Sinkhole grows in Santa Clara living room leaving homeowners frustrated

SANTA CLARA, Calif. (KGO) -- A sinkhole bigger than a bathtub and growing has become a major headache for homeowners and the subject of a lawsuit in Santa Clara. The hole is right in the middle of the living room. The home can't be occupied.

It started about 20 months when renters could see water through a laundry room floor grate. A plumber said it wasn't a pipe leak. Four inches of water was discovered in the crawl space underneath the house. And it kept getting worse. What started out as a small sinkhole has gotten larger and larger. The amount of water pumped out during a three-month period was beyond comprehension.

"What it translates to is 17,000 gallons a day, so it's like almost a swimming pool a day is coming out of the house," said homeowner Doug Ridley.

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It's believed the house, owned by Doug Ridley and his wife Sherry Shen, sits atop a well, dating back to the time this part of Santa Clara was filled with orchards. They've been trying to work with the homeowners association at Rancho Palma Grande, but they filed a lawsuit for negligence. They estimate they've spent $160,000 so far for legal and engineering expenses.

"I can't tell you how much we will be spending going on because it's not nearly near the end," said property owner Sherry Shen. "I can't even see the end."

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The sinkhole is covered over for safety. The house has plastic sheeting everywhere to prevent mold from spreading. Their engineer says the sinkhole is at risk of growing, and there are signs of cracks in the foundation. There are also larvae growing underneath the house.

"Not only can you have the potential for structural damage, house movement, settlement, stuff like that, but also you've got water underneath the house that is creating an environment where mold can grow," said Achim Groess from Engineered Research Group.

ABC7 News reached out to the two law firms representing the homeowners association. One attorney said "no comment" due to the pending litigation. The other attorney did not return our call.
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