A garbage truck driver had a surprise early Friday morning when his wheel went through the road, dropping into a sinkhole that opened up on Prospect Street in Searsport. The hole was fixed by the town later in the morning.
The driver was not hurt and the truck was not damaged, though it did need to be towed out of the hole, according to Searsport Town Manager James Gillway.
The hole developed over an underdrain in the roadbed that collects water from all the side roads and driveways for nearly a mile radius. Because soil in Searsport includes marine clay, water doesn’t soak into the ground very well, Gillway said, and the underdrain carries a large amount of runoff.
Gillway believes the sinkhole — about seven feet deep and 15 feet wide — formed because of the heavy rains that have hit the coast over the last month.
“We think what caused it is gravel that is shifting and moving,” he said. “It’s definitely the product of all the rain.”
“The volume of water that goes through that pipe is incredibly high,” he said.
The driver of the Casella truck was pulling out of Bayview Manor, a residential care facility, at about 6:15 a.m. when his wheel dropped into the hole, Gillway said.
The recent storms, including a Halloween weekend rainstorm that dropped between four and seven inches of rain on towns in the midcoast, have caused issues around the region. Sections of roads washed out completely, including part of Route 52 in Camden and part of Route 235 in the Union-Waldoboro area.
The Maine Department of Transportation estimated that the Halloween storm caused about $350,000 in damage to state roads, with the bulk of the issues happening in the midcoast area.
The sinkhole didn’t take long to fix, Gillway said, with crews filling it and paving it over by mid-morning on Friday. It is located just uphill of U.S. Route 1, which is scheduled to be rebuilt next year in Searsport.
The sinkhole wouldn’t have opened up with the weight of an ordinary car or truck, Gillway said, but needed a very heavy vehicle to break through it.
“This problem is just one that got identified, I’d say fortunately, because no one got hurt,” he said. “We got it patched. We filled it with good, heavy rock and gravel. We’ve already paved it. It’ll be safe. I’ll put my life and car on it, no problem.”