On February 12, 2014, a sinkhole opened under the National Corvette Museum, causing a portion of the floor to collapse and swallow eight one-of-a-kind Corvettes. Decision was made to salvage the cars and to repair and reinforce the ground that was damaged by the sinkhole.
The total repair includes 72 micropiles, drilled to an average depth of 42 m (140 ft.)
Water-powered DTH drilling was the optimal choice when drilling in the sensitive karst formation.
The Corvette Museum
The National Corvette Museum, located in Bowling Green, Kentucky, USA, showcases the American sports car Chevrolet Corvette. It was constructed in 1994 and displays 28 unique Corvettes.
On February 12, 2014, a sinkhole opened under the floor of the Ø 41 m (138 ft.) Skydome area of the museum, causing a section of the floor to collapse. Eight one-of-a-kind Corvettes fell into the sinkhole, causing serious damage to some of them.
The reason: Karst formation
The underlying reason for the sinkhole was the karst formation; a landscape formed from the dissolution of soluble rocks including limestone, dolomite and gypsum. These soft rock types are prone to sinkholes, caves and underground drainage systems.
Acidic rainwater drains into fractures in the formation, and the rock begins to dissolve. Over time, a network of passages is created as the water continues to erodes the rock and the passages enlarge. Yet more water can then be transported and erosion speeds up. This process of dissolution leads to the development of the caves, sinkholes, springs, and sinking streams that are typical of a karst landscape.
Regions with Karst formation and higher probability of sinkholes can be found in large areas in the USA, particularly in the eastern parts.
Drilling and grouting in karst formation
Decision was made to salvage the cars and to repair and reinforce the ground that was damaged by the sinkhole. First, 25 micro piles were installed at regular intervals around the exterior of the Skydome, stabilizing the construction before the cars could be salvaged. After the vehicles had been rescued, the formation below the floor was inspected. It showed yet more voids below the visible sinkhole that needed to be filled.
After filling the sinkhole, 46 more holes were drilled and micro piles installed on an approximate 6 × 7 m (20 × 25 ft.) grid to a depth between 24-75 m (80-245 ft.) inside the Skydome. Compaction grouting was also performed to fill any remaining voids in the formation.
Karst formations are known for being unstable and sinkholes are common. Therefore drilling in them presents a major challenge. Drilling with air-powered DTH possess a great risk as it introduces compressed air in the already heavily fractured zones with large cavities and caves. This can lead to severe damage to the surrounding infrastructure.
The Wassara drilling
Wassara’s DTH hammer is powered by water at up to 180 bar (2600 psi) pressure, providing a unrivalled performance. But when the water leaves the hammer, the pressure is reduced to atmospheric level as it is an open system.
This ensures a low up-hole velocity, still powerful enough to bring any cuttings to the surface and to clean the borehole. The risk of pressurizing the formation is therefore minimized, making Wassara the optimal choice for drilling in sensitive formations, like karst.