The sinkhole in Bayou Corne — the one that I’ve been writing about here since last summer — is getting simply too big to ignore…or so you would think. At latest report, the gaping hole that has swallowed up trees, vegetation and everything else in its wake is now 8.5 acres in size, and experts expect that even in the best-case scenario it will eventually grow to 12 acres. That’s a hole in the earth nearly big enough to hold the Louisiana Superdome. Ever since the earth underneath them began to shake and methane and other toxic gases began to bubble to the surface from the old salt cavern, some 150 families have been forced out of their homes.
Yet remarkably there is one person who’s been able to completely ignore this giant stink practically right under his nose, even though it is just 40 short miles — less than an hour’s drive! — from his office window. Gov. Bobby Jindal has found plenty of time to visit far-flung places like Iowa, where he can fuel speculation that he’s running for president in 2016. But drive down the road to listen to the frustration of his Louisiana constituents who’ve been unable to get a straight answer from either state regulators or the cavern owner, the Texas Brine Co., over when they’ll be able to return safely home? He can’t be bothered.
Increasingly, residents are taking to social media or pulling out their video camera, pleading with Jindal to do what you would expect any governor to do in the face of a disaster, whether natural or manmade, which is to come and hear their concerns, maybe even offer some hope of a solution. One of the most eloquent is a man named John Achee, a longtime resident of Assumption Parish where this tragedy is taking place. He wrote recently:
Dear Governor Jindal:
Sir, it is time for you to show your face in Bayou Corne and Grand Bayou. Let the residents of this disaster know what you are doing for them in this crisis. Also, we need you to call the president and request a Federal State of Emergency as per the Stafford Act. This sinkhole is to large to bury sir and all consultants are “stumped.” Texas Brine continues to make a mockery of the state you run sir. Time to bring the best and brightest minds and to protect the health and welfare of our residents and our environment.
Governor you need to act and you need to act now, this sitution is out of control and cannot be handled by the state agencies that are in charge and it is becoming more dangerous by the minute to the immediate safety of the residents in the area, now is not the time for political maneuvering, for once it would be nice to see a politician completely set politics aside and truly do what is in the best interest of the people who elected you, Governor the safety of the residents of this area ultimately falls on your shoulders, if you continue to ignore this disaster and not act, if someone gets hurt or worse, i hope you have broad shoulders sir, we need you to act immediately,
John Achee Jr
That is a powerful message, and yet on a certain level you can almost understand why Jindal would not want to show his face around Bayou Corne. There is nothing that a politician — especially a politician with grandiose visions on the Oval Office — hates more than embarassment, and in Bayou Corne there is plenty for a governor to be embarrassed about.
On the most fundamental level, there is that fact that state regulators knew as early as the beginning of 2011 that there was a significant risk that the cavern underneath Assumption Parish would fail, and yet residents were kept in the dark, even when tremors began to rattle their homes and the bayou air began to smell like rotten eggs. And consider this: If Jindal were forced to admit that his state agencies had gotten it all wrong at Bayou Corne, would he not have to confront the broader failures of his administration in places like the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality, which is so pro-industry and so inept that activists like the Louisiana Bucket Brigade — supported by me and others — have called for the federal government to step in and take over its duties?
And there’s one more reason that may explain why Jindal is staying out of Bayou Corne: The situation may be spiraling out of their control. Since August, we’ve been warning that radiation from underneath the bayou For example, some of our worst fears about radiation coming up from underneath the bayou was an onoing concern:
Stanley Waligora, a New Mexico-based radiation protection consultant and leading authority on health risks of NORM confirmed that radium levels at Bayou Corne’s sinkhole are not within safe limits, but instead, roughly 15 times higher than the state’s acceptable level.
That comes on top of the concerns that salty water from the sinkhole may destroy some of the ecologically valuable wetlands around it, as well as just the fact that the hole just keeps getting bigger, which is confounding efforts to both test and ameliorate the site. Check out this new development:
The testing, which involved T-Rex sending seismic waves into the ground, occurred Friday on the well pad for a failed Texas Brine Co. LLC salt cavern believed to be the cause of the sinkhole between the Bayou Corne and Grand Bayou communities.
But by Saturday that well pad had to be evacuated as earth tremors, inchwide cracks in the dirt pad and a burp of oil and debris at the sinkhole led authorities to worry that the pad was starting the process of gradually sloughing off into the sinkhole.
In the end, it all points in the same direction. Bobby Jindal needs to get down there, pronto, and then he needs to declare Assumption Parish a disaster area (which it clearly is) to throw as many governmental resources at this crisis as is feasible. Because otherwise, when the American people learn that Louisiana’s governor is afraid to meet with his own constituents, there won’t be much point to hanging around Iowa or New Hampshire.
To read more about the pleas of John Achee and others for Gov. Jindal to visit Assumption Parish, please read: http://www.opednews.com/articles/1/Gov-Jindal-Ignores-Sinkho-by-Meryl-Ann-Butler-130120-668.html
To find out more about the Texas Brince Co. abandoning its well pad, please read: http://theadvocate.com/news/4967301-123/t-rex-tests-sinkhole
Here is my May 21 post calling for an EPA takever of DEQ: http://www.stuarthsmith.com/louisiana-isnt-protecting-its-residents-from-hazardous-chemical-spills-so-its-time-for-feds-to-step-in/
Check out my Aug. 13 post about DEQ;s incompetence at the Bayou Corne sinkhole: http://www.stuarthsmith.com/incompetent-louisiana-regulators-knew-of-risk-at-sinkhole-site-since-early-2011/
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