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Oxford’s sinkhole remains a mystery

Mike Johnson, Cumberland County’s EMO coordinator, looks over the sinkhole in the Oxford Lions Park following a media briefing on Tuesday.
Mike Johnson, Cumberland County’s EMO coordinator, looks over the sinkhole in the Oxford Lions Park following a media briefing in August. The preliminary results of a recent test involving ground-penetrating radar have come back inconclusive. - Darrell Cole

Ground-penetrating radar results ‘inconclusive’

OXFORD, N.S. - The mystery behind Oxford’s sinkhole is still that – an enigma.

Cumberland County’s emergency management coordinator Mike Johnson said Wednesday that recent tests involving ground-penetrating radar have come back inconclusive.

“A preliminary look at the results show that it’s inconclusive, it’s not showing down far enough,” Johnson told the Amherst News. “The original pictures of the sinkhole showed 35 feet, where we began to see the opening, but with the ground-penetrating radar we were only getting down about five metres, which is just over 15 feet. We’re not deep enough.”

Johnson said this shallow depth of penetration is not adequate to effectively model the bedrock geology beneath the thick layer of sand in the Lions Park.

Before anything further can be done to determine the extent of the sinkhole, or its risk of getting larger, Johnson said, the information needs to be reviewed by a third party to confirm the preliminary findings. It’s only after that, that a more detailed plan for investigating the sinkhole can be developed.

Johnson said a site visit on Tuesday found a few new cracks near the sinkhole, but no cracks further out in the parking lot. The sinkhole dimensions have remained unchanged over the past few weeks, but the water level in the sinkhole has risen to within inches of the surrounding lake water level.

The hole is approximately 100 feet in diameter.

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He said small amounts of soil continue to erode into the sinkhole and a number of areas are undercut due to the root base supporting the surface sod and soil.

Consequently, he said, the site is still considered unsafe.

It has been almost two months since a small sinkhole in the Lions Park became much larger. For several days, the hole – located about 50 feet from the Lions Community Centre – continued to grow, swallowing trees and undermining a section of the property’s parking lot.

It led the Lions club to move its playground structures from the property and has left it in a dire financial position because its insurance policy does not cover a sinkhole.

Wednesday’s news was not welcome for the Lions Club.

“It’s not what we wanted to hear at all," the club's park chairman Don Christie said. "We were hoping we would hear that we could go ahead and start filling it in, but we can’t do that until we know it’s stable. I’m not sure if we’re ever going to hear that.”

Christie said the club has taken a huge hit because it has had to cancel all events at the hall and while it’s continuing its weekly TV bingo – and held a fundraising barbecue during the Cumberland County Exhibition several weeks ago – he’s worried the club, founded in 1959, may never recover.

The club, he said, won’t be function much as a community organization until next year at the earliest. He said membership is down and a Go Fund Me fundraising campaign that aimed to raise $50,000 has only raised approximately $3,000.

“It’s heartbreaking to see the park the way it is, it’s a disaster,” Christie said. “I’d like to start filling it in myself and there are people willing to help us do that, but until we get the word from EMO that’s it OK we can’t do anything. It’s sort of disheartening and frustrating.”

darrell.cole@amherstnews.ca

Twitter: @ADNdarrell

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