Ox­ford sink­hole costs con­tinue to mount

What will hap­pen next and who pays for it?


The earth-eat­ing mon­ster known as the Ox­ford sink­hole con­tin­ues to cut a swath through tax­pay­ers’ pock­et­books.

Mike John­son, emer­gency mea­sures of­fice (EMO) co-or­di­na­tor for Cum­ber­land County, pro­vided an up­date on those costs dur­ing a re­cent meeting of Cum­ber­land county coun­cil.

“It cost $13,000 for the fenc­ing that had to be done, and the ground pen­e­trat­ing radar was $35,000,” said John­son.

The cost of 24-hour se­cu­rity is $10,000 ev­ery three weeks, and the to­tal cost of se­cu­rity now ex­ceeds $10,000.

“We put in fenc­ing to keep peo­ple out be­cause peo­ple were still walk­ing up to the sink­hole and tak­ing a look in,” said John­son.

“Even after the fenc­ing was up, we had to put in 24-hour se­cu­rity be­cause peo­ple were com­ing in at night when no­body was around,” he added. “And even with 24-hour se­cu­rity peo­ple were sneak­ing in and find­ing a way around.”

A ground pen­e­trat­ing radar test was de­ployed to check if radar could pen­e­trate through the salin­ity of the wa­ter and into the ground. The test cost $1,500.

It was sup­posed to take a rough snap­shot of what is oc­cur­ring be­neath the sur­face, pro­vid­ing di­rec­tion for fu­ture seis­mic test­ing. Un­for­tu­nately, the ground pen­e­trat­ing radar failed to live up to its billing.

“We got the re­port back now, and I would say from a pre­lim­i­nary view of it we’re some­what dis­ap­pointed be­cause the pen­e­tra­tion of the radar only went down three to five me­tres,” said John­son. “Five me­tres only gets us to the 15-foot mark, so we’re not get­ting down to that area where we want to see what’s go­ing on.”

Geo-tech­ni­cal ex­perts are cur­rently look­ing at the data to de­ter­mine if the pre­lim­i­nary re­view was ac­cu­rate.

“Other op­tions they could use with ground pen­e­trat­ing radar is chang­ing the fre­quency,” said John­son. “A longer wave­length of fre­quency pen­e­trates deeper and gives deeper in­for­ma­tion, how­ever, with a longer wave­length it tends to re­flect off of large objects, so you don’t get as clear a pic­ture.”

If ground-pen­e­trat­ing radar can pro­vide a bet­ter pic­ture, a larger ground pen­e­trat­ing radar sur­vey, at a cost of about $35,000, could be de­ployed. An­other op­tion is seis­mic test­ing and drilling at a cost of be­tween $75,000 and $100,000.

How all of this will be paid for is be­ing worked out.

“The way it usu­ally works is that, typ­i­cally, the mu­nic­i­pal­ity will pay for things to the limit it’s ca­pa­ble of do­ing so,” said John­son. “Be­yond that, they would be look­ing at the pro­vin­cial government to as­sist to the level that they’re ca­pa­ble of do­ing so, and then, from there, to the fed­eral government to the limit they can pro­vide.”

A dip in the high­way

There is a dip in the Trans-Canada High­way near the en­trance­r­amp to Ox­ford in the west-bound lane head­ing to Amherst.

“The hole clos­est to the cen­tre of the road has been paved over a cou­ple of times,” said John­son. “But what hap­pened just re­cently was, on the white line at the rum­ble strip, that area be­gan to dip down and has since been paved.”

John­son said there is also a dip in the ditch and the road-bank ad­ja­cent to the dip in the road, adding the pro­vin­cial government is mon­i­tor­ing the dips.

“They’ve had peo­ple down to look at it and they’re do­ing twicedaily checks to en­sure that it’s safe,” said John­son. “And they’re look­ing at op­tions, along with us, to see what is most ef­fec­tive way to de­ter­mine the sub-grade.”

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