For the past several months, area residents may have noticed a large sinkhole blocked off behind Mary's Deli while driving on Hamlet Street in downtown Fredonia. Village officials are hoping to correct the water erosion problem there and eliminate the sinkhole in the spring, after the state Department of Environmental Conservation gives the green light.
In a recent phone interview with the OBSERVER, Mayor Stephen Keefe addressed the Hamlet Street sinkhole, which occurred over the remnants of Wiley Creek, and explained how it all started.
"Originally, whoever designed (the culvert there) and built it ... took two old boilers, I assume out of the Pucci's building, and put them side by side and used that ...," he said. "They were cast-iron things, they cut the ends off of them and used those as a pipe, a culvert, to connect with the one that went under the road there. Somebody man-made it and rigged it together to make a substitute drainage pipe. I guess you find all kinds of surprises when things go wrong."
OBSERVER Photo by Greg Fox
The sinkhole in Fredonia formed due to a burst cast-iron culvert that sprayed water around the area. A culvert underneath Hamlet Street continues to drain water here.
Keefe added over the years, the cast-iron culvert rusted and eventually caved in, creating today's sinkhole. Once the culvert collapsed, it started spraying water all around the immediate area, eroding the soil. The soil continues to erode due to the recent threats of flooding the area has seen the past few months.
"Luckily nobody was parked over it or walked over it when it happened," Keefe remarked.
The sinkhole is blocked off by cement barriers at the moment, but village officials are hoping for a more permanent solution sometime this spring.
"What we're looking to do to fix it is use the right type of pipe," Keefe said. "It's probably a five-foot-tall pipe, maybe even bigger than that, but it's going to be a bit of an expensive project just because it's a few hundred dollars per foot of piping. We also have to factor in construction costs and everything else associated with it, but it's something that needs to be done."
Before any work can be done on the sinkhole, the village must receive approval from the DEC since it is in close proximity to a body of water, namely Canadaway Creek.
"We're currently waiting to hear back from the DEC on that," Keefe said, adding the village is working with the county, which helped excavate and clean the sinkhole out. "It's been a cooperative effort there with the county, which we were very grateful for."
Fredonia Department of Public Works Supervisor Jack Boland said once the village is given the go-ahead, work is estimated to take no more than a week.
"Up until we get started, however, I really don't know," he said, referencing the wait for approval. "The board is aware of the problem, but there hasn't been a lot of discussion yet as to what's going to happen there."
While the village awaits DEC approval, Keefe assured residents Hamlet Street is safe to travel on while the sinkhole is there.
"We have a different type of material under the street, so we're safe as far as our road is concerned," he said. "As soon as we can go in and do something about this, we're going to do it. The earlier the better."
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