A 20-foot-deep sinkhole on Lido Boulevard in Lido Beach forced the evacuation of a nearby firehouse, and repairs to the road could last into the end of next week, authorities said.
Much of Lido Boulevard — the county road that is the main east-west thoroughfare on the narrow Long Beach barrier island — was limited to one lane in each direction, which local residents and workers said was delaying traffic.
Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman told reporters Friday that the Loop Parkway, one of three access roads to the island, closed to most nonresidents for three hours in afternoon, though customers of local businesses could still pass.
The sinkhole also has disrupted operations of the Point Lookout-Lido Fire Department, which this week, under Blakeman’s orders, vacated its nearby firehouse, Chief William Wade said.
Most of his department’s calls for service come during the summer, and he fears that lane closures could slow response times unless visitors avoid the area, he said.
“Unless you absolutely have to go down there, by all means stay clear of the barrier island for at least this week,” he said.
The sinkhole near the Regent Drive intersection first appeared Tuesday night as a depression, and that caved in sometime early Wednesday. No one was injured, authorities said. The hole was 20 feet across Friday afternoon.
County officials earlier this week said a sewer had collapsed, and Blakeman said authorities believe a crack in a buried manhole fitting was to blame.
But Lauren Sternberg, a spokeswoman for Veolia North America, which manages Nassau's wastewater treatment plants and sewers, said Friday that it was "too early to say what caused the sinkhole," and that it could be naturally occurring.
Workers in coming days will pump out groundwater and shore up the area before using a camera to determine if the pipe, made of asbestos cement and installed in 1956, is intact.
As a precaution, crews are bypass-pumping around the section of potentially affected pipe to maintain sewer service to properties in the area, she said.
Sternberg said she could not say how long repairs would take.
Blakeman said authorities were dealing with "very old infrastructure that we’ve been in the process of replacing."
Wade, the fire chief, said he spotted a depression in the street Tuesday night and that the street collapsed sometime early Wednesday morning.
Firefighters moved vehicles including two 30-ton engines and an ambulance to the department’s Point Lookout firehouse in case their weight undermined the ground on which they parked.
They are partnering with neighboring Long Beach Fire Department to provide emergency services to the area.
“If you go by Murphy’s Law — well, this is Murphy’s Law times three,” Wade said.
Wade said that the apparently compromised sewage pipe runs to a pumphouse behind his firehouse and that possible structural instability of the firehouse meant it could be weeks before it was operable again.
Marc Herbst, executive director of Long Island Contractors’ Association, representing highway and infrastructure professionals, said what broke was a 24-inch pipe. Nassau’s water and sewer pipes — some nearly a century old — belong to a mostly unnoticed network that also includes gas and telecom lines generally dug 10 to 12 feet underground.
Authorities are likely excavating the site around the sinkhole to examine the pipe as well as upstream and downstream connections, Herbst said.
“Until there’s an investigation to find out what the cause was, we should be cautious” about assigning blame, he said, but the incident does suggest that “the system is aging and it must be maintained, upgraded and repaired.”
At Lido Beach staple Marvel Frozen Dairy, manager Isabella Caldwell said the sinkhole — "over a lane wide" — was deterring some but not all customers.
"Some people don't want to drive in heavy traffic just to get ice cream, but some people still do," she said.