June 24, 2002
Area abuzz over hole in the ground
by Jeanette Knutson
WOODINVILLE - Apparently when the earth opens, people's imaginations do too.
A hole revealing what turned out to be an old water well was discovered June 14 by 10-year-old Hollywood Hill resident Kaare Tollefson. According to his mother, young Tollefson, seeker of dips and hills over which to ride his bicycle, spotted the hole and noticed it was getting bigger.
Thinking the growing aperture unusual, the boy told neighbor Jim Van Noy about it.
Van Noy examined the hole, poking a broom handle down to determine its depth, Mrs. Tollefson said. When neither the broom handle nor a 16-foot pole touched bottom, Van Noy called the King County Department of Transportation (DOT).
County crews came out to investigate. They barricaded the area and came out several times throughout that weekend to keep an eye on it, said Linda Thielke, spokeswoman for King County DOT.
"We treated the situation very seriously," she said. "We were concerned that the shaft we saw might lead to a big void underground and that homes and roadways might be at risk."
That Monday, the Woodinville Fire Department examined the hole for odors and gases, said Thielke. None were detected.
During the afternoon, county workers lowered a camera down the manhole-sized opening. Its depth measured 236 feet. But a four-inch pipe continued downward.
"The hole was definitely manmade," said Thielke. "It was very uniform."
Yet crews would not repair the hole without knowing its original purpose: water well, exploratory drill hole, etc. First they wanted to know what the shaft, the pipe, conveyed. Was it water, oil, gas?
"You have to treat different holes differently," said Thielke.
Last Thursday afternoon, crews lowered a second, smaller camera down the four-inch pipe that continued past the main shaft. The pipe's length from top to bottom measured 257 feet.
"We're pretty certain it's an old abandoned water well," said Thielke. Whether or not it was productive, we can't say. We do know there was an old farmhouse near the site.
"We're seeking advice from the state Department of Ecology on the best way to fill it. We have to use something that is non-polluting. Then we'll seal it."
Fill work should begin this week.
And that should end the "hole" story, except to say that the county's investigation of the old well certainly attracted a lot of attention. Officials say they fielded calls about the hole in the ground from as far away as Oklahoma City and Miami. Local TV and radio crews flocked to the neighborhood.
The story was even broadcast on CNN.
Even Charlette LeFevre of the Seattle UFO/Paranormal Group made an appearance on Hollywood Hill.
She suggested in an article posted to the Web, "Could it have been a vent hole for the Nike missile silos built during the sixties? Could the hole have been dug from below?" A neighbor speculated, LeFevre wrote, that the hole was a shaft for an abandoned fallout shelter project.
"I guess there's something about openings in the earth that captures people's imaginations," said Thielke.