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Jan 23,2015 Now News

Date: 23-Jan-2015

Port Moody residents pack second sinkhole meeting

Jeremy Deutsch / Tri-Cities Now
January 14, 2015 11:53 PM  

They showed up by the dozens, but Port Moody residents looking for answers about a pair of sinkholes related to Evergreen Line construction may not have had their fears allayed.

On Wednesday evening, residents came out to the Evergreen Line project office in Coquitlam both to air their concerns about the sinkholes and to get an explanation from the project team on what exactly is happening below ground.

The residents were assured by project officials and EGRT Construction, which is in charge of building the line, that there will be no new sinkholes and the ground is safe both for people living in the area and crews working on the tunnel.

“We will take every step we can to avoid a further occurrence of a sinkhole,” said Amanda Farrell, the Evergreen Line’s project director, adding safety is the project’s top priority.

There have been two sinkholes in the last couple of months, one in late October in the parking lot of a building on Chateau Place, and the most recent on Jan. 2 on Cecile Drive.

Following the second sinkhole, residents mobilized, asking for a meeting with Evergreen Line officials to get answers, which prompted Wednesday’s gathering.

But many of the people who spoke to the Tri-Cities NOW following the meeting Wednesday said what they heard gives them little comfort.

Lori Leonard, who lives right by the Cecile sinkhole, said she didn’t get a sense project officials are particularly worried about the problem, noting depressions have formed in her neighbours’ backyard.

She said she’ll continue to avoid driving in the area in spite of the inconvenience of having to take a longer route.

“I’m not sure I feel any more comfortable than when I came in,” Leonard said.

Another neighbourhood resident, Cameron Northcott, lives on Seaview Drive and is concerned about both traffic and the sinkholes.

He questioned plans related to traffic, specifically what route would be used if Clarke Road gets shut down and Seaview is also closed.

And even with the assurance there won’t be any future problems from the tunnel boring, Northcott said vibrations are going through the neighbourhood and shaking the soil, adding the meeting didn’t give him much confidence, either.

“It’s a recipe for disaster,” he said of the work.

Kerry Lecorre, a Chateau Place resident who helped organize an unofficial meeting with Evergreen officials on Tuesday, had similar sentiments.

She said she still has questions, especially around how much water is being pumped out at the Cecile location, and isn’t impressed with communication from project officials. 

“I hope they have another meeting and I hope they have it soon,” she said.

Port Moody Coun. Rick Glumac said he also expected more of a commitment by Evergreen Line officials to communicate with residents more effectively and share safety plans to alleviate fears.

He said he was also surprised to learn crews don’t necessarily block off traffic when conducting maintenance on the tunnel boring machine, an approach he suggested would be safer.

With at least two more maintenance stoppages scheduled for the boring machine, he said it’s important Evergreen officials meet with residents again.

“It has to be in the community and it has to be, I think, a bit more reassuring than this [meeting],” he said.

On Tuesday, Port Moody city council voted on a motion to ask Evergreen Line project officials to host a meeting on the issue within city limits.

But at least one resident at Wednesday’s meeting, Soren Larsen, said officials explained the geotechnical make-up of the hill and he feels safer than he did before the meeting.

He also seemed resigned to the inconvenience of the work being done near his home.

“It’s going to be annoying, but we’ll get over it,” Larsen said.

“We have to put up with it until it’s done.” 

At Wednesday’s meeting, residents were given a 10-minute technical presentation about the tunnel boring machine and the issue that caused the sinkhole. An EGRT representative explained the sinkholes occurred during maintenance of the machine.

While workers were replacing the cutter-head tools at the front of the machine, soil material got into the cutter-head chamber. That material created a void in the ground, which then came up to the surface, creating a sinkhole.

Officials noted while the sinkholes were unplanned, they are not unheard of and the two locations were particularly challenging.

Crews have also installed two dewatering wells to draw down the water table near the machine, which will help with the maintenance process.

The maintenance on Cecile is expected to last three to four more weeks. 

Residents also learned the next scheduled maintenance for the boring machine will take place at Clarke Road and Seaview Drive.

Officials said after their experience on Cecile, they expect the next round of maintenance to go more smoothly.

As for complaints by some residents that tunnel boring work has damaged their homes, Farrell said the project team carried out condition surveys on buildings in the area, but if people have specific concerns they will send someone out to take a look.

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