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DeBary sinkhole could take weeks to fix, residents worry it's connected to bigger problem

Apartment complex residents fear old hole is feeding new hole

DeBARY, Fla. – DeBary Villas Apartments resident Mima Carroll, 78, lived through Tropical Storm Fay in 2008, and she was there for the several sinkholes that followed, including one opening up right in front of the community. Now the latest sinkhole is blocking US 17-92 and the entrance to her apartment complex.

Carroll said she believes the sinkholes around her apartment complex are connected.

She pointed to what is now a large, deep retention pond right in the middle of the complex. She said it too was a sinkhole; however, it was never filled and continues to grow.

 "I just think it's breaking away," Carroll said. "The guys are telling me with a sinkhole you have no idea what's going to happen."

Resident Judy Staley said several fences surrounding the old sinkhole in the middle of the complex have collapsed into the hole.

"It swallowed the fences," Staley said. "There are three fences down there in the hole, this is the third fence. It's sinking and getting closer to the apartments."

Staley, like many of the residents at DeBary Villas, strongly believes the old sinkhole is related to the new one on 17-92.

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The sinkhole opened up on Thursday on U.S. 17-92 near Hollow Pine Drive and grew 20 feet wider Saturday when a water pipe underneath it broke, making the dirt drop an estimated 25 feet, according to the Florida Department of Transportation.

"I think it almost has to be," Staley said. "I think all of that is undermining it and spreading underground."

Residents said they've asked the DeBary Villas and the city of DeBary to fill the hole but haven't gotten results.

"We said, 'This is a sinkhole, and you can already see the ground in the hole down there,'" Carroll said, adding they got no response back.

The Debary City public works director said the old hole is on DeBary Villas private property and the city has no jurisdiction over the hole.

News 6 contacted the DeBary Villas leasing office and was told to call Hallmark Management in Georgia. Hallmark Management did not respond.

Florida Department of Transportation spokesperson Steve Olson acknowledged the old existing sinkhole next to the current one that FDOT is working to fix.

"There's a geological feature that's right next to our issue," Olson said. "Is that related? We don't know. They're right next to each other, but for me to make that jump, I can't say that."

Olson said right now FDOT is focusing on fixing the hole on 17-92.

FDOT hired a contractor to fill the sinkhole with liquid cement, repair the underground utilities and repair the roadway and sidewalk. The fix will cost $594,000.

"That's kind of the unknown right now, how deep does this thing go," Olson said. "The big part of this project is injecting grout into the ground, it's a fluid type of cement.  And then (it'll) harden up and take the place of rock."

FDOT expects to the contractor to finish the job in 21 days.

"We hope it doesn't take that long, but budgeting in case it does," Olson said.

In the meantime, northbound lanes of 17-92 through DeBary at Hollow Pine Drive are closed and traffic remains detoured.


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