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D.C. Water: 14th Street sinkhole likely manmade

Tuesday - 5/28/2013, 5:04pm  ET

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D.C. Water and Sewer Authority General Manager George Hawkins Tuesday (center) stands atop the manhole believed to have crushed a storm drain pipe. Free-flowing water from the drain likely eroded the ground below the roadway, eventually causing the sinkhole that has shut down a major D.C. artery for more than a week. Crews have had to dig multiple holes to complete the repairs. (WTOP/Dick Uliano).
WASHINGTON -- Work crews expect to have the sinkhole at the intersection of 14th and F Streets NW completely repaired by Friday. But the fix has been costly and the cause of the roadway collapse appears to be manmade.

D.C. Deputy Mayor for Public Safety and Justice Paul Quander stood before the gaping hole Tuesday, a week after it first disrupted traffic along the busy corridor, to assure the public that the hole will be filled and the roadway paved by Friday, allowing traffic to once again move freely in both directions.

Currently the northbound lanes of 14th Street remain closed in the area and F Street is closed in both directions between 13th and 15th Streets.

"A lot of work had to be done and probably close to $2 million when all is said and done," says John Lisle, spokesman for the D.C. Water and Sewer Authority, estimating the cost of repairs.

The 15-foot sinkhole yawned open last Tuesday, damaging a 54-inch brick, sewer line constructed in the late 1800s.

But Lisle says the sewer line damage was just one piece of the problem.

The sewer lies below old trolley tracks and other utility lines. And workers had to cut through the trolley tracks to reach the sewer, which required a new steel liner.

The sinkhole appears to have been years in the making, says George Hawkins, general manager for the D.C. Water and Sewer Authority.

A concrete manhole that may belong to a telecommunications company possibly could have caused or contributed to the sinkhole. The matter remains under investigation, Hawkins says.

The nearly 3-foot wide manhole, installed years ago, appears to have crushed a pipe carrying rain runoff from a storm drain to the sewer line.

"Anytime it rained or there was water running into that storm drain, that water didn't reach the sewer. Instead it was pouring out of the pipe somewhere," Lisle says.

Utility crews believe free-flowing water over several years eroded the ground beneath the roadway allowing the sinkhole to open.

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