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Getting a sinking feeling

Sink hole first opened last year. It’s back and growing again.

William Sergi examines a hole that he says threatens his home on West Academy Street. Crews were installing water pipes in the area Tuesday, and Sergi is afraid more disturbance of the ground will cause his home to sink into the ground.

FRED ADAMS/THE TIMES LEADER

WILKES-BARRE – William Sergi has lived at his West Academy Street home for more than 30 years. Sooner or later, he said, his house just might sink into the ground.

The hole, which first appeared last year, has opened again.

“I’ve had to fix my porch foundation twice and fill a 1-inch gap in the foundation because it was opened up right into my basement,” Sergi said. “And the porch has sunk at least 3 or 4 feet.”

Last year, city workers filled the hole, which was about 3 feet in diameter and 15 feet deep.

About five weeks ago, the hole opened again, Sergi said, starting out at about 2 inches in diameter; it’s now about 1 foot across and 15 feet deep.

Butch Frati, the city’s planning and development director, said an inspection of the area on Tuesday indicates the hole was most likely caused by a crack in a storm water or sanitary pipe.

“What we generally do is try to determine what the initial cause of the hole is, whether it be water lines, sanitary lines, or around this time of year, a sink hole caused by a drought,” Frati said.

On Tuesday, Sergi said he had to warn a crew that was installing new water pipes on West Academy Street.

If the hole continues to affect his home, Sergi said he will have to remove his front porch, dig up the ground beneath it and build a new one.

“I’ve been putting new siding and roofing on my home,” Sergi said. “I plan on staying here, but not if this hole keeps affecting my home.”

The steps on Sergi’s front porch are painted black, and a line is visible on the side of the steps where the ground has sunk about 4 inches. “The concrete sidewalk is sinking, and there are new cracks in the road because of it. And the rain on Thursday is going to make it worse,” Sergi said.

In similar incidents, such as March 2006, a hole opened up near the intersection of Ross and River streets that was 7 feet across and 15 feet deep. The cause was determined to be the collapse of an old sanitary line.

A hole on a section of Academy Street between South Franklin and South Main streets that opened in September 2004 was caused by floodwaters and a store’s broken drain pipe.

Frati said these types of holes caused by damaged pipes are common in the area.

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