Officials: Quintana sinkhole surrounds new, old pipeline projects

Update on deadly sinkhole

SAN ANTONIO - We are learning more about the deadly sinkhole off Quintana Road that claimed the life of a Bexar County sheriff's deputy and injured others.

On Wednesday morning, San Antonio Water System administrators told city council members what they found underground.

"A large hole had been allowed to develop under the roadway where a big section of asphalt fell in at one time. We've never seen anything quite like that," said Steven Clouse, senior vice president and chief operating officer of SAWS.

Clouse said that the sinkhole off Quintana Road near Plumnear Road was created quickly. It wasn't a long-term problem. The pipe that broke was less than a year old.

As crews work to reopen Quintana road, the answer as to how this all started is still unknown.

During the early-morning hours of Dec. 3, calls poured in about a giant sinkhole in the 8400 block of Quintana Road on the southwest side.

Firefighters discovered two cars inside.

One driver was rescued. The other, Bexar County Sheriff's Deputy Dora Linda Nishihara, was found hours later inside her vehicle underwater.

"I think what the community wants to know is: Is this gonna happen again?" City Councilman Rey Saldaña asked SAWS officials in a briefing on Wednesday morning.

Saldaña initially thought that the sinkhole was another example of neglect to the south side. His district comprises the southwest side of the city.

"[I thought] the 60-year-old pipes that we have in our community aren't [present] in other parts of the city," Councilman Saldaña said. "So I was upset and frustrated, but the pipe wasn't 60 years old. It was less than a year old."

The break happened at an intersection where a new pipeline project met an old one. SAWS crews are trying to figure out if some type of construction failure caused the collapse.

"It wasn't the fact that it had rained that caused this problem," Clouse said. "I think something developed within the pipeline that started the cascading series of events that led to the collapse in the road."

SAWS administrators said that they've inspected the nearly 5,500 miles of sewer pipe in the city and they identified areas needing attention.

"Our progressive work of inspecting the system, our progressive work of repairing problems in the system and the support of the community if they see a change, that's the best that any city in the U.S. can hope for," Clouse said.

SAWS investigators are examining the broken pipe and engineering blueprints to diagnose the problem. They couldn't get much further into detail as there is potentially a lawsuit headed their direction.

"We have secured all the evidence, all the parts of the system that came apart, we've secured all of the engineering design and documents," Clouse noted. "We are studying that carefully to make sure that when we do come out with, 'Here, this is what caused the problem,' we want to make absolutely sure that we have the correct answer."

Crews are reconstructing the hole, manually clearing debris from the pipes and putting them back in place.

They expect to reopen Quintana Road the first week of February, but it could be some time before they reveal the exact cause of the road collapse.

"If I'm a member of the family of the woman that lost her life, I'd want quick justice and I'd be bringing litigation," Councilman Saldaña said. "More than justice in her particular case, what the community wants is they want to know that SAWS is not sitting on their hands."

SAWS officials urge the public to always call 210-704-SAWS to report any sights or smells out of the ordinary on the roads.

© 2017 KENS-TV


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