Mayor, expert fear drainage project may be cause of sinkholes

GEORGETOWN, S.C. (WCIV) -- Engineers in Georgetown cannot agree on a cause for the sinkholes in the coastal city. Early estimates have damage totals reaching hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Ten days of tests have passed and officials are still searching for an explanation. Mayor Jack Scoville says he's talked to six engineers, looking into a cause, but they can't agree on one.

"None of them will give the exact same explanation of what they think happened, it's probably related to pumping," Scoville said.

The mayor hopes the worst is over. He also said the city drainage project that has pumped thousands of gallons of water out from under city streets since October, is likely a major, contributing factor.

But he is still waiting for a final answer.

"Hopefully within a week or so we're going to have some definitive answers," he said.

Meantime, College of Charleston geological professor, Scott Harris says there may be something to the location of the sinkholes.

"If it was randomly popping up it would make me very nervous for the people," Harris said.

The three holes, including the one on Highway 17 that caused the UPS store collapse, happened along what Harris calls a "line."{} Since they're somewhat localized, he says it's better than the holes showing up at random.

After assessing the holes himself, Harris agrees with Scoville, the drainage project may be to blame.

"Some of the area's we've seen up in the Georgetown area, you can see there were some large voids under those buildings, like the UPS store, the most prominent one on Highway 17," he said.

Harris says pumping water out of areas that have been saturated for decades can have consequences.