A Closer Look at Sinkholes and Former Quarries in St. Louis

By on August 9, 2018

From St. Louis Magazine:  Sinkholes have been in the news again lately, with images of exasperated homeowners interviewed by reporters standing in front of gaping holes filled with muddy water.

The city has been honest about the aging and deteriorating infrastructure of St. Louis, much of dating back to the 19th century. Factor in aging cast iron pipes and a drought that causes the dirt to shrink, and it’s a recipe for broken water mains and sewer lines.

But the history of the ground under our feet reveals that aging infrastructure isn’t the only culprit for the sinking and subsidence around St. Louis. Those looking to buy property in the city would be wise to consider the following modern and historic methods to look below the surface of potential new homes or businesses.

All good realtors in St. Louis, for example, will scoping the sewer lateral, from the house to the sewer main in the back alley. Traditionally, the sewer lateral was made of terracotta clay pipes, linked in sections of 1- to 2-foot-long pieces. As one would expect, over the course of a century, those segments of clay pipe can loosen or separate, threatening the safe passage of sewage from the house. By having a professional scope the sewer lateral before closing on the house, the buyer can be assured that costly repairs be put on the seller. (Before I purchased my house, for example, the $175 I spent to scope the sewer lateral revealed that the clay pipes required $6,500 worth of repairs, which the seller paid before closing.)

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