* Content on this webpage is taken directly from A User’s Guide to Karst and Sinkholes in Western Maryland By Topper Sherwood, published by the Western Maryland Resource Conservation & Development Council, 2004 -- Please refer to this publication for further general information on sinkholes.
What To Do If You Suspect a Sinkhole
The following are some steps to follow if you suspect sinkhole activity:
Is the sinkhole located in or adjacent to a karst area? At least two resources can be contacted to help make this determination:
1) The Maryland Geological Survey’s online Geologic Maps Series helps determine the presence of karst-prone limestones, dolostones, or marble; or 2) Consult local soil maps to identify areas where soils originate from or overlie limestone and other material with some 17 potential for developing sinkholes. Soil survey maps and interpretive information are accessible through local Soil Conservation Districts or by visiting https://www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/surveylist/soils/survey/state/?stateId=MD. [The 2002 Frederick County Soil Survey contains a soil interpretation table outlining the relative potential for sinkhole formation by soil series.]
If the sinkhole is not within or near a karst area, subsidence may be due to conditions caused by past human practices (i.e. old foundations, abandoned wells, buried debris, etc.).
If a sinkhole is within a mile of a quarry operation, it may fall within the Zone of Influence (ZOI), established by the Maryland Department of the Environment. [See page 13 of A User’s Guide to Karst and Sinkholes in Western Maryland.] If it affects a Maryland state road, contact the State Highways Administration Engineers Office at 301-791-4790.
If the sinkhole is not within a ZOI, the following local agencies should be contacted:
Department of Environmental Protection and Resource Management will inspect and determine appropriate steps for all sinkholes.
Sinkholes Associated with Agricultural Uses:
Carroll County Soil Conservation District will inspect and determine if a sinkhole is eligible for repair/mitigation cost share. (Voice: 410-848-8200)
Carroll County Bureau of Resource Management Program developed to map locations, provide technical assistance with repairs, and education on sinkhole occurrences. (Voice: 410-386-2639)
Sinkhole affecting county roads and rights-of-way:
Frederick County Office of Highway Operations. (Voice: 301-694-1564)
Sinkhole on Private Property:
Frederick County Soil Conservation District. (Voice: 301-695-2803)
Sinkholes on County Roads or Highways:
Washington County Highway Department. (Voice: 240-313-2720);
Washington County Engineering Department provides technical assistance/advice on sinkhole related problems on construction sites or existing dwellings:(Voice: 240-313-2400);
For general assistance or advice or to report sinkholes affecting streets in Hagerstown city limits, contact the City Engineers Office (Voice: 301-790-3200);
The County Soil Conservation District inspects and determines whether a sinkhole is eligible for Maryland Agricultural Water Quality Cost-Share (MACS) Program funds. (Voice: 301-797-6821).
Most local jurisdictions do not have programs or funding for sinkhole repair on residential or commercial/industrial property. The level of technical assistance available depends on the jurisdiction, but might include an approximation of the sinkhole’s cause, potential for future occurrences or growth, proper repair techniques, and best-management practices to help avoid future occurrences.
Questions about and reports of sinkholes are generally referred to the Department of Environmental Protection and Resource Management (DEPRM), Department for Public Works. The department generally sends an inspector to examine the sinkhole and determine “next steps.” Voice: 410-887-7428.
The Carroll County Planning Department offers technical assistance to landowners and others. The office has documented approximately 500 sinkholes in the county— logging their location, size and treatment history. The office has given technical assistance to land owners on some sites, while conducting repair on those that endanger roads, sidewalks, or municipal and county wells. [Questions about private well and septic systems should be directed to the Environmental Health Division of the County Health Department (410-876-1884).] Department of Planning, Carroll County Office Building, Room 204, 225 N. Center Street, Westminster, Maryland 21157. Voice: 410-386-2145.
Questions about and reports of sinkholes on private properties are generally referred to the Soil Conservation District and/or Natural Resources Conservation Service, 92 Thomas Johnson Dr., Suite 230, Frederick, MD 21702- 4300; Voice: 301-695-2803.
If the sinkhole affects a county road or highway, residents are asked to call the Highways Department, at 240-313-2720. The department will take information about the sinkhole and send a supervisor to examine the site. If the sinkhole affects a public project during construction, the problem goes to the project manager. If the problem occurs on a residential project or an existing dwelling, it is referred to a field inspector of the Engineering Department (Voice: 240/313-2400). Although unable to give material assistance, field engineers are generally able to advise residents on their karst-related problems.
NATURAL RESOURCES CONSERVATION SERVICE (NRCS) FIELD OFFICES AND COUNTY SOIL CONSERVATION DISTRICTS
11602 Bedford Road, NE
Cumberland, MD 21502
9831 Van Buren Lane
Cockeysville, MD 21030
1004 Littlestown Pike
Westminster, MD 21157-300
92 Thomas Johnson Dr.
Frederick, MD 21702-4300
1260 Maryland Ave., Suite 101
Hagerstown, MD 21740-7204
When called upon by landowners in any county, NRCS staff are able to offer limited technical assistance. The Maryland office of NRCS has drafted an approved standard method (No. 725) for “treating sinkhole areas to reduce contamination of groundwater resources.” [The updated soil surveys for Frederick and Washington counties provide a soil interpretation rating for potential sinkhole occurrence by soil series.]
The Maryland Geological Survey (MGS) offers geological information obtained through applied geological studies and mapping. MGS develops information on Maryland’s earth resources, and nurtures the wise and orderly development of these resources through geologic and hydrologic studies, assessments, and evaluations.
Private consultants can be found in area phone listings. When using an engineering firm, ask about geo-technical training, experience, and references.
Western Maryland Resource Conservation & Development Council (RC&D) — The Western Maryland RC&D is a private, nonprofit organization promoting environmental sustainability, education, natural resources stewardship, rural viability, and economic opportunities in Allegany, Carroll, Frederick, Garrett, and Washington counties. The RC&D Council manages natural resources projects in partnership with private foundations, businesses, non-profit organizations, and government agencies. The RC&D maintains a library of information about karst regions.