The State of Maryland and Redland Genstar, Inc.
One early morning in March of 1994, Robert W. Knight, 24, was driving down a darkened stretch of pavement between Westminster and New Windsor when the road ran out. Sometime during the night a 45-foot-wide hole had developed without warning that the driver never saw until it was too late.
The Taneytown native died at a hospital later that day.
Sinkholes can occur when underground limestone or marble bedrock slowly dissolves, leaving behind caves that eventually become so large that they collapse.
In her suit against the state and Genstar, based in Hunt Valley, the plaintiff claims emotional pain and suffering, loss of companionship, financial support and other losses on her part and on behalf of her two children. Her suit was filed in Carroll County Circuit Court and targets a Medford quarry situated close to the sinkhole site and belonging to Genstar.
According to the suit, Genstar failed to look into possible hazards, failed to provide the state with reports on the impact of the mining, failed to prevent sinkholes on Route 31 and failed to warn the public of possible danger. The suit further alleges that “Genstar drew off billions of gallons of water from underground streams and severely lowered the water table, leading to the development of sinkholes throughout the immediate area
surrounding the quarry and the sinkhole on Route 31 in which Robert Wayne Knight lost his life.”
A spokesman for Genstar denied responsibility for the accident.
According to a recent state law, “spheres of influence” are drawn around quarries indicating areas in which sinkholes and other geologic activity can be attributed to mining activity. A company is liable for property damage within these spheres if it is caused by its mining activity.
However, Genstar claims that the area where the sinkhole occurred on Route 31 lies outside the company’s jurisdiction.
*Based on an original 1996 AP article, “Mining firm sued for
$13.5 million, WESTMINSTER, Md.”
* Karst geography is by definition unstable. Sinkholes can form in unexpected areas, in particular where ground excavation occurs and where there is a change in the groundwater flow rate.
Examples of the risks involved with lagoon construction in karst regions are documented by Dr. Nicholas Crawford of Western Kentucky University's Department of Geography and Geology in an August 5, 1998 report.
He has documented a 1984 sinkhole collapse under a hog waste lagoon in southwest Barren County, which poured 2.4 million gallons of hog waste into the karst aquifer in less than five hours.
Another sinkhole collapse under a hog waste lagoon in Logan County on April 29, 1991, drained more than one million gallons of hog waste into the karst aquifer, according to Crawford. This lagoon had a synthetic liner, but the collapse occurred above the synthetic liner. Crawford also documented lagoon leakage from two lagoons in Logan County which contaminated a spring.
If this year is anything like 2000, Central Florida residents are in for some real catastrophes.
Last summer, a sinkhole opened under Lake McCoy in Apopka and sucked dry what had been 140 acres of water teeming with fish, anglers and boaters.
Within a week, thousands of fish lay rotting on the dry bottom. Almost no place seemed safe.
There must be stronger legislation against the devastating effects of sinkholes from rock mining.
Far too often these mining companies "get away with it" claiming the terrain is already prone to sinkholes.
They are correct, these areas are prone to subsidence and sinkholes, but if the incidence of sinkholes greatly increases near the quarrying activities in comparison to the adjacent terrain, "something else" is clearly influencing the accelerated sinkhole development.