Experts address frequency of Clarksville sinkholes - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Experts address frequency of Clarksville sinkholes


Another possible sinkhole has opened close to the Austin Peay State University campus in Clarksville, this time on Ford Street. 

According to the Clarksville Street Department, they'll work 20 to 30 sinkholes in the course of a year. While areas around Sango, APSU and the Tennessee/Kentucky line are more prone to problems, department officials said no place in Montgomery County is safe from sinkholes.

"Most of this has been man-induced because we don't plan in our urban development for these kinds of things," said retired APSU Geosciences professor Dr. Phillip Kemmerly.

The possible sinkhole on Ford Street is within a mile of a different sinkhole that opened on College Street in July 2011, shutting down an intersection for months and costing millions in repairs.

"We're sitting on limestone bedrock which is soluble," said Jack Frazier of the Street Department. "Through thousands of years, the rain water melts caves, and instead of flowing in streams, what we have around here are collapsed water systems it flows into."

Kemmerly said three-fourths of sinkholes are caused by man.

"We have increased their frequency over the years because we're a very rapidly growing city, and we're growing over land that's not particularly suited for it," said Kemmerly. "We're changing drainage patterns, filling depressions in and producing quite a bit of impermeable surfaces."

According to Kemmerly, the only way to slow the number of sinkholes is to reduce the amount of alterations to the landscape in a growing city. 

"The key word here is to mediate," said Kemmerly. "Mediate between mother nature, which doesn't think we ought to be here, and the fact the city is here. We need to harmonize with the environment, and we don't do a very good job of that."

Street Department officials added sinkholes usually come about during extremely dry conditions or after very heavy rain. While they spring up in Murfreesboro, Brentwood, Chattanooga and the Donelson area of Nashville, officials said Clarksville is the bull's-eye for the problems.

As for the most recent sinkhole on Ford Street, the Street Department said repairs will take a few days depending on what they find.

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