- Associated Press - Monday, April 21, 2014

DUBUQUE, Iowa (AP) - When Nick Thumma returned home from work in Dubuque two weeks ago a surprise awaited him - a sinkhole he said was the size of his car.

It was the second time the pavement in front of his house had sunk, and like the first time, an effort to patch it up failed. Crews soon discovered that the cause of the problem was a collapsed mine shaft.

Dubuque is riddled with old mine shafts, which were dug in the mid-1800s by workers seeking zinc and lead. Those mines and tunnels were rarely capped, and many aren’t documented.

“When the gold rush happened in the 1850s, everyone took off and just left them,” said Jim Dockal, a retired university professor and geologist, said of the mines. “They were used many times as ways to dispose of yard waste, tree branches, stuff like that. That’s going to decay.”

Thumma told the Telegraph Herald (https://bit.ly/1i7oxhH ) he has started pushing for the city to make information about the mines and tunnels more easily available, and he thinks homeowners should be able to buy insurance specifically to protect themselves against damage from sinkholes. Some states mandate the creation of such risk pools, but Iowa isn’t among them.

State Rep. Pat Murphy said he’s spoken with Thumma about the issue and expects to look more deeply into the matter.

City Engineer Gus Psihoyos said there is no way of knowing where sinkholes will develop.

And what about the current problem on Thumma’s street. Workers plan to deal with that again this week and hope to make a more permanent fix.

“Somehow, we’ll bridge the crevice or shaft and make our repairs above ground,” Psihoyos said. “We just basically cap the crevice with concrete usually, reinforce and then we go make the repairs.”

Thumma appreciates the response, but still feels uneasy.

“It’s just something that is upsetting to me that we don’t know what’s down there,” he said.

he said.

___

Information from: Telegraph Herald, https://www.thonline.com


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