More homes surrounding Pasco sinkhole condemned

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The situation with a massive sinkhole is Pasco County is getting worse for some homeowners. 

As of Monday afternoon, seven homes are condemned surrounding the sinkhole on Ocean Pines Drive in Land O' Lakes. Three additional homes were designated as "suitable for demolition" over the weekend.

A USF researcher, who used to live in the neighborhood, believes she has found what partially caused the 250-foot-wide sinkhole to open near Lake Saxon.

"I used to ride my bike and swim in the lake when we first moved to Florida," says Lori Collins, an archeologist and associate research professor at USF.

Collins and her team have been using drones and other sophisticated equipment to construct 3D maps of the sinkhole. Recently Collins decided to look at historical maps of the area, dating as far back as the 1840's.

She found that the area around the lake was changed significantly by development beginning in the late 1950's and continuing into the 1970's. The maps revealed the lake was dredged.

"That dredge material was used to actually make the land that the sinkhole actually opened up on, or nearby, so a lot of these homes are sitting on what used to be lake bottom," Collins said.

There's no certainty, but the dredge material added to an area already prone to sinkholes, might have been the formula that led to the current sinkhole. 

"This development would be handled differently with the rules we have on the books now," Collins said.

Pasco County spokesperson Doug Tobin said phase 1 of the response is expected to wrap up around August 18, with stabilization of the edges of the sinkhole and collection of debris. The cost to Pasco County is expected to total around $1 million. 

Tobin said it's unclear what will happen after that. The sinkhole could be left as a lake, in effect turning it back to nature.