Roeland Park latest spot for sink holes caused by failing metal pipe

This corner in Roeland Park is among the latest spots to be plagued by the failure of metal storm drains.
This corner in Roeland Park is among the latest spots to be plagued by the failure of metal storm drains.

Those sink holes keep popping up — or, rather, popping down — around our area. The newest ones showed up in Roeland Park recently and again the culprit is corrugated metal storm drain pipes that have rusted out, letting the water carve its own path.

Earlier, it was the Mission West shopping center in Mission that was troubled by storm drain collapses, in the last instance leaving a gaping hole in the parking lot near Martway and nearly swallowing the cab of a semi tractor-trailer. Now the heavy rain in mid-July caused two more dirt collapses in Roeland Park, but not nearly as dramatic as the Mission hole.

The newest problems are at Elledge Drive and Buena Vista and at Roe Lane close to Roe Avenue. Both areas are barricaded off and fill has been used to temporarily repair the hole at Ellege. However, Roeland Park Public Works Director David Mootz told council members this week that another big rain could open the holes again. The good news, Mootz said, is that only 25 percent of the city is estimated to have the metal storm water drain pipes.

The council decided to act on the repairs immediately as an emergency, most likely placing a plastic liner pipe inside the metal. “We need to do this now,” Councilor Megan England said. Although there is currently no pavement distress, Mootz said, the situation could get worse with heavy rain and the affected pipe runs under roads. “If we wait for one of these roads to collapse, that’s just too much liability,” Councilor Jennifer Gunby said.

The council saw videos taken inside the pipes that revealed the metal had disintegrated in spots. The problems occur when the metal rusts out and storm water finds a new route outside the pipe. That creates an underground hole that causes the dirt above it to cave in.