SAWS waiting until water clears to determine cause of sinkhole

Hole swallows two cars, kills Bexar County Deputy

SAN ANTONIO – After the recovery of a woman’s body and two cars from a giant sinkhole on the Southwest Side, a big question remains: how did it happen?

It is an answer that won’t come right away.

Robert Puente, San Antonio Water System president and CEO, said Monday that crews must wait until the water in the sinkhole clears before examining what may have caused the pavement to open up.

During a weekend of steady rain, the sinkhole was created where a section of new pipe and old pipe meet underneath Quintana Road off of New Laredo Highway.

The pipe, 96 inches in diameter, carries sewer water across much of the city from the North Side to the SAWS wastewater treatment plant at Leon Creek.

Recycled water flows through another pipe in the area, which is used mostly for industry and commercial landscaping.

Construction was underway on the sewer line on Quintana Road before the sinkhole opened up over the weekend.

One driver whose car fell into the hole managed to escape Sunday evening with the help of a passerby.

San Antonio Fire Department crews pulled the body of Dora Linda Solis Nishihara, a Bexar County Deputy, from the sinkhole Monday afternoon.

Puente estimated Monday that roughly 50 million gallons of water are flowing through the hole daily, causing it to get even larger.

That amount is a combination of sewer water and rain water.

The sewer water flowing through the pipe comes from sinks, showers and toilets, which SAWS says is not a flow they can cut off.

So they will wait until the water clears to determine how this happened.

“It's something that is unique to the rain that we had, the current construction that we had, and it's just something that we're going to have to assess and look at,” Puente said.

SAWS has been replacing old pipes throughout different areas of the city.

Puente estimated the old section of pipe under Quintana Road is 20 to 40 years old.

He added SAWS does not believe the sewer water flowing through that sinkhole poses any health risk to people in the area because the flow is contained within the hole and its flowing back into the pipe.

About the Author: