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September 18, 2013

Hidden Danger Of Sudden Squalls



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The torrential rains on the afternoon of September 3 brought squall-like conditions to the East End, causing widespread flooding.

But a more dangerous and possibly fatal result of intense, sudden rain – or a prolonged period of rainy conditions – exists that many people aren't aware of.

Cesspools, particularly ones installed before 1976, can crumble, causing sudden sinkholes that could devour pets, children, and even adults. "Cesspools built after 1976 require concrete rings," said Russell Beal of Emil Norsic & Son. "These are much stronger and retain their integrity longer."

Skip Norsic reported his company received nine calls about collapsed cesspools in the hours immediately following the sudden storm.

"The older cesspools are nearing the end of their usefulness," Beal said. "They were typically made of concrete block or brick and the mortar in between has deteriorated."

Beal said the older cesspools can be hazardous even if it's not raining. "A couple years ago a landscaper drove a heavy mower over one and it collapsed. Some people build driveays over them then park their cars there." Even routine maintenance can be hazardous. "Even if you empty a full cesspool it can create a hollow, and they will collapse," Beal said.

Homes built on or near the water, or where the water table is low, are particularly susceptible to the problem. Norsic warns people to be aware of where their cesspool is sited and to watch for new depressions forming. Trained inspectors are available to assess potential risk.

"The main issue is that people should be aware of this," Beal noted. "Keep a wide berth, especially kids and pets."

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