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Sinkhole study to start in Harrisburg

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More than two months after sinkholes forced people out of their homes on South 14th Street in Harrisburg, the city is moving forward with a geological study to figure out the cause and what concerns there may be for other neighborhoods.

During a meeting Tuesday night, City Council voted unanimously to fund half the cost of the 17-week study. In all it could cost about $166,000. Mayor Eric Papenfuse said Capital Region Water will cover the other half.

Nine homes have been condemned since the sinkholes developed, said Papenfuse. Some of the impacted neighbors urged the city to resolve the situation soon.

“We need to know whether we’re going to stay there or not because this has been going on too long. Two months. It’s been going on way too long,” said Maria Vargas.

Though the sinkholes have been repaired, the street has not been repaved.

Mayor Papenfuse said he wanted to move forward with the study first.

He said, “Nine houses have been condemned because of this sinkhole. The question is, is it safe to rebuild in that area? Is there remediation that can happen that can make it safe?”

The study will determine liability, he said. Issues with pipes fall on Capital Region Water, while the city is responsible for geological issues, he said.

Though the geological study will start with the 1400 block of S. 14th Street, where the sinkholes appeared, it will extend to other parts of the city seeing an increase in sinkhole activity.

He said, “This sinkhole study has grown out of the public meetings. What we heard loud and clear at the public meetings is that people want answers. Is their neighborhood safe?”

The results of the study could lead to a disaster declaration, Papenfuse said, which would make the city eligible for state and federal assistance, depending on the scope of the problem.

Papenfuse said the city continues to work with people impacted by the sinkholes by helping them with insurance and legal issues.

Maria Vargas said, “You don’t know if you’re going to continue to have your home there, or your family, or what’s going to go on from this point. And, I feel, as well as all our neighbors, we’ve been left there. Abandoned.”