Crisis continues in Bayou Corne as sinkhole grows to 4 acres


I wanted to update readers on the latest from the sinkhole in Bayou Corne, about 70 miles west of New Orleans. The bad news is that this update is going to sound a lot like my other recent posts on the subject. The sinkhole, over a failing salt cavern, continues to alarmingly grow in size, swallowing up land and trees. The rural area is still plagued by foul odors and bubbling gases coming from under the ground. Residents have been forced out of their homes with no clear idea on when they’re coming back. And state regulators and the Texas Brine Co. continue to attack the problem in a plodding manner, when they’re not trying to duck responsibility.

First, the latest on the ever expanding sinkhole itself:

Issues continue to pile on crews working on the growing sinkhole in Assumption Parish.

Texas Brine, the company that owns a failed salt cavern blamed for the sinkhole says it will comply with new orders.

Texas Brine continues clean up Monday, but is limited to skimming as boats will not be allowed in the sinkhole due to the activity of removing hydrocarbons from the cavern. This is for the safety of workers as the removal of the hydrocarbons may cause pressure changes that could affect the sinkhole.

The current size of the sinkhole is just under four acres. State officials are ordering further testing along with monitoring and removal of natural gas trapped underground. Residents are still evacuated; they left their homes in early August.

Local residents are having a harder time coping with the uncertainty:

Although the Louisiana Office of Conservation last week accused Texas Brine Co. of Houston of causing a 4.2-acre sinkhole near the Napoleonville Dome in northern Assumption Parish, some area residents said Saturday they have bigger concerns than who’s to blame.

“Are we ever gonna be safe to live here?” asked Henry Welch, who has lived on Jambalaya Street off of La. 70 near Bayou Corne for the past seven years.

“That is a damn good question,” said Duane Bier, who lives near Welch on Bream Street.

Welch and his wife, Carolyn, are among about 150 families living along Bayou Corne who have been forced to evacuate since the sinkhole emerged in a wooded area south of La. 70 between Grand Bayou and Bayou Corne on Aug. 3. For the past 72 days, the couple has traveled back and forth between their home in Bayou Corne and a trailer they rented in Donaldsonville.

On Friday, Henry Welch said, the couple purchased an RV and plans to park it in Pierre Part for the duration of the mandatory evacuation that was ordered by Assumption Parish officials.

The problem residents have when trying to plan for the future, Carolyn Welch said, is they simply don’t know when they’ll be allowed to return home.

 Meanwhile, it’s taken state regulators a couple of months to find out what’s going on underground. On Thursday, they released this:

A press release issued Thursday by the Louisiana Department of Natural Resources says based on samples taken from the sinkhole, Bayou Corne, and near the failed Napoleonville Salt Dome indicate Texas Brine’s failed cavern is the likely source of the natural gas and crude oil that has been seeping into the area’s water supply.

“We have been driven by scientific data in all of our efforts to determine the cause of the natural gas found in the aquifer, the formation of the sinkhole, and the presence of crud oil found on the surface of the sinkhole,” says Commissioner of Conservation James Welsh in a prepared statement.

What we have here is a classic case of “too little, too late.” DNR and state regulators were warned some 20 months ago of potential problems with the salt cavern, and were told about earth tremors and gases bubbling up from underground weeks before the sinkhole broke open. If regulators and the Texas Brine Co. had acted more quickly and more forcefully, some of the worst impacts of this crisis might have been avoided. Instead, the catastrophe in Bayou Corne does not have an end in sight. Check this blog for updates when they happen — hopefully the next one will have better news. But I’m not holding my breath on this one.

To find out more about the expansion of the sinkhole, please go to:

To read the Advocate’s report about Bayou Corne residents trying to cope with the crisis, please check out:

For more information about Louisiana regulators assigning blame for the sinkhole to the Texas Brine Co., please read:

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Stuart H. Smith is an attorney based in New Orleans fighting major oil companies and other polluters.
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