Testing Shows Massive Water, Sewage Leaks in Hideaway Hills, Increasing Danger from Mine Collapse

Underground lines leaking millions of gallons into soils, abandoned gypsum mine every year

RAPID CITY, S.D. – Testing by the Northdale Sanitary District in Black Hawk, South Dakota, shows water and sewage lines underneath the Hideaway Hills neighborhood are leaking millions of gallons of fluid into the soil every year, worsening already dangerous conditions there.

That neighborhood and its 158 homes are the subject of a class action lawsuit that has its origins in April 2020 when a sinkhole opened and neighbors discovered an abandoned, state-operated gypsum mine beneath the homes.

For generations, South Dakota operated gypsum mines to support its for-profit cement company. Trials to determine South Dakota’s liability and potential damages it may have to pay in the case are scheduled for next year.

In June and August 2022 and April 2023, the sanitary district, which is responsible for providing water and sewage services in the area, conducted testing in which it placed video cameras into the underground water and sewage lines. The results of those tests became available only last week and only after attorneys at the Fox Rothschild law firm, who represent the Hideaway Hills homeowners, filed a subpoena.

The results show that the water lines have been disturbed by the collapse of the soils and are leaking 28,000 gallons a day, or more than 10 million gallons every year. The sewage lines are also leaking, the tests show, and some of the sewage is remaining in the pipes and is corroding the underside of manhole covers.

“This was already a health and safety issue, but now it’s clearly a disaster just waiting to happen,” says attorney Kathleen Barrow, who represents the neighbors whose homes have been left worthless by virtue of the mine collapse. “Every single gallon of water and sewage that leaches into the soils there is literally dissolving the gypsum underneath the homes above. The experts tell me we are one water main break away from disaster.”

The case is Andrew Morse and John and Emily Clarke et al. v. State of South Dakota, No. 46CIV-20-000295 in the Meade County 4th Judicial District.

Fox Rothschild is a national law firm with 27 offices. The firm focuses on client service and responsiveness with bright and creative lawyers who know how to deliver. More information at foxrothschild.com.

Media Contact: 

Mark Annick

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