Georgetown mayor: drainage project not the city's responsibility

An engineering firm is drilling in Georgetown at the spot where a building collapsed into a sinkhole nearly two weeks ago. The sinkhole formed about two weeks before that.

The firm is trying to find out if a SC Department of Transportation drainage project is to blame for causing the sinkhole.

If it is, the city's mayor says the drainage project is all DOT and the city is not liable for it.

The Budget and Control Board's Insurance Reserve Fund, the state agency that insures state DOT projects, is paying a Columbia engineering firm to find out what's under the ground that collapsed in Georgetown, taking a building with it.

A state geologist is observing the drilling project and thinks it will help provide some answers.

"More information is better and we're really hoping that this will give the larger context to really put the pieces together," said field geologist William Doar of the SC DNR.

Many people in georgetown believe a DOT drainage project that included pumping water out from underground caused the sinkhole.

Doar said the answer to that is "maybe". He said it depends on what the drilling core samples find underground.

"If it's something like a limestone... it can form cavities, and if you pull the water out, all of a sudden you've got a cavern with nothing supporting the roof and the roof can collapse," Doar said.

Georgetown's mayor said the city promoted the DOT drainage project to help solve flooding problems and asked other government entities to help get it going.

But Jack Scoville said the city only contributed part of the money and has no direct responsibility for the project.

"The contractor was hired by DOT, the engineers were hired by DOT and they were all supervised by DOT."

Scoville said the city is a potential victim of the sinkhole, like other property owners.

He said some townsfolk have become amateur hydrologists, engaging in fingerpointing and speculation and that doesn't help.

"At the end of the day it's going to all come out and we'll know where we are and who's to blame if anybody and we'll resolve it, but complaining doesn't get you anywhere."

Scoville said it appears obvious the drainage project had something to do with the sinkhole, but whether it was the sole cause or a contributing cause is yet to be determined.

The DOT has temporarily halted the dewatering process that was a part of the drainage project, until a cause for the sinkhole can be found.