BEAUFORT -- Concrete panels that came loose along the Beaufort seawall likely caused the sinkhole problem in Henry C. Chambers Waterfront Park and might be repaired by pumping chemical grout into the affected areas, an engineering consultant for the city said Tuesday.
Sinkholes were among the problems expected to be fixed by the nearly $7 million park renovation performed from July 2005 to December 2006, but five sinkholes reappeared after the repairs.
Beaufort then hired Charleston-based WPC Engineering, Environmental & Construction Services to find the cause of the problem.
In a report delivered to the city last week, WPC said it had ruled out two of three possible causes for the sinkholes, leaving separation of concrete panels as the probable source of the problem. WPC visually inspected the seawall at low tide to try to assess the problem, but face panels obstructed the view of the concrete panels.
"We wanted to do a face inspection so we could see the defect, but we could not see any exposed section," Nitin Dudani, project geotechnical engineer for WPC, said Tuesday. "But because we eliminated all the (other possible) causes -- we did so much testing in an elimination process -- finally that's what we think is the problem."
Dudani said he did not know how much grouting would be required or how much it would cost. The grout will be pumped through PVC pipes drilled into the ground and will not require excavation, he said.
Though parts of the walkway near the Downtown Marina have given way because of the sinkholes, Dudani said there is no cause for concern about public safety aside from the possibility of a pedestrian tripping over the affected areas.
"I do not see any safety issues," he said. "It's not like the wall is going to collapse into the water. That's not going to happen."
In preparation for the Independence day weekend and the Beaufort Water Festival, which runs from July 11 through July 20, the city's public works department has filled in the sinkholes with soil and replaced the walkway sections that were removed.