Nashua plagued by sinkholes

Deteriorating infrastructure keeping city crews busy

Staff photo by adam urquhart Crews work Tuesday to repair a sinkhole on Main Street in Nashua.

NASHUA – Aging infrastructure caused another sinkhole to open in Nashua Monday night, swallowing the front driver’s side tire of a minivan with it.

This sinkhole on Main Street is in addition to one that opened Friday on West Hollis Street, as well as another recently reported on Kinsley Street.

“One of the challenges we run into with infrastructure in old New England cities, really any East Coast city, is that this stuff was installed over 100 years ago, and over time, it weakens and can create sinkholes,” Nashua Director of Emergency Management Justin Kates said.

Nashua Division of Public Works officials learned of the Main Street sinkhole around 9:30 p.m. Monday. Crews quickly covered the sinkhole with a metal plate until they were able to determine the cause.

“The cause is what we experience all the time: aging infrastructure,” Nashua Division of Public Works spokeswoman Lauren Byers said. “There was a drain manhole that started to deteriorate with age, which caused the sinkhole.”

“In this case, it wasn’t an actual piece of infrastructure, but soil underneath the road bed,” Kates added of the Main Street hole.

Nashua Fire Rescue Deputy Chief Steve Buxton said companies dispatched late Monday for a motor vehicle accident in the area of 301 Main St., which is the Shell gas station, and discovered the sinkhole in the southbound lane.

“Then they just made the appropriate notifications with (Division of Public Works) and the police, and shut Main Street down between Belmont and Lake (streets),” Buxton said.

No injuries were reported, and crews were able to get traffic moving in both directions by Tuesday morning. However, at least one motorist saw the tire of their minivan get stuck in the hole.

Kates said the surface portion of the hole is probably about 3 feet in circumference, adding the pavement actually held up pretty well. Beneath the surface, however, the hole is up to 8 feet deep.

The Main Street sinkhole opened near a city sewer line, so a crew went out Tuesday to investigate the site for possible damage to the line.

“What they do is they will go through and take out any of the pavement that has now kind of weakened,” Kates said. “They will fill it, and temporarily, what’s done is they put a big metal plate over it, and that enables them to get everything back up and running to get a permanent fix.”

Byers said officials hoped to have the repair made to the drain manhole completed by today, but the street also requires paving.

Nashua officials have responded to multiple sinkholes in recent weeks, but Kates said they are not unusual in a city with aging infrastructure.

Through time, if water penetrates the asphalt, it weakens the seal. Then, Kates said, it takes something with just enough weight to create a sinkhole.

Friday, a sinkhole occurred in the area of West Hollis Street and another also recently took place in the area of Kinsley Street. Kates said in the seven years he has been with the city, he has seen a number of them take place.

“Some are larger than others, and one of the most prominent ones I can remember, not far from the one last night (Monday night) on Alds Street where it actually had washed away the water main,” Kates said. “It caused substantial impacts to the roadway. That was a pretty sizable sinkhole.”

Nonetheless, the most recent one on Main Street led to the response of many crew members to repair the damage.

Kates said anyone who notices anything strange with the roadways, whether the roads dipping in certain areas of if they see any general safety concerns, should call the Division of Public Works at 603-589-3140.

Adam Urquhart can be reached at 594-1206 or