Austin

Cave in Brushy Creek neighborhood now 200 feet long

WILLIAMSON COUNTY, Texas (KXAN) -- Homeowners who live near Cambria Drive and Ephraim Road in southern Williamson County still don't know how safe the cave is that runs beneath their homes.

Several structural engineers went into the cave Monday morning and determined the cave runs 200 feet east, longer than the 170 feet hydrogeologists estimated on Friday. The newly discovered fourth chamber is 3 feet tall. Engineers are trying to figure out how stable the cave is, after part of its ceiling collapsed last week.

Hydrogeologists are expected to go back into the cave later this week. They will continue to work with engineers, who are expected to release their report within 30 days. That means the western part of the intersection at Cambria Drive and Ephraim Road will remain closed this entire time.

Meanwhile, people who live above the cave are getting antsy.

"I was under the impression it would be today and I've been putting off other plans in my life to be here because I don't want to miss when they come knocking on the door with some information," explains Michelle Mitchell.

Mitchell wants to know how close the cave is to her home. "I would be anxious if I found out there was only about 10 inches between me and the opening of the cave or you know the ceiling of the cave."

The county says when utility lines were installed 30 years ago, it weakened part of the cave ceiling, which may have caused the collapse. "It was just that area that appears to be affected but that's all that we know, so we're telling the homeowners they really need to make their own individual decisions right now," explains Connie Odom, public affairs manager for Williamson County.

The Brushy Creek Municipal Utility District says they did not know this cave existed because it didn't have a surface opening. It's the only cave they are aware of in the Woods of Brushy Creek neighborhood. The district does manage 35 other caves which are all in nearby preserves. Williamson County maintains 59 caves across the area, including seven about a half mile from the Cambria Cavern.

Once the county receives a report on the stability of the cave, it will work with the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality to come up with a solution for the cave opening in the road.

TCEQ says if a cave is discovered in an area before construction starts and TCEQ allows the construction to move forward, typically, it is protected by a natural buffer area (construction is not allowed in the buffer area). The cave and buffer area are usually surrounded by a fence.

If a cave is discovered during construction, work must be suspended immediately to notify the TCEQ so the agency can review the area.

 


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