Firm cracks hidden fissures - East Valley Tribune: News

Firm cracks hidden fissures

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Posted: Friday, October 7, 2005 6:12 am | Updated: 9:05 am, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

A Mesa corporation’s geophysical sensor technology has told miners where to dig and the military where an enemy might be hiding underground.

Now, Thorpe Seeop is telling East Valley homeowners, developers and real estate agents whether fissures are underfoot.

It’s a new venture for the 20-year-old business, which first used its technology to help miners find the underground areas richest in minerals.

The U.S. military contracted with the company in 1996, and still uses its equipment to find lost tanks and missiles and terrorists’ tunnels and bunkers.

"Many people are interested in voids in the ground," president Douglas Thorpe said. "Real estate is a newcomer."

The East Valley’s real estate community became focused on fissures — cracks caused by land subsidence due to groundwater removal — after some reopened near Queen Creek during August monsoon rains. After media reports of the cracks, Thorpe’s mother, Bonnie Thorpe, who works for the corporation and has a lifelong interest in geology, asked her son if they couldn’t use the company’s technology to find fissures.

So, since mid-September the company has been surveying land almost daily for property owners, developers and real estate agents.

For a $170 fee and an additional $150 charge per acre, Thorpe Seeop uses its sensors to develop computerized graphs of what the land looks like underground.

"It’s like a mammogram" for the land, Bonnie Thorpe said. "It shows you what’s inside."

On small lots, a technician dons a contraption with a mapping computer on a belt and a rod with a cylindrical sensor on the end. The technician paces as if he were mowing the lawn, and the computer records the ground’s composition. Anomalies show up in seconds.

Part of the technology’s appeal is its ability to detect fissures that haven’t reached the surface or that have been covered up or filled in. Previous fissure mapping has been done on foot and from airplanes, but has ignored what lurks underground.

Thorpe Seeop’s technology makes it more difficult for sellers or developers to claim innocence if the land opens.

"Now, they can find out if there is anything underneath them, so there is no excuse," Bonnie Thorpe said.

For people who already have homes built on land they’re uncertain about, a geophysical evaluation can provide peace of mind. Douglas Thorpe said more often than not, the land the company evaluates has been fissure-free.

Marge Peck asked Thorpe Seeop to evaluate land underneath a home she sold near Warner and Higley roads in Gilbert. Peck, a Gilbert-based real estate agent, owned the house and wanted no liability.

"I want everybody to know we had fissure tests done," she said.

When preliminary results showed the land was fissurefree, Peck was relieved.

"I feel like I’ve just been to the doctor and gotten a clean bill of health," she said.

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