Crater has residents digging for answers

Sinkhole: A room-size hole in a suburban driveway is attracting a steady stream of onlookers to the neighborhood.

March 12, 2003|By Laura Barnhardt | Laura Barnhardt,SUN STAFF

Judith Berger says that early last week, the hole in her driveway was about the size of a dishpan. This week, it's as big as a kitchen.

"Everyone's been stopping by to see it," said Berger, 63, as she stood next to the 8-foot-deep crater that mysteriously appeared in her driveway during the weekend. "No one can believe it. Even I can't believe it."

Various theories have emerged to explain what created the 10-by-10-foot sinkhole behind the Bergers' brick Cape Cod home in the 2800 block of Lochearn Drive in Lochearn.

Baltimore County public works crews have suggested that an underground tank may have disintegrated. Neighbors are guessing that the hole was once a cistern used to water animals on the farm where houses now sit not far from Liberty Road.

"There's really no way of knowing," said Berger, who has lived in the house with her husband, Martin, for 36 years.

"It's the story of the famous pothole," said her daughter, Leslie Berger, 34. "It's huge. I've even given it a name -- Charlie. It was the first name that came to mind."

"It's amazing how many people have been driving by to see it," Leslie Berger said. "We should be charging for this."

But it's the Bergers who have to pay. Because Baltimore County officials say the gaping hole is not related to a sewer problem and is on private property, it's up to the Bergers to fix it.

Yesterday, crews hired by the Bergers were sucking water from the crater so they could fill it with rocks and pave over the top. The repair will cost about $1,500, said Judith Berger.

"I was really surprised no one from the county was interested in being helpful," she said.

David F. Fidler, a spokesman for the county's Department of Public Works, said utility workers made sure the hole wasn't caused by a faulty sewer line. Sinkholes, he explained, have opened up at locations in Baltimore County where limestone deposits have dissolved.

"It's not an epidemic or anything," Fidler said, adding that limestone wasn't to blame for the Berger's sinkhole.

Leslie Berger said she's lucky she didn't need to have her Honda Accord pulled out of the hole. The car was parked in the driveway just a few hours before the crater opened up Saturday afternoon.

"It's a trusty car," she said. "I wasn't ready to lose it to a hole."

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