Sinkholes, Insurance & Property Values


"You don't know when
the bigger sinkholes
are going to come."

Eileen Hart


If you live in Pasco County, chance are the State of Florida is your insurance agent. Why is it impossible to obtain homeowner’s insurance in Pasco County? Well, the hurricanes certainly have affected every community…. But Pasco residents have an added threat: sinkholes. Insurance companies will no longer provide homeowner’s policies covering sinkholes. So where does that leave us, and how does regional water supply policy relate?

A sinkhole is a depression in the land surface caused when the roofs of underground channels and caverns collapse. Scientists tell us that dredging, constructing reservoirs, diverting surface water, and pumping large amounts of groundwater may result in the abrupt formation of collapse-style sinkholes.

Loss of water from underground cavities, compounded by drought, may cause the overlying rock and ground to collapse. Weight on top of the caverns caused by heavy rains or construction may also result in collapse.

Sinkhole
Note the people along the rim for a size comparison!

Sinkhole Phenomenon

In early March 1998, as a drilling company was drilling an irrigation well for a future golf course in western Pasco County, a massive sinkhole opened up and threatened to swallow the entire drilling rig. Although the driver got the rig out in time, a crane had to retrieve a truck from the 150-foot-wide, 15-foot-deep sinkhole. Shortly after this event, nearly 700 sinkholes, most only a few feet wide appeared in the surrounding area.

While sinkholes are common in the area, “this event was unique,” according to Dr. Mark Stewart, chairman of the Geology Department at the University of South Florida.  “I know of no other recent event in Florida that opened so many sinkholes in one small area.”


"Sinkholes for instance..."

Ronda Storms


Handy Andy's TV Repair
business being swallowed
by a Hernando County Sinkhole

According to Tony Gilboy, hydrogeologist for SWFWMD, the phenomenon began when the contractor drilled a hole into the Floridan Aquifer for an irrigation well. As he cleaned out the hole using compressed air, a common well construction practice, a large underground cavity collapsed, resulting in the large sinkhole near the drill rig. The force of several tons of dirt falling into the cavity caused a massive pressure wave through the aquifer, producing the nearly 700 smaller sinkholes on the surrounding property. Heavy rains, which the area had been experiencing, may also have contributed by putting pressure on the underground cavities, causing them to collapse.

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Throughout this website, you’ll have the opportunity to play small videos of people who were involved in shaping Tampa Bay’s water policy. They include activists, elected officials, lawyers and experts. All of them were involved in what is called, “Tampa Bay’s Water Wars.” We thought you’d like to hear what they have to say in their own words. We think you’ll appreciate their very different perspectives.

Meet the Experts