A 10-foot wide, 20-foot deep sinkhole is causing havoc for traffic, local businesses and residents near the Johns Hopkins Hospital complex in east Baltimore.

The sinkhole, which surfaced July 25 at the 2300 block of E. Monument St. between Patterson Park Ave. and Milton St., is an opening to a storm tunnel drain dating back to 1901. While many earlier reports referred to a gas leak caused by the sink hole as a result of a strange gas-like odor, Robert Gould, spokesperson for Baltimore Gas and Electric, denied such claims.

“We actually took the gas main out of service of out of an abundance of precaution two nights ago,” said Gould. “There were reports about a smell. It was never leaking to our knowledge.”

Businesses and residents in the area are without natural gas service, but have working electricity. Gould said that portions of the gas main will have to be replaced because of subsequent damage from the sinkhole.

“We are testing to make sure there are no more voids under the street,” Shonte Eldridge, Chief of Communications for the city’s Department of Public Works, said. “We understand this is a hardship and inconvenience.”

In hopes of preventing future incidents, such as the 20-inch water main which broke on Light St. on July 16, Eldrige said that the department will increase the number of miles of main rehabilitation from less than 5 miles annually to 40 miles. The $300 million, five-year project will bring Baltimore up to industry standards for water main rehabilitation.

The department is also using new technology as a preventative measure. On July 23, the Department of Public Works released a press release detailing new electromagnetic and acoustic fiber technologies that were used to discover a potential water main failure near Whistler and Wilmarco Avenues in southwest Baltimore City. The department replaced three 16-foot sections of the 54-inch water main “in order to avoid the potential for a future catastrophic break,” said the press release.

Eldridge said she will meet with Monument Street Business Association and impacted business owners on July 30 to address their concerns and update them on the progress of the sinkhole.

“We can’t do any construction until we address the safety concerns,” said Edridge. “There should be an update next week.”

In a release, the department said it is using ground penetrating radar to identify any further rifts in the tunnel, measure the extent of the sinkhole, and to check out other utilities, water and wastewater for damage.

Eldridge said the Baltimore City Department of Housing was present on July 26 to assist displaced residents.

Krishana Davis

AFRO Staff Writers