Expert calls Nokomis holes “cause and effect”

WWSB ABC7 News at 6pm
Published: May. 23, 2023 at 7:18 PM EDT
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NOKOMIS, Fla. (WWSB) - University of North Florida Assistant Professor of Geo-Engineering, Ryan Shamet, said the holes popping up in Nokomis are most likely a cause and effect from groundwater pumping.

“In this area of Florida, we don’t have the stereotypical sinkhole that propagates from the limestone. Actually, where that limestone interface is, in this area, it’s much deeper than what we see in the rest of the state,” said Shamet. “It’s a clear cause and effect like if they were pumping and they were forming and in the past thirty years nothing else has formed, then yes I would say it would probably warrant a closer look.”

Shamet said any changes in the groundwater are going to cause the holes to come to the surface. He explained there are already natural holes in the limestone.

“Most of Florida, especially in the southwest and south of Tampa, there’s going to be natural holes in the limestone,” said Shamet. “Usually, if everything is staying consistent and there are not rapid groundwater changes, then those holes are just going to stay there. Anytime you have extreme water moving through there then it’s going to disturb the subsurface conditions.”

Shamet explained the Nokomis area only has one major sinkhole on record dating back to 1981. He said this could be related to what residents said happened decades ago when holes similarly started popping up when the land was an orange grove.

“There’s only one sinkhole in probably a five-mile radius and it’s probably the one previous homeowners were referencing,” said Shamet. “There’s a little bio on it and it says, 1981 a pond was being dug and cleaned out and it caused a sinkhole to occur next to a house.”

Shamet said residents should have some peace of mind knowing the area is not like other places known for this activity.

“It’s not like in Orlando or Tampa where you see a high density of sinkholes form throughout all of Florida’s history,” said Shamet.

Leigh Sterrett is a resident of Kenwood Avenue who continued advocating for construction to stop. He explained Shamet’s comments are good news.

“It’s vindication. I mean I’ve known this since day one. It was zero coincidence that this place has been stable for thirty years there have been plenty of drought situations in that thirty years and we’ve had no issues. Now all of a sudden 72 hours after they started pumping all the groundwater, out of that construction site, all of these sinkholes started collapsing,” Sterrett Shared.

Sterrett also expressed that construction needs to stop and residents in the area need help.

“The project needs to be shut down. I’ve been told by somebody on site that, that job site won’t even hold the construction that they are trying to do and they just need to abandon it. They need to come in here and do whatever they can to make everybody back here whole again. I mean we’ve got properties with sinkholes, they’ve lost property value, and they can’t sell. There are people over here with no water,” said Sterrett.

According to Sarasota County, staff members will be meeting with Pulte developers in two to three weeks to go over the results from geologists.

Residents like Sterrett are also concerned about why Pulte got to hire their own geologists in the first place. Sarasota County explained because the site permit is owned by Morris Engineering, they are responsible for the design, inspection, and certification of the land development.