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Sinkhole study prompts Love Chapel relocation

Faculty, staff and students of Love Chapel Elementary will not return to their normal setting in August and more than likely never will.
The school, which has been a community landmark for nearly 60 years, has been closed permanently by the Unicoi County Board of Education after a site suitability study deemed the school’s surrounding property to be at “moderate to high risk” for more sinkhole activity.
“Based on the results of our geotechnical evaluation and knowledge of local geology, the risk of sinkhole development within select areas of the project site, in our opinion, is considered moderate to high,” the report by HSA Engineers & Scientists states.
Unicoi County Director of Schools Denise Brown said she is thankful the school board supported the idea to pay for a second study, which is dated Oct. 1, in order to assess the safety of the site around the school.

“They [the board] were in 100 percent agreement when I recommended to do that and it was a wise thing to do,” Brown said after the school board meeting on Thursday. “We paid to have these additional tests and this is the result of those tests.”
On the six acres of property where the school building is located, seven large areas where “possible karst-related weakened soil zones or infilling of buried depressions in the subsurface” were identified, according to the study.
The seven areas were discovered using geophysical testing referred to as multichannel analysis of surface waves (MASW).
The MASW tests assisted in the discovery of five areas of concern that were highlighted in the report. These five areas were found through a total of 16 standard penetration tests (SPT) borings, Brown said.

For the remainder of this article please see the February 19, 2013 edition of The Erwin Record.