Sinkhole Information A sinkhole is defined in Florida law as a landform created by subsidence soil, sediment, or rock as underlying strata are disolved by groundwater. A sinkhle may form either by the ground collapsing on itself to form a hole or by the ground settling to form a crater or indentation in the soil. Florida has more sinkholes that any other state in the nation. Most sinkholes in Florida are located in the west-central part of Florida, consisting of Marion, Orange, Sumter, Hernando, Pasco, Hillsborough, Polk and Pinellas counties. Sinkholes develop undergropund, thier appearence can be sudden and dramatic. Limestone-based soils in humid areas often contain caverns which occur at or near the water table. Roofs of the caverns can collapse, leaving a steep-sided pit that can be a few feet in diameter to several hundred feet. Sinkholes are common in various parts of Florida. If you are concerned of thier prevelance in your county, it is recomended that you consult wiht your countys office of the Department of Natural Resource Conservation. If sinkholes are under or near a structure, the strucure's integrity can be destroyed. Formation of the sinkhole can also resule in the plugging of underground drainage patterns and a lake can form in the newly formed depression area. One hazzard associated wiht sinkholes is the possibility of health problems caused by chemicals and other materials contaminating the drinking water supply. A sinkhole can be thought of as a hypodermic neddle with a direct line into the water syupply. Open sinkholes provide a direct connection between ground water surface water and any contaminants it carries. Sinkholes have caused damage to highways and roads. Motorists need to BE AWARE of thier possible formation. Once they begin to form they can expand rapidly, especially during heavy rains. Sinkhole formation can not really be predictied, but there are things people can watch out for and precautions that can be taken. Watch for signs of water disappearing from the surface (for exsample, the sudden loss of a steam or retention pond). If a sinkhole occours in an area of traffic, barricade it to prevent motorists or pedestrians from getting to close to it. Remeber that the size can continue to increase, so barricade it wiht ample room to spare. Check fields before undertalking machine-related activities, such as haying or harvesting. Keep tractors and heavy machinery far enough away from the sinkhole, since the ground near the edge can easily give way. It is recomended that machinery stay at least as far from the edge as the hole is deep. Sinkholes will be more prevelant during times of increased and rapid rainfall, such as with the type of rains occuring durring a hurricane. Call 9-1-1 and advise them of the sinkhole and of the hole is near utility lines or in a roadway. Restrict access to the hole. Don't get to close to or go down into the hole. Do not allow unauthorized or inexperianced persons to investigate the sinkhole. If the sinkhole is on your personal property, contact your insurance provider for additional instructions. Safety Tips Keep Children Away!Make sure the sinkhole is fenced, roped, or taped very clearly. In some areas a local enforcement agency can help. Usually the property owner will be liable if someone is hurt in the sinkhole.Check carefully for signs of the sinkhole enlarging, especially toward buildings, septic tanks, drain fields, and wells (flowing water into the sinhole will continue or accelerate the growth).DO NOT throw any waste into the sinkhole.DO NOT use the sinkhole as a drainage system. Pesticides and other wastes seep easily through the sinkhole into the aquifer your drinking water.Call 9-1-1 if this is a life threatening emergency!Document as much information as possible about the time, date, location on property, estimated dimensions of the sinkhole, shape of the area and approximate depth. Remember, do not get up close to the area.Document the length of time it took for the sinkhole to form.Document in your own words all that occurred and what you actually witnessed for future reference.