An improperly-spliced stormwater pipe is to blame for the “sinkhole” that was recently discovered under the West Main Street alley that separates The Everett Theatre from the Gibby Center for the Arts, according to Middletown officials.
An improperly-spliced stormwater pipe is to blame for the “sinkhole” recently discovered under the West Main Street alley that separates The Everett Theatre from the Gibby Center for the Arts, according to Middletown officials.
“I’ve never seen something like that below ground, and definitely not here in town,” Middletown Public Works Director Wayne Kersey said Friday. “It’s the kind of thing someone would do in a field or something, when you have to move water from one place to another, and you don’t care if it leaks. It’s really not something you should do anywhere.”
Kersey said it appears that one of two, 4-inch PVC tubes that carries stormwater from the alleyway’s drains to the street was actually two pipes that had been cobbled together by someone who cut two slits in the ends and then forced them together, instead of using a coupling to properly connect the two sections.
As a result, stormwater was readily able to escape into the earth under the alley’s concrete floor, just a few feet from the sidewalk.
And, over time, that leak created a “void” about four-feet wide and more than two-feet deep, he said.
“Who did the work and how long it’s been like that is still something of a mystery at this point,” Kersey said. “It could have been that way for 20 years. We aren’t sure, but we’re currently in the process of investigating it.”
Town workers replaced the disjointed stormwater pipe on Wednesday and filled in the missing dirt.
On Monday, a new concrete floor will be poured in the alley, which last summer was converted into a “pocket park” that features murals, public seating, a rain barrel and planters.
“I think we’re all just thankful it turned out to be nothing major,” he said. “As it is, we’re still really fortunate that no one stepped through the sidewalk and twisted an ankle.”
An accident of that kind was avoided, in large part, thanks to Amber Shader, who owns the First & Little baby boutique immediately east of the alley.
It was Shader who first spotted a displaced brick in the sidewalk three weeks ago and immediately reported it to town officials, which led to the discovery of the “sinkhole.”
The sidewalk and alley have been cordoned off ever since.
“I don’t think I did anything heroic, except maybe pay attention to the town and the community that I love,” Shader said Friday. “I think all the business owners on Main Street take pride in our community, and in this case, I guess, it just paid off.”
Kersey said that sense of community ownership is one of the things he loves about Middletown.
“When our residents see something unusual, they don’t just step over it,” he said. “They make the necessary phone calls and in this case, that phone call might have prevented serious injury or further damage.”
Town officials said the final price tag on the excavation and repair work is not yet known.
It also has not yet been determined whether paying that bill will be the responsibility of the town or The Everett Inc., which owns the alleyway.
Chris Everett, the executive director of The Everett Inc., could not be reached for comment Friday afternoon.