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Province should know if there’s a sinkhole under TCH near Oxford in early 2020

Crews from Logan Drilling and Harbourside Engineering conduct geotechnical testing on Wednesday on Highway 104 near Exit 6 in Oxford.
Crews from Logan Drilling and Harbourside Engineering conduct geotechnical testing in October on Highway 104 near Exit 6 in Oxford. - Dave Mathieson

Onsite drilling complete and laboratory testing has begun

OXFORD, N.S. —

It could be early 2020 before the results of drilling on the Trans-Canada Highway near Oxford’s sinkhole are known.

Marla McInnis, media relations for Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal, said onsite drilling on the highway just outside town is complete and laboratory testing is underway.

“The contractor is expected to complete testing and present findings to government within the next two months. This will give us a clear understanding of the conditions at the site and how best to monitor and/or respond to the findings going forward,” she told the Amherst News. “Government will review the contractor’s findings and recommendations before determining potential next steps.”

MacInnis said the work is in additional to regular monitoring and annual road surface testing at the location.

In October, the department responded to growing public pressure regarding a depression in the highway close to a large sinkhole that developed in the Lions Park in August 2018. It hired Logan Drilling, overseen by Harbourside Engineering, to complete a geotechnical investigation at Highway 104, Exit 6, in hope it would give a clear understanding of the conditions at the site and how best to monitor and/or respond to the findings going forward.

MacInnis said site work included drilling of several boreholes at depth between 100 and 125 feet below the roadway.

The testing came a month after the Oxford Lions Club decided to abandon its parkland property in the community following the release of finding of a geotechnical study of the popular playground that was closed following the development of the massive sinkhole 14 months ago.

Cumberland South MLA Tory Rushton is looking forward to learning what the testing finds and hopes it allays fears about future sinkhole development.

“The minister committed to doing the testing within two weeks of me asking him in the legislature and he also informed me it would take a month or two before the results would be known,” Rushton said. “They are still monitoring the area and I’ve told the minister I would be looking forward to seeing the results early in the new year.”

Several months ago, Rushton joined former MP Bill Casey, Cumberland EMO co-ordinator Mike Johnson and Oxford chief administrative officer Rachel Jones in calling on the province to do additional testing focusing on the Trans-Canada Highway and Highway 321 that comes into Oxford.

The province had been invited to participate in the original study earlier this year by GHD Engineering but declined and the engineering firm's final report recommended additional study of the Trans-Canada Highway and the road into town. At the time, the province refused, saying it regularly does its own testing.

Rushton said the biggest concern to him remains what happens if a sinkhole opens up on the highway. He’s hoping the provincial and federal governments will move quickly to mitigate any issues the drilling identifies.

The sinkhole that closed the Lions Park in Oxford is located in an area of karst topography that is prone to sinkholes. There are sinkholes directly across the Trans-Canada from Oxford and there is aerial photography from before the highway's construction indicating there may have been a sinkhole where the highway is today. LiDAR images, which hadn't been completely analyzed in September, also indicated depressions around the highway.

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