It’s well documented that the city of Belen has a problem with flooding. Now, it’s facing a new water issue—a giant sinkhole that shows the city’s main stormwater drain has rotted out, and it’s going to cost a pretty penny to fix it.
“It’s been there about a year,” said local Mark Griego. “At least a year.”
Belen locals said after the city was hit with heavy rain last year, an unexpected problem surfaced near their backyard.
“We noticed the fence was hanging down, so I walked over to take a look at it, and that’s when I noticed that big sinkhole,” said Griego.
In a lot by the middle school, hidden behind the bamboo, there is a 5-foot wide sinkhole.
“There is also a second one about 3-foot in diameter that goes sideways,” said Griego.
City officials said they were called to the area about a month ago, and they stumbled upon an even bigger problem than just the hole. The sinkhole revealed that the city’s main stormwater drain is broken and rotted out.
“So that’s when I pulled the alarm saying it’s more than just vegetation—we have problems with the drainage,” said City Councilor Wayne Gallegos.
Belen has a network of drains that lead to this main one. Runoff from the mesa also gets funneled through the drain where the sinkhole is, so it can get pushed through to the river. A broken pipe like this could cause major problems.
“It slows down all your drainage, and the harder, faster the rain falls, it accumulates on properties and businesses, and of course, we don’t want that to happen,” said Gallegos.
Especially in a town where they already fear the wet weather because it could lead to flooding, this broken pipe is an unwelcome surprise.
“That was kind of upsetting. I mean, I was like, that’s our backyard and they’re blocking it off. There’s not much we can do,” said local Elisha Duggins.
The city said it wants to start fixing it soon, but have no idea how big of a problem it is until crews get underground and check it out. The city is already estimating it will cost about $200,000 just to fix that one section.