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Sinkhole nearly bankrupts West Knoxville homeowner

11:33 PM, Apr 9, 2013   |    comments
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A West Knoxville teacher may be forced into bankruptcy because of a sinkhole in her yard.

What you can see on the surface, a six foot by six foot hole, is just the tip of the iceberg. It's what you don't see below Debra Petersen's home that's causing one side to sink slowly into the ground.

"Apparently the sink hole is under my bedroom," Debra Petersen said. "Everything is sinking and shifting. The walls are falling, the floor is falling."

There's evidence all over her home: cracks in the ceiling, the walls, and the foundation.

She's three years into this battle with the sinkhole and now her lawyer says her options are maxed out. Her lawyer is advising that she file for bankruptcy.

"It's kind of sad because I pay all my bills, I do everything," she said.

"He says the best thing to do is walk away from it because you'll never be able to recoup any of the value of your home. [I'm] unfortunately stuck between a rock and a hard place. There's no good option," she said.

Her insurance policy has a limit on sinkhole coverage. They will only pay $10,000 of damages that total more than $100,000.

"I have a whole house full of furnishings," she said. "I don't know where I'm going to go."

After working hard for her home for years as a high school teacher, she has to watch her biggest investment slip away.

She says there's no one to blame except mother nature.

"There's no one to sue, I'm not looking to sue. It's just bad luck," she said.

10News spoke with a geotechnical engineer who says East Tennessee and much of Appalachia is at risk for sinkholes.

That's because much of the area is sitting on limestone.

He advises that you find out if your home is at risk through a geological map and review your insurance policy.

If you are in a high risk area, you should make sure the entire value of your home is covered. If it is less, you could face thousands of dollars in costs.

Insurance companies in Tennessee are required to offer sinkhole coverage.

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