Nine foot sink hole catapults simple road project to fourteenth burst water main break

By Tom Travis

Monday morning, residents of Flint’s College Cultural neighborhood along Court Street were left shaking their heads and bemoaning the city’s infrastructure problems after a 13th water main break in 17 months early Sunday burst open a nine-foot sink hole in the center of the intersection at East Court and Maxine streets.

According to an update from Spalding DeDecker engineering. at 3:40 a.m. Sunday a water main burst at the intersection of East Court and Maxine, one block east of the entrance to Mott Community College,   

The City of  Flint Water Department was on the scene within one hour, according to the Spalding DeDecker update.

The sinkhole, followed by another one Monday at Court and Vernon streets, effectively catapults what had been a fairly simple, if protracted, road repaving project, further into a persistent debacle.

Maxine Street residents Mary and Ruby Coyne survey the sinkhole Sunday morning. (photo by Jan Worth-Nelson) “I might get a kayak,” Mary Coyne said.

Thirteenth and fourteenth burst pipe in the last 24 hours along Court Street corridor

The reconstruction project of East Court  from Crapo Street to Dort Highway, began in April 2020. Since then it has been plagued with multiple pipe bursts. The most recent pipe bursts occurring in the last 24  hours bring the total of burst water mains to 14 over in the last 17 months.

Sue Bailey, who lives at the corner of Court and Maxine, recorded the sound and sight of water gushing in the middle of the night, though she said so far her basement remains dry.  A number of residents reported decreased water pressure, but by Monday those complaints had tailed off and no interruptions in the water supply were reported.

Neighborhood Facebook sites buzzed with posts throughout the day Sunday, with residents posting “This is inexcusable” to “WTF” to “can’t even believe it,” to many calls for people to get on their swimming trunks or pull out their kayaks.

Monday morning several Diponio Contracting and City of Flint Water Department representatives were at the site, as well as engineers from Spalding DeDecker  as the crews worked to remove large chunks of asphalt from inside the sink hole.

Work crews from Diponio Contracting and City of Flint Water Department work to repair a burst water main causing a nine-foot sink hole at Maxine Street and E. Court Street. (Photo by Tom Travis)

Monday morning as the crews worked on the burst water main and sink hole at Court and Maxine, another burst water main was reported at Vernon and Court, five blocks east.

EVM reported in April 2020 that Spalding DeDecker, headquartered in Rochester, is managing engineer for the project, representing the city and state, with Diponio Contracting of Shelby Township as contractor.  Rowe Engineering, with offices in Flint, provided project design.

Diponio contracting pulls large chunks of asphalt out of nine-foot sink hole at Maxine and E. Court Streets. (Photo by Tom Travis)

The project is Phase One of Court Street rehabilitation.  Phase Two, resurfacing the heavily-traveled route from Dort Highway to Center Road, was scheduled for 2021 and is currently underway.

City engineer Mark Adas told EVM this morning at the Maxine Street sink hole that Diponio Contracting is still under contract and there should be no additional cost to the city to repair the burst water mains. Kevin Schroeder, a construction technician from Spaulding DeDecker said the intersection would be closed all day and could not estimate on when it would be reopened.

Adas added the crew continues to pump “positive water pressure” into the burst pipes so that dirt and mud don’t enter the water system. Crews were using a two-inch hose connected to a generator to remove water from the sink hole, according to Schroeder.

The Court Street road project was contracted for $7  million and in April 2020 was estimated to be completed by August 2020, but it took longer than expected, requiring residents to find alternate routes both east bound and west bound for weeks at a time.

Water service goes uninterrupted during fourteenth burst water main

Paul Simpson of the City of Flint DPW (Department of Public Works) said that as of Monday morning all residents surrounding the area of the sink hole still have water service.

In an email to EVM, Michael and Michele Ellard, who live at the corner of Calumet Street and Maxine, commented, “As residents we anticipated problems with Court Street. when we saw the paving wasn’t finished last fall.  The street is lower than the new gutters so winter and spring ice, slush and rain was running under the new paving.  Definitely a recipe for disaster.”

And for the second summer in a row, the Ellards observed,  Calumet, which runs parallel to Court on the south but is interspersed with many stop signs,  is “a freeway.”

“The noise and dirt from what’s left of the street is bad enough; but we really fear for walkers.  Day and night drivers on Calumet speed and run the stops,”” they wrote. “It would be a great help if the Flint police department had an officer on the street.  The number of tickets that could be issued on Calumet could fill the city coffers.”

Residents can call the City’s Water Department to report loss of water service. According to the City of Flint Water Department website their phones are answered 24-hours a day, the number is (810) 766-7202.

Spalding DeDecker engineering, Diponio contracting and City of Flint Water Department crews were on-site at Maxine and E. Court Streets working on repairing a nine-foot sink hole caused by a burst water main. (Photo by Tom Travis)

This is a developing story. EVM will continue to follow the story. Residents can view updates on the Court Street reconstruction at this link provided by Spalding-DeDecker.

EVM Managing Editor Tom Travis  can be reached at  EVM consulting editor Jan Worth-Nelson,, contributed to this report.

Author: Tom Travis

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