Selbyville sinkholes a gaping problem around town

Coastal Point • Laura Walter: Sinkholes, suchas this one east of Railroad Avenue, are causing Selbyville officials to search for answers.Coastal Point • Laura Walter: Sinkholes, suchas this one east of Railroad Avenue, are causing Selbyville officials to search for answers.No one quite knows the extent of damage in Selbyville’s newest sinkhole. Blocked off by orange tape, the hole — measuring at least) 3 feet by 5 feet — was discovered in early October. It’s just east of Railroad Avenue, between the road and the Mountaire-side railroad tracks.

Selbyville’s engineers need to figure out exactly sure what the issue is. This new hole is located above three underground pipes serving the Sandy Branch tax ditch. So the pipes could be caving in, or the soil could just be washing away between intact pipes.

“It is within the railroad’s right-of-way. We do know that,” said Town Administrator Stacey Long.

That could be a big problem if the Maryland & Delaware Railroad tracks suffer any structural instability there. Selbyville has notified the railroad but haven’t gotten a response since then, Long said.

But the Town installed the Sandy Branch culverts, which also run under Mountaire and Indian River School District property. “So there’s … a little bit of everybody involved here.”

This is the third hole in that area, but the road is still open.

Railroad Avenue started having problems in May of 2015. Under the road itself, the corrugated pipe partly rusted out, so the soil eroded, causing a small hole where the road fell in. The road was closed until it could be temporarily patched.

A third, smaller hole was also spotted in the road in October.

Town staff previously estimated that repairs could cost $500,000 for the first hole on Railroad Avenue. Selbyville has completed the engineering and passed its regulatory requirements for that repair, said engineer Jason Loar of Davis, Bowen & Friedel Inc. He said he hopes the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will grant a permit by December.

Then Selbyville must figure out how to pay for it.

“We’ve got to fix that thing,” said Mayor Clifton Murray. “It’s going to be rather expensive.”

“Probably one of the biggest issues small towns face is storm drains,” said Long, who dealt with several in Dagsboro and Selbyville. “Some are so old that pipes are just failing. Public Works is keeping an eye on it.”

Sussex Conservation District staff visited Selbyville in mid-October to discuss sediment and stormwater problems.

“Their recommendation was for us to get our engineer involved where there were possible structural issues,” Long said.

They also helped with some other sinkholes Selbyville is suffering, near Phillip C. Showell Elementary School and the PNC Bank parking lot.