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Sinkhole reveals aging infrastructure beneath Downtown Cincinnati

Metropolitan Sewer District
MSD workers lower a camera on a robot to get a peek of what they're facing, before entering the sewer.

A sewer line broke Tuesday at 8th and Walnut, creating a sinkhole. Metropolitan Sewer District planned to have the line fixed and the hole filled in by Thursday. Superintendent of Wastewater Collection Jenny Richmond says the sewer segment that broke was brick and installed in 1881.

"Where it collapsed, another sewer connected in there," Richmond says. "The force of the water over time just eroded away at the opposite side of the sewer and it eventually collapsed."

She says the 141-year-old brick sewer was big enough to send a crew into it, to make repairs, which consists in part, of replacing the bricks. "And then what they'll do is put a spray-liner on the inside of that sewer to basically harden and secure it," she says. "Once that's complete, then they'll start backfilling where the void is, back up to the street elevation where we'll be able to repair the asphalt that's there."

Richmond says other utilities are nearby as well, and any damage to those will be fixed before the hole is filled and repaved. She says the expected rain shouldn't stop the repair work. "We work in all types of weather, especially the rain."

Richmond says line collapses are not an uncommon problem, and it will happen again.

"While we would love our work to be all proactive and be able to evaluate all those sewers ahead of time and make repairs ahead of time, unfortunately our work is more reactive when it comes to issues like this."

Richmond says there are more than 92,000 sewer segments in the district, and 16% of them are more than 100 years old. Another 34,000 segments are between 50 and 100 years old. Most of the oldest segments are in and around Downtown.

Bill Rinehart started his radio career as a disc jockey in 1990. In 1994, he made the jump into journalism and has been reporting and delivering news on the radio ever since.