Farmer Fights To Keep Massive Sinkhole In Suwannee County From Spreading

By: Greg Gullberg Email
By: Greg Gullberg Email

Suwannee County, FL - October 1, 2012

Chuck Matukaitis is a cattle farmer who is fighting to save his home from being swallowed up by the land it stands on.

More than 50 sinkholes opened up in his property in the aftermath of Tropical Storm Debby back in June. One of them is believed to be the largest sinkhole in Suwannee County. FEMA measured it to be more than 60 feet down in the week following the flood. That means it was so big a six story building could fit in there. Locally it's known as the "McAlpin Grand Canyon".

Matukaitis has spent nearly $9,000 filling in the sinkholes with dirt and building fencing to keep his cattle away from them. He is one of countless Debby victims who could not meet FEMA's threshold for disaster relief assistance.

"The geologists tell me it is actually going to keep growing even though the rain has stopped because there are so many voids," Matukaitis said.

Matukaitis says the sinkhole opened up into an underground canyon he did not know about before. And there is no way to know how far it will go. It is already stretching to the nearby road.

"In North Florida we kind of sit on a piece of swiss cheese is the way it was explained to me by the USDA," Matukaitis said.

With all the dirt it is only about 40 feet down now. And it sure is a treachurous climb. The walls crumble under your feet. The bottom of the pit is coated with mud that sinks like quick sand.

Matukaitis has given up on trying to fill it in. Now he is just working to round off the edges to hold it in place.

"It's just something you have got to deal with and we will deal with it. And we will go on. I'm not giving up," Matukaitis said.

Matukaitis says he needs a bull dozer to finish rounding off the edges of the sinkhole but he says it costs more than $1,000 to rent one and there is no way he can afford that now.


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