Research shows Permian Basin sinkholes are growing

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WINK, Tx. (KOSA) - Research by geophysics has shown the Permian Basin may be booming economically, it’s also sinking physically.

Wink is known for its massive sinkhole, but new research suggests that in the coming years that sight might not be so uncommon.

It turns out wink isn’t the only spot prone to sinkholes.

Researchers at Southern Methodist University have found points all over the Permian Basin where the ground is sinking at 5 to 53 centimeters every year.

But why?

CBS7 spoke to a Dr. Zhong Lu, a geophysics professor at SMU who has been studying sinkholes patterns in the Permian Basin.

He explained the Permian Basin has a layer of salt below the ground surface and in many instances oil and gas drilling has allowed leaking water to soften that layer and cause the surface to cave in.

“The casings on the oil wells, it has problems and it cracks and leaks through the casing,” Lu said. “And the corrosion of the metal pipe may also be happening as well that allows the water to diffuse into that area.”

That deterioration can cause some pretty big problems and we’re not just talking about the sinkholes themselves.

“Well I think if you live in that area, I would be very concerned,” he said.

Lu said sinking ground can bend roads into unsafe shapes and put drivers at risk, allow lakes to pool in unwanted areas and damage pipelines underground.

It’s a serious problem and will only get worse as time goes on but unfortunately while Lu’s team has compiled a lot of useful research, we’re still no closer to finding a solution.

“How we are going to control it, I have no idea,” he said. “And that’s the part of the task of the job of a geological engineer.”

Lu said he wants to continue researching sink holes in the Permian Basin once his department gets more funding.