If you own a home in the Tampa area, you probably know that this particular region of Florida is especially prone to sinkholes. Indeed, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) emphasizes that sinkholes can happen in many different parts of the state, but the Tampa Bay area, as well as other regions of West Central Florida, are particularly vulnerable to sinkhole activity.
Earlier this month, an article in The New York Times reported that a Pasco County sinkhole that opened in mid-July had claimed seven homes within a three-week period. Now, according to a recent report from U.S. News & World Report, geologists are committing more research efforts to the sinkhole problem in the Tampa Bay area, but they do not necessarily have any new answers.
Land O'Lakes Sinkhole Affects Seven Homes
According to The New York Times article, the sinkhole that opened up in Land O'Lakes on July 14 initially destroyed two homes. Over the course of several weeks, the sinkhole grew to 260 feet at its widest point, making it the biggest sinkhole that the county had seen in three decades. In terms of depth, experts predict that the sinkhole was approximately 50 feet deep. By August 7, four additional homes along the edge of the sinkhole had been condemned. The first two homes immediately were "swallowed up," with concerns that nearby houses would also be at risk. Within a short period of time, those concerns came to fruition.
Several environmental service contractors were hired to deal with the aftermath of the sinkhole. One contractor removed debris from the sinkhole area, leaving with an initial debris haul of "five semi-truck loads," to give you a sense of the destruction. Shortly thereafter, another contractor started to remove contaminated water from the area. According to Pasco County officials, the cleanup will not be completed for "months" given the severity and scale of the damage.
Geologists Study Recent Pasco County Sinkhole in Hopes of Addressing New Sinkhole Prevention Measures
Once it became clear that the sinkhole in Pasco County had stopped posing a danger to other residents in the Land O'Lakes community where is "destroyed two homes and rendered five others uninhabitable," the U.S. News & World Report noted that geologists from the University of South Florida (USF) began to conduct a study of the area. What do they want to learn? In short, those geologists "want to know if anything might have predicted the devastation, such as the way the lakefront neighborhood was developed."
According to Lori Collins, who is the lead USF researcher, "if we can say where these things are likely to occur . . . smarter decisions and regulations may emerge from that." The type of sinkhole that occurred recently in Pasco County is a particularly abrupt kind, and they are most often caused by human action such as "groundwater pumping for irrigation or residential taps."
While the researchers cannot yet say for certain what caused the sinkhole, it is possible that residential construction in Florida could play a role. Part of the issue is that the geological makeup of the land has inherent hazards, but a potential outcome may be that some areas of Tampa Bay simply are not safe for residential use. To us, the biggest question is going to be, how are the insurers of the condemned homes treating the claims and displacement of their insureds? While the news watches the sinkhole, we will watch the insurers and how their actions impact the lives of those damaged by the sinkhole.
Contact a Tampa Bay Area Sinkhole Damage Lawyer
If you have questions about sinkhole coverage, filing a sinkhole damage claim, or feel your insurer has not treated you fairly, a Tampa Bay sinkhole claims lawyer can assist you. Contact the Wells Law Group, P.A. today.