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Infrastructure an ongoing challenge for Gulfport as sinkholes appear

Published: Sep. 14, 2021 at 7:13 PM CDT
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GULFPORT, Miss. (WLOX) - Infrastructure is going to be a hot topic in Washington in the coming weeks.

While politicians debate that $1 trillion proposal, South Mississippians are saying it’s easy to see where to spend that money here at home.

There’s a spot in the middle of 19th Street that has closed the street for several months.

“There’s sinkholes popping up all over the place,” said Gulfport resident Michael Drongowski.

It started with one hole at the intersection of 19th Street and 19th Avenue but has now grown to at least four.

“It’s gotten worse and worse and worse,” Drongowski said. “And a few months ago all they did was close the road and they haven’t touched it since.”

Gulfport Director of Public Works Wayne Miller said a collapsing metal drainage pipe is causing the sinkholes. He said it is not an uncommon problem. Miller said much of the city’s infrastructure south of the railroad tracks were repaired with FEMA money after Hurricane Katrina, but north of the tracks and east of 33rd Avenue was not.

Miller said he prioritizes repairs based on the danger and inconvenience to citizens. Until this weekend, crumbling infrastructure had only been an inconvenience for Drongowski. Now it’s impacting his home.

“Because there’s a sinkhole opened up on the alleyway right here,” Drongowski said. “And considering that the backpressure into my system, I can’t drain, I can’t flush my toilets. I busted a pipe trying to do it Sunday.”

A city crew came out Sunday, but they said they couldn’t help him, and the same on Monday. Drongowski said he has made many phone calls.

“So now I’m stuck with backed-up sewage in my house for up until...she said the 21st,” he said.

However, Tuesday afternoon Drongowski said a Public Works supervisor came out and said work would begin Wednesday on the sewage line. The collapsing street, however, will have to wait.

Miller acknowledged that the city has its share of infrastructure problems.

“We’re starting to see the effect of an aging system,” he said. “Old metal pipes are collapsing. We’re repairing them as they come up.”

Miller added that the department is installing new concrete pipes as quickly as they can, but are limited by manpower and money.

Miller said his department has also struggled with staffing issues that have hurt his ability to respond quickly. At present, the city has one crew doing patches and another making bigger repairs.

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