and repair the paving and curb along the hole.
City officials were aware of the aging drainage infrastructure along Weaver Road after several smaller sinkholes had opened up along the pipeline, Dean said. In those instances, where only the bottom of the pipe had disintegrated, workers were able to pour concrete along the bottom of the pipes to stabilize the area and prevent further erosion. But when public works employees opened up the section Thursday, he said, the entire pipe had disintegrated and begun to wash away.
The city has already applied for funding to replace the 2,000-foot section of pipe through the Alabama Transportation Rehabilitation and Improvement Program. The entire project is expected to cost more than $1 million. If the Alabama Department of Transportation funds the project, the city would be responsible for $205,000 of its cost.
Hoyt said city officials expect that ATRIP funds would not be awarded until next fiscal year. If the city’s drainage repair project is funded, Hoyt said, it would be unlikely the city could count the current emergency repairs as part of its local funding match.
Dean said the current project won’t be a temporary fix, but will complete 10 percent of the larger project with the same process.
“We need to get the junction boxes constructed and then the pipe in there and then recover it all so that the erosion stops,” Hoyt said. “If it starts raining and we get more and more erosion, then the problem will be exacerbated.”
Staff writer Paige Rentz: 256-235-3564. On Twitter @PRentz_Star.