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Sinkhole Opens Over Pittsburg Storm Drain, Damaging Church Grounds

A sinkhole opened up on the grounds of a church in Pittsburg last week as a storm drain failed underneath it.

Staff at Church of the Good Shepherd in Pittsburg say crews cleaning a fountain in the church garden on Wednesday Jan. 11 alerted them to a sinkhole which opened up in the garden.

“So we came out and checked it out and let the city know, and the city has been working on this since last Wednesday,” explained Gerry Brochu, who does maintenance for the church.

The city of Pittsburg said the sinkhole opened over a failed storm drain that carries water from nearby Kirker Creek.

Pittsburg Public Works Director and City Engineer John Samuelson explained Saturday that the city has a storm drain line that takes Kirker Creek from one side of Harbor Street to the other side near the church.

“So when this massive rain hit this area, it wasn’t capable of transporting all the water in the creek from one side of the creek to another. So the water found another way, which was over the top of the street through the church property,” Samuelson said.

Since Wednesday, the church has installed security fencing to keep people out of the garden. The area around the sinkhole has been lined with tarps and sandbags.

Over the past few days, Brochu said the sinkhole has grown to be about 23 feet deep and 30 feet across. The sinkhole has swallowed up tree branches, sandbags, and even a 15-foot-tall light pole, he added. Brochu noted that over the course of the day Sunday, about 8 feet of the bank around the sinkhole has eroded into the hole.

During storms on Saturday, floodwaters spilled onto Harbor Street where the church is located. The water on Saturday knocked down a long stretch of the exterior wall separating the church grounds from the street.

On Saturday, Pittsburg police went door-to-door in the area telling residents to prepare for potential evacuation. As of Sunday evening, the city told NBC Bay Area that no homes had been evacuated by law enforcement.

The city shut down Harbor Street from Yosemite Drive to Greystone Place due to the flooding Saturday. That section remains closed, and Pittsburg City Manager Garrett Evans said in an email Sunday night that the city hopes to reopen the closed section on Tuesday.

In an email on Saturday night, Evans noted that once the water recedes, the city can start working on its short-term plan to address the failed storm drain.

“The longer term plan and complete fix will occur later,” Evans said.

Leaders at Church of the Good Shepherd say the church itself was not damaged by the sinkhole, only the garden grounds. Mass went on as usual Sunday. Parishioners said they were thankful the church building was not impacted.

Brochu told NBC Bay Area that he does worry that the church’s fountain or engraved bricks may be damaged as the sinkhole expands. But overall, he is remaining calm, noting with a laugh, “God made insurance for these types of issues.”

Source: NBC Bay Area

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