Identifying sinkholes. Sinkholes are the result of water collecting underground without some sort of external drainage mechanism. As the water collects, it erodes the bedrock and creates underground spaces. (Photo: Helicon)

Some sinkholes may develop without warning, while there may be several signs before others develop. Those occurring on the outskirts of a commercial property may go unnoticed and create specific structural issues for buildings.

Ruptured sewer lines contribute to some urban sinkholes, but generally they are a naturally recurring phenomenon characterized by sudden settlement or collapse of land. They usually occur when underground water or seismic activity creates voids or chasms underneath the surface of the earth. When topsoil becomes heavy with rainwater, is subject to some other stressor, or there is gradual groundwater erosion, the surface collapses into the void, and a sinkhole forms and swallows whatever was sitting on top of it.

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