What caused Mount Baldy sinkhole?

2013-08-12T14:00:00Z 2013-12-28T19:29:30Z What caused Mount Baldy sinkhole?Joyce Russell joyce.russell@nwi.com, (219) 762-1397, ext. 2222 nwitimes.com

MICHIGAN CITY | A month after 6-year-old Nathan Woessner was swallowed by a sinkhole, officials are still trying to figure out why it happened and if it could happen again.

Environmental Protection Agency officials began using two pieces of equipment Monday on the surface of Mount Baldy to determine if there are any additional voids or anomalies below its surface that could be a danger to visitors.

The park, a site of the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, has been closed since July 12 and will not reopen until National Park Service officials can assure visitor safety, IDNL spokesman Bruce Rowe said.

Rowe hesitated Monday when asked if that meant the popular site for climbing sand dunes and swimming in Lake Michigan's waters could, possibly, never reopen to the public.

"It will not open if it is dangerous to the public," he said, adding nothing like this has ever happened at the dunes before.

The EPA Region 5 Chicago office provided a ground penetrating radar unit and a GPS unit, said Francisco Arcaute, spokesman for Region 5 EPA. The cost of the equipment is $30,000, but is being shared with the NPS at no cost.

The equipment, Arcaute said, can look below the surface of the dunes as deep as 30 feet.

"It will be here as long as it is needed," Arcaute said, adding the equipment is from the EPA's Super Fund division.

Officials had no timeline as to how long it would take to walk the 42 acres that make up Mount Baldy, nor how long it would take to analyze any images from the underground survey. Arcaute said any additional equipment deemed necessary would be brought in to the site.

Rowe said they will also conduct a conductivity study on the dune, but that equipment from the EPA was not yet on the site.

The Sterling, Ill., boy fell into a hole on July 12, under some 11 feet of sand. Workers unearthed Nathan after more than three hours of digging. The boy was was transported first to a local hospital, then to The University of Chicago Medicine Comer Children's Hospital. He remained hospitalized for about two week before being released. He is expected to fully recover.

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