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Drilling to begin in Hutchinson to determine sink-hole risk of abandoned salt well

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Friday, August 2, 2013, at 10:52 a.m.

Work will begin Monday to determine if a long-abandoned salt mining well in a high-traffic area in Hutchinson is susceptible to sink holes, state officials said Friday.

Morton Salt owns the mineral rights to the well and will be paying for the work, which could take up to three months, said Mike Cochran, chief of the geology section for the Kansas Department of Health and Environment.

The site of the well is at 11th Street and Lorraine, a largely commercial area, although a mobile home park is nearby. Like many of old salt mining wells in Hutchinson, the well was drilled in the early 1900s and was later abandoned.

“There’s no indication there is a problem,” Cochran said, “but we want to make sure there are no possibilities of a sink hole forming.”

A sink hole occurred a few years ago at the site of an abandoned salt well near railroad tracks in east Hutchinson, he said.

Authorities first became aware of the abandoned well at 11th and Lorraine in 2001, when Hutchinson was ripped by two major explosions caused by natural gas infiltrating the area from a storage field west of the city.

It was discovered by workers when they were drilling vent wells nearby, Cochran said. The state received information about it two years later, he added.

Morton has contracted a company to bore holes into the caverns surrounding the well and determine the condition. Holes also will be bored next to the caverns to test the strength of the rocks, Cochran said.

After the testing is completed, Morton will develop a plan on what to do with the site. KDHE will review the plan and determine whether to approve it, Cochran said.

Reach Rick Plumlee at 316-268-6660 or rplumlee@wichitaeagle.com. Follow him on Twitter: @rickplumlee.

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