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Sinkhole blamed on bad construction

40-by-40-foot hole closes Victory Blvd. intersection from Saturday to Monday.

January 26, 2010|By Christopher Cadelago and Max Zimbert

The massive sinkhole that opened Saturday at Victory Boulevard and Palm Avenue amid heavy downpours, shutting off water to surrounding structures and closing off traffic to the intersection, was likely caused by improper construction nearly two decades ago, officials said.

Water was restored to neighboring businesses, and all lanes were opened to traffic by 1 p.m. Monday as street sweepers worked to clean up debris scattered blocks away from the 40-by-40-foot sinkhole, which was widened to 65 feet along the curb to make necessary repairs.

The sinkhole was back-filled and temporarily paved Monday and water service was restored Sunday afternoon, said Ron Davis, general manager of Burbank Water and Power.

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Davis attributed the main break to improper construction by an outside contractor, who he said failed to properly support the large pipe at a crucial pivot.

“Frankly, they should have known,” he said. “The pipes should last 40 years, but they didn’t last 19 because they didn’t put in a thrust block.”

Burbank police officers and firefighters responded about 2:30 p.m. Saturday as the giant sinkhole gushed thousands of gallons of water, authorities said. Police Lt. Eric Rosoff described it as the street falling in on itself, decimating the southern half of the intersection.

No injuries were reported before authorities cordoned off the area to the public.

Ken Donaldson, a water supervisor for the utility, said he suspected rain moved soil around, which could have caused the 12-inch main to burst.

“We can’t be certain that this was the cause, but what we do know is we just put the pipe back in and put concrete support behind it,” Davis said. “Not a very sexy repair. But it was that simple.”

About 17 employees worked over a two-day period to repair the street and pipe. That combined with materials and equipment rentals is estimated to cost $10,000, Davis said.

Contractors in the coming weeks are expected to grind off the temporary patch and lay down permanent materials, Public Works Director Bonnie Teaford said.

Utility officials characterized it as an abnormally large sinkhole and the third of note in the last 20 years. Similar-sized breaks occurred 10 years ago near Empire Avenue and roughly 18 years ago at Hollywood Way and Magnolia Boulevard.

“These are pretty rare because Burbank spends a lot of money and time on maintenance,” Donaldson said.


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