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The groundwater level in the Eindhoven region has reached a historic high because almost twice as much rain as normal has fallen in the De Dommel water board for eight months.

This has caused inconvenience in many places. In recent years, De Dommel Water Board has been busy with interventions to retain water in nature for longer, a necessary measure due to the long periods of drought that previously plagued the region. However, the current situation in which the water remains high has little to do with these interventions, according to the water board. Yet residents notice that there is something wrong with the water level: “In the past 30 years I have never seen water in my crawl space, but now I do.”, is heard in the neighborhood.

It's not just the flooded crawl spaces that are a concern. Lately, sinkholes, also called sinkholes, have become increasingly common in Eindhoven. These holes suddenly appear in roads and can cause dangerous situations. Despite the concerns among residents, the municipality of Eindhoven does not always seem to take the situation seriously. 

When reports are made of stones disappearing into a large hole due to washed away soil, it is often stated that nothing is wrong. “No ma'am, that is not a sinkhole,” says a municipal employee who estimates by telephone that there is no problem. “I will report a tile from the street.” Residents are concerned about this and set up cordoned off areas themselves to warn others not to park in dangerous places. Since the municipality does not take action after the reports, residents are forced to intervene themselves.

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sink hole
Photo: © Pitane Blue - Eindhoven

Residents are concerned and set up cordoned off areas themselves to warn others not to park in dangerous places.

In some places in Eindhoven the municipality is taking action and repair work is being carried out, but this seems like a drop in the ocean. Experts warn that the increase in sinkholes is due to the heavy rainfall. Ronald van Balen, an expert who previously explained to Hart van Nederland, says that the chance of sinkholes is greater when there is a lot of rainfall. “Our systems are not designed for this,” says Van Balen. “The sewer system must ensure that water is drained away. If there is a leak, some of the water flows past it and the soil is drained into the sewer.”

This situation leads to voids under the road surface, which can eventually collapse because they lose their load-bearing capacity. According to Van Balen, it is important to know that the risk of sinkholes is especially greater under roads and sidewalks, not under fields or in forests. “You need a solid top soil, and that mainly concerns built-up areas.”

Previously, sinkholes had appeared in several places in Eindhoven. Most are small, but on Fakkellaan a large piece of road surface has been washed away under a well. This is probably due to problems with the sewerage system in the city, Van Balen explains. “The sewer system must ensure that water is drained away. If there is a leak, some of the water flows past it and the soil is drained into the sewer.” This creates a cavity under the road surface, which then collapses due to loss of load-bearing capacity.

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Can you do something yourself if you suspect that a sinkhole is about to form? “Apart from contacting the municipality, not,” says Van Balen. “The municipality can come along with material to tackle leaks in the sewerage system, for example, but you cannot do anything about that yourself.” According to the geologist, the Netherlands is extra sensitive to sinkholes because our country contains little hard soil. “Many places have soft soil consisting of grains of sand and clay particles.”

Although the situation seems worrying, according to Van Balen there is no reason for great concern for the time being. “Sinkholes here are not so large that they are life-threatening,” says the geologist. “You may trip over them or you may faint for a moment, but in other areas they are much more spectacular, like in America.” There, houses and cars can disappear into sinkholes, which is super dangerous. Sinkholes may be more dangerous for older people, because they lose their balance more quickly.

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