Officials from the Atlantic County Utilities Authority say last week's 5-day nor'easter is to blame for a sinkhole that has developed in Smithville.
Smithville residents say they were surprised to learn about the cave-in. Karen Keeley lives around the corner from a large sinkhole that has swallowed a section of the street in Smithville.
Keeley said, "Shocking...it's shocking that there is a sinkhole. Usually you hear about them maybe in Florida, but not in New Jersey. I didn't think it would happen here! That is a very busy area over there because everybody goes over to the village and they go over to the clubhouse and it's a busy street, so luckily nobody was hurt."
The original 6 x 4 ft. sinkhole on the side of Moss Mill Road was discovered late Friday night, when ACUA officials were alerted to a high water alert at a wastewater pump station.
Joe Pantalone, Vice President of Wastewater for the ACUA, explained, "They noticed that there was a sinkhole in front of the pumping station, which means there's another problem."
After further inspection, officials discovered an abandoned sewer line, 25 feet under the sinkhole.
John Bonthron, Collections Systems Supervisor for ACUA, said, "I believe it happened from all the rain we had. About five days of rain and what happened was it knocked in an old, abandoned line out. What happened was that line was full of debris and it clogs the pumps."
Officials say a number of sewer lines converge in the area below the sinkhole, but that no wastewater has been leaked. Pantalone said, "There has been no disruption of service and that's the most important feature. Yes, a little bit of an inconvenience about the road - but the road is intact, it's on the side of the road, not in the middle of the road."
While some residents do say the sinkhole is an inconvenience, other locals say they trust in the utility crews to fix the problem soon. Christine Williams lives near the sinkhole and said, "It's very convenient to just get around it and let them do their work. I was concerned when it was 4 x 6 ft. when it first started, but then it became 15 x 20 ft., but it's bound to happen. I'm sure they have it under control."
As utility crews continue to work underneath the site of the sinkhole, Moss Mill Road will remain closed. However, officials say they will be working around the clock to fix the leak, and that they expect the road to open within the next 48 hours.
While it is probable that there are similar abandoned pipes in other areas of South Jersey, officials say the specific location of this old pipe made the area more prone for a collapse.
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