Fraser sinkhole: The ticking time bomb of Macomb County
FRASER, Mich. – It’s been 20 days since the sinkhole in Fraser first opened up, displacing 22 families.
Emergency crews, engineers and officials have been working around the clock to solve the problem and the price tag has already reached the $100 million mark.
The sinkhole showed its first signs of the impending environmental damage to follow on Christmas Eve when the Albu family began hearing cracking noises from the foundation of their home.
The situation unfolded during a 911 call made by the Albu's: “Uh, yeah, I think our house is going to fall. I'm sorry?"
"What do you mean you think your house is going to fall,” the dispatcher replies.
First signs of trouble
Elizabeth Marentette grew up in what’s left of her home in Fraser. The home is in a neighborhood where she and 21 other families were given only minutes to evacuate.
The next day, it was determined that an 11-foot sewage pipe cracked and was leaking raw sewage underneath the Fraser neighborhood.
Officials drained the raw sewage into the Clinton River to stop it from backing up into basements. Meanwhile, homeowners and city leaders were trying to get a hold of the Macomb County Public Works commissioner, Anthony Marrocco.
Marrocco was in Florida, and he wasn’t coming back.
A shift in control
Candice Miller became the new Public Works Commissioner for Macomb County on January 1st. It wasn’t long before Miller took the lead in what was turning out to be one of the most expensive natural disasters to ever hit the area.
Three homes above the sinkhole were condemned. The other 19 families were able to gather their belongings, but emergency crews gave them a limited amount of time to do so.
A ticking time bomb
The trouble with the foundation on 15 Mile Road in Fraser started back in 1978, when the first sinkhole started to form.
Contractors began drilling 2-inch holes through the sewer lines to determine where the collapse was located.
Once crews pinpointed the exact location of the then-forming sinkhole, engineers created a bypass.
Holes were cut into the bypass and then filled with grout. Experts theorize that the holes opened back up, allowing sewage to flow and wash away the soil that was holding the pipe.
The holes furthest to the west are in the exact location where the 2004 sinkhole formed and the holes in the east are exactly where this new sinkhole formed.
What the future holds
On January 9, the other 19 families who were evacuated were allowed to return home and utilities were connected.
The county is hoping to purchase the condemned homes from the homeowners, although officials say two out of three of the condemned homes can possibly be saved.
Public Works Commissioner Miller says Macomb County Water rates will go up to help pay for the cost of the sinkhole, but says she’s looking for state and federal funding to help with the costs.
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