Road slide considered ‘astronomical’ in Chesterville

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CHESTERVILLE — The collapse of about 162-feet of the George Thomas Road near the Sandy River was termed “astronomical” by a representative from the Maine Geological Survey on Monday, said Chesterville Road Foreman Patrick McHugh.

“He said it was one of the biggest slides he’s seen in Maine,” McHugh added.

The geological representative and engineers from the Department of Transportation visited the site Monday to help determine a cause and repair plan for the town.

As of Monday, the portion of road located about a tenth of a mile from Route 41 in Farmington Falls, is indefinitely closed, McHugh said. Motorists using the road to reach the golf course or New Sharon on the other end will need to travel extra miles around to enter the road from Cape Cod Hill.

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The road collapsed late Thursday night causing a power failure along the road but the damage was not discovered until McHugh arrived before 6 a.m. Friday to start a crew to work on a large crack that had developed along the side of the road.

Instead the crew erected “road closed” signs and put piles of dirt at both ends but it didn’t stop some drivers Saturday night, he said.

“People didn’t realize the severity,” McHugh said of those who traveled over the dirt piles and what remained of the road. More permanent cement barricades will be set up as the section of road will remain closed until a solution, including funding, is found, he said.

A steady rain all day Saturday caused a little more erosion of the road, said Tim Hardy, county Emergency Management Agency director, on Monday.

Maine Geological Survey will continue testing to try to determine a cause but on Monday the DOT engineers both recommended closing the road indefinitely due to the unsettled nature of the soil. Opening one lane around the slide is not an option, he said.

The other side of the road where resident Dennis Lafontaine’s house is located is quite wet. The soil is mostly clay with only about 5 feet of sandy sill for water to drain through and “we’ve had a lot of rain over the last two years,” McHugh said.

Chesterville selectmen surveyed the scene and are working with McHugh to seek any federal funds or grants. Grants could take months to secure and require up to 25 percent matching funds for the repair work that he estimates will cost thousands of dollars, he said. The repair work will also take months to accomplish.

Hardy along with Federal Emergency Management Agency representatives were also there Monday to see how or if there was anything that FEMA could do, he said.

A grader from EJ Pond & Sons of New Sharon was moving more barricades into place Monday and will slope the slide to try to prevent any more soil erosion, he said. A temporary driveway will also be finished for Lafontaine whose current driveway is in the middle of the closed section.

“We’re still waiting on DEP and other resources to figure out what can be done as the slide is so close to the river,” McHugh added.

abryant@sunjournal.com

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