Sink Hole Opens By A Highway Near Quapaw

Monday, August 7th 2006, 10:11 am
By: News On 6

Old mines continue to cause problems in northeastern Oklahoma. Another sinkhole has surfaced along Highway 69 in Ottawa County. People who live nearby are worried that authorities are not taking the problem seriously.

News on 6 reporter Jennifer Loren says the area near Picher and Quapaw has long been plagued by sinkholes.

"That is a doozy." The mining industry that built the town is also the industry that's breaking the area down. "So the mine itself goes in under the fence and into the pasture." John Sparkman is from Picher. He's been keeping an eye on the problem for years.

Sunday, a sinkhole that's already been patched once, reopened along highway 69A just north of Quapaw. "We came out here this morning and the hole had opened up to about 15 feet in diameter and 10 feet deep in one section."

People very familiar with the problem fear this sink hole could be the tip of the iceberg. Its proximity to US 69 could make for a much bigger problem. "And the mine does run under US 69A. So there is a threat here." He worries that the Oklahoma Department of Transportation doesn't share that fear. For the second time they filled the hole with dirt.

Sparkman says that's even more dangerous than leaving a gaping hole. "But you can not keep playing Russian roulette with these mine collapses. We've done that too long. Something bad's going to happen if we really don't start addressing the problems up here."

ODOT has studied nearby areas. But Sparkman says engineers need to study the exact area around this hole.

That's what they're doing a few miles away in Picher. That sinkhole surfaced years ago and is monitored closely for new movement.

In fact, heavy trucks can't drive on that section of highway. They're diverted to highway 69A, where the latest hole has reopened.

An ODOT spokesman says maintenance workers are now watching the area closely. They drive by several times a day looking for any signs the dirt is moving further.