Sinkholes and Columbia’s lock box ordinance

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What to look for on Smart Talk Friday, August 17, 2018:

Last weekend a 22-foot-deep sinkhole opened up on the Cumberland Parkway. It was the latest in a series of sinkholes that have formed recently in Pennsylvania. Last Friday, one swallowed several cars in the parking lot of the Lancaster Tanger Outlets. At the end of July two opened up in Palmyra. 

The formation of sinkholes is often caused by changes in water levels, and Pennsylvania has experienced some heavy rain lately. 

The Department of Conservation and Natural Resources explains that sinkholes develop in karst landscapes which are formed when bedrock such as limestone is dissolved, creating a network of tunnels that are reminiscent of a natural plumbing system. Water flows through these channels, and when water levels change, the tunnels can cave in and create sinkholes.  

Sometimes sinkholes form through natural processes like heavy rain or draught. Humans can also be involved in their formation, though. Drilling, dams, vibration from traffic, and heavy objects on the surface can contribute to the development of sinkholes, the Department of Environmental Protection says. 

DCNR map shows that there have been sinkholes and surface depressions throughout much of Central and Southeastern Pennsylvania. 

When sinkholes open up, they can cause damage and inconvenience, and they may cost thousands of dollars to fix. 

On Friday’s Smart Talk to discuss sinkholes is Bill Kochanov of the DCNR Bureau of Topographic and Geological Survey. 

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Bill Kochanov


Also, at the end of last year the Columbia Borough Council unanimously voted to enact an ordinance that requires Columbia businesses, apartments and nursing care facilities to have lock boxes, also known as Knox Boxes, installed outside their buildings. The boxes are intended to contain keys and building blueprints to be used by emergency personnel responding to events like fires. 

Business owners are pushing back against the ordinance, citing concerns about cost, security and privacy. The boxes cost hundreds of dollars up front, and workers are also worried about who will cover the expense of repairing or replacing the boxes if they are tampered with. In addition, some Columbia residents and business people oppose the lock boxes because they fear they will be easy to break into and might give people unwanted access to their buildings. 

We’re joined by Columbia Borough Councilman John Novak and Fire Chief Douglas Kemmerly.  Keena Soukup, business owner of Soukup Automotive in Columbia, created a petition opposing the lock box ordinance. She joins us on Friday’s Smart Talk to discuss the legislation.