A sinkhole formed in James Coligan’s front yard during each of the last two years. Both times, the Shepherd Park Plaza homeowner said Houston Public Works worked on the problem and told him it was fixed.
The front-right corner of his yard started sinking again earlier this year, and the city is again addressing the issue. But Coligan is not sure the third time will be any more charmed.
“It’s kind of hard to have confidence when it’s taken three years and happened three separate times,” he said. “This is the worst it’s ever been.”
Coligan said the latest hole in the ground is about 2 feet deep and roughly 8 feet away from the foundation of his home, which has him especially concerned. The sinkhole also has caused problems for his neighbors on Martin Street, because it’s underneath the left side of their driveway.
Jennifer Kolb, who lives in the neighboring house, said the problem first presented itself in the spring of 2019, when a large truck pulled into the driveway and cracked the concrete. She said she and her husband then spent thousands of dollars to redo the driveway, because it did not have rebar underneath and could not be patched.
The city repaved part of the new driveway a year ago, after the sinkhole reemerged, she said, and Kolb hopes there will not be a need for further work. She also hopes there will not be any accidents caused by the sinkhole, because heavy rains create a pool of water above the sinkhole, hiding it from view.
As of last week, the area was bordered by yellow caution tape attached to two orange barricades around the sinkhole, with a piece of plywood placed atop part of the hole.
“We live on a walkway to the park. The neighborhood is full of small kids,” Kolb said. “What if someone’s walking to the park and a kid falls off into the hole. I have a 4- and 6-year-old.”
Houston Public Works spokesperson Erin Jones said last week the sinkhole is the result of a damaged wastewater line on Coligan’s property and the department would soon begin repairs and fill in the hole, weather permitting. She also said the site would be secured until the work begins.
When asked why the issue wasn’t fixed in 2019 or 2020, Jones said the sinkhole “ended up a bigger problem” than the public works department initially thought.
“(The previous sinkholes) were a symptom of a bigger problem that did not show when they did those repairs,” she said.
Coligan and Kolb said the city previously filled the sinkhole with sand, which gradually washed away with rains. They also said they were told by city employees that the bottom of a manhole at the site had fallen away.
Coligan disputed that the damaged pipe underneath his front yard is a wastewater line, saying that is located in his backyard. He said a stormwater drainage line is underneath the sinkhole.
“Every time we have a rain, it sends more water rushing through and it eats more soil away,” he said.
With the sinkhole gradually approaching his home, Coligan said he hopes it can be permanently fixed before it causes damage to his foundation. Kolb also is hoping for a resolution and said she understands that the sinkhole impacting her and her neighbor has not been a priority in a city as large a Houston.
After two years and two previous tries, though, she hopes they can be moved toward the front of the line.
“I don’t want to knock on them,” Kolb said. “But come on, guys, let’s get it fixed. It’s been an ongoing issue for years now. We’re ready to have a resolution.”