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Break in main opens sinkhole

A water main break opened a large sinkhole yesterday morning in a West Baltimore street near the site of a recent sewage spill, trapping a car that slipped partway into the hole and slightly injuring the three people inside.

The sinkhole in the 1100 block of Braddish Avenue opened to about 15 feet deep and 45 feet long and 40 feet wide, Fire Department and public works officials said.

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Officials said the sinkhole was caused when an 8-inch water main broke, which also left 15 homes without water.

The sinkhole was near the location of a sewage line blockage at the intersection of Braddish and Winchester avenues that sent more than 60 million gallons of raw sewage spilling into the Gwynns Falls two weeks ago. A large hose was used in the ensuing days to divert spillage from the 39-inch sewage line while a contractor unclogged the blocked pipe.

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Department officials now believe that the contractor, who was using a suction device to clean the clogged 39-inch sewer line, was unwittingly sucking dirt into the line through a break - and that the dirt was coming from an area surrounding the water main.

"In the course of doing work to clean out the sewer line, the support for a water line was affected," department spokeswoman Cathy Powell said. "It caused the water main to break."

The water main was repaired and water restored to the 15 homes by about 8:40 p.m., Powell said. She said crews remained on the scene last night assessing the damage and ensuring that the area was secure.

Fire officials said the three people in the vehicle that dropped partway into the hole, whom they did not identify, suffered minor injuries.

The sinkhole occurred one month after a 20-foot-deep hole opened near the Owings Mills Mall. A mother and daughter driving to the mall were trapped at the bottom of the pit for an hour before being lifted to safety.


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