Sinkhole Investigation Broxbourne

Let Geoinvestigate quote for your next sinkhole drilling investigation, sinkhole desk study or sinkhole site investigation. At Geoinvestigate we have been providing expert sinkhole risk assessment reports, ground stability reports, land stability risk assessment reports, building subsidence surveys, chalk mining searches, swallow hole searches, limestone cave searches, chalk hole searches, dene-hole searches and gypsum dissolution subsidence geohazard searches for over 20 years. 


Sinkholes occur wherever there is karst terrain – rock vulnerable to being dissolved by water, such as limestone, gypsum and chalk – and roughly 20 per cent of the country is underlain by it. Gypsum is particularly prone to the problem, with many large sinkholes appearing in areas around Ripon in North Yorkshire.


The term sinkholes is used to describe a whole range of natural and unnatural collapses of the ground including natural cavities, caves and pipes formed in chalk, limestone and gypsum by solution and dissolution as well as less natural collapses originating back to man-made features including mine shafts, mine adits, underground mine workings and mine galleries, chalk pits, tunnels, sewers, drains, basements, cellars and leaking pipes.

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collapse of old mine shaft                                             partial collapse of old chalk well


Geological engineers use several techniques to locate sinkholes called intrusive and non-intrusive techniques.


With non-intrusive techniques no physical penetration of the ground using excavations or boreholes or probing occurs.

Geologist try to either locate the tell-tale signs of sinkholes using desk top studies of historic maps, plans and aerial photographs, walkover inspections of the site otherwise known as reconnaissance surveys or they scan or image the ground using Geophysical instruments typically Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR) or Electromagnetic Conductivity (EM).


In a desk study the geologist is looking for circular features or holes, map descriptions including “chalk pits” especially along field boundaries, “coal pits”, “shafts”, “adits” “collieries”, clumps of trees, ponds or uncultivated ground in the middle of farmland map, terms such as “shake holes” or “dene” the latter indicating a valley which may have been formed by the collapse of caves or ancient cavern systems in limestone or chalk.

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aerial view showing circular features                                old map showing “old chalk pits”

In a desk study geological maps are a good starting point because they identify the type of soil and rock beneath a site and whether the ground conditions are likely to be susceptible to sinkhole formation.


During the site inspection (or recce) the geologist is looking for evidence of movement of the ground including subtle depressions or sagging of surfaces including lawns, driveways and floors, cracked or bowed walls, darker damper  patches/pools where water may collect and soft ground indicative of soil disturbance or leaking pipes.

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rainwater ponds above old mine shaft                              sagging paving above sinkhole


The most commonly used instrument for sinkhole detection is Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR). GPR creates an underground, cross-sectional picture or image of the subsurface. Soil layers and rock layers are clearly shown in the GPR image. Large areas of ground can be covered, detecting and mapping buried sinkholes with GPR. Site maps can be drawn showing the size and distribution of buried sinkholes.

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GPR Survey                                                                            x-sectional anomaly profile


The Electromagnetic Conductivity (EM) method can map large areas fairly quickly to locate underground sinkholes. The EM method detects areas underground where there are relative differences in ground conductivity that may be indicative of sinkhole location. In some areas, the EM readings may increase due to an increase in soil moisture caused by water flow towards the sinkhole. In other areas EM may be lower due to air voids or disturbance in the subsurface near or in the sinkhole. Colour contour maps are made showing the location of the sinkholes on the property.

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EM field survey                                                                       surface anomaly map


The information from the geophysical survey can be used to predict possible problem areas where buildings are proposed to be located. Areas on the property with sinkholes can be reserved for non-building areas due to their hazard potential.

Geophysical information can also be used to identify possible target areas for intrusive investigation using excavation, probing, penetration testing or boreholes. 


Intrusive investigation can be carried out using simple, rapid hand surface probing, digging by machine excavation, mechanical probing and penetration testing using hand-portable 2 wheeled dynamic probes or mechanised small multi-purpose tracked penetration rigs both capable of reaching depths of 20m and more.



shallow hand probing      excavation           portable dynamic probing     

Alternatively cavities and voids may be located using more sophisticated “state of the art” small volume air or water flush injection type rotary drilling equipment similar to Geoinvestigate’s New Microdrill capable of depths of 30m in <1 hour.

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small penetration testing rig                                            rotary microdrill     


Microdrills tilting mast allows declined drilling to be safely undertaken several meters from the anticipated surface position of a sinkhole. Small diameter microlaser borehole scanning and CCTV instruments can be inserted down through the borehole casing into the void to image and map its configuration and work out the volume of aerated/foamed concrete needed to stabilise the cavity.

If you require a quote for a sinkhole investigation or a sinkhole risk assessment report or you just need some advice on ground stability problems  please do not hesitate to contact us at Geoinvestigate on Free Call 0800 171 2011 or 01642 713779.