Broken Water Main Opens Chicago Sinkhole

Americans are dealing with an unusually high number of sinkholes this spring.  A massive sinkhole swallowed a man alive in Florida last month, shocking those in the community and making headlines across the country.  This week in Chicago, a huge amount of rain pummeled the city’s aging infrastructure, bursting a water main and opening up a sinkhole that swallowed cars and disrupted traffic.

Chicago’s Water Department was immediately on the scene when the water main, assembled in 1915, burst open after years of decay.  According to witnesses, the sinkhole opened around 5am along South Houston Avenue, and eventually encompassed the entire width of the street.  As the hole expanded over the next few hours, it devastated three cars, but thankfully no drivers or pedestrians were seriously hurt.

Water Department Commissioner Thomas Powers understands people will blame the rain, but the rain was simply the final straw.  The water main eroded from years of water runoff, and the heavy rain this week leaked through the broken pipes.  The water pressure was too much for the soil supporting the pipes, which caused the ground to collapse.  Powers says the sinkhole looks similar to another incident that happened in 2011.

“And at the same time the water main broke, it breached an old sewer as well, at both locations, washed out the street, washed out all the soil.  And the pavement couldn't even handle its own weight anymore, let alone the three cars sitting on top of it.”

Powers says he spoke with Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who confirmed his commitment to repairing the city’s aging infrastructure to prevent other sinkholes.