It gets worse at La. sinkhole as toxic gas released


On this Thanksgiving eve, let us not forget about the poor residents of Bayou Corne, La. It’s coming up on four months since 150 families in this rural bayou community about 70 miles west of New Orleans were forced from their homes with the appearance of an ever-widening sinkhole — the culmination of weeks of bubbling gases in local waters, earth tremors and noxious smells.

Unfortunately, efforts to resolve the problem — a collapsing salt cavern that was mined for years by the Texas Brine Co. — have shown just what a dangerous toxic stew has been stirred up by years of exploiting the region’s natural resources. As a long summer turned into the holiday season, the complicated mess keeps getting worse for the good people of Bayou Corne, not better. Here’s the latest:

Texas Brine Co. has shut down one of its two vent wells burning off methane trapped under the Bayou Corne community in Assumption Parish after a small amount of potentially deadly hydrogen sulfide gas was released to the atmosphere, company officials confirmed Tuesday.

Sonny Cranch, spokesman for Houston-based Texas Brine, said the well was sealed about 7 p.m. Monday immediately after detection and remained closed Tuesday as company officials worked on their next steps, adding the small gas release did not present a risk to the public.

“It was barely a minimum amount that went into the air,” Cranch said.

Hydrogen sulfide is a colorless gas that is flammable and poisonous at sufficiently high concentrations. The naturally occurring gas has a foul rotten-egg odor, can occur in natural gas deposits and is a known risk with oil and gas exploration.

Parish officials said in a separate blog post Tuesday that no community air monitors detected hydrogen sulfide, but warned residents about the discovery, saying high concentrations of the gas were found inside the vent well.

That’s just the latest. Residents of the surrounding area continue to complain about ongoing tremors and strange smells. And you have to wonder how many other potential Bayou Corne situations are out there in Louisiana. There are an estimated 120 salt caverns in the state — many of them have been mined for salt or brine and then used as underground storage for oil or natural gas, including the nation’s strategic petroleum reserves. These activities can be carried out safely, but it requires active and involved state regulators, something that Louisiana has lacked for years. The risks can be as great as the rewards, as this report reminds us:

Louisiana has over 120 salt domes and many different drilling operations on them. The residents of Bayou Corne know the reality of a potential disaster is all too real.

“Who’d buy here,” Ernest Boudreaux Jr., Bayou Corne resident, said. “I wouldn’t have bought here if I would have know the salt dome ran this far.”

Duane Bier lives in Bayou Corne, he said ever since the sinkhole formed close to his home, it’s hard to sleep at night.

“I need somebody to tell me the whole story. Don’t just tell me what you want me to hear,” said Bier.

Bayou Corne isn’t the first community to have a problem occur on a salt dome. A sinkhole was created in a cavern located in Bayou Choctaw during the 1950’s.

Another disaster happened on Lake Peingier during the 1980’s.

So far for the citizens of Bayou Corne, it’s been one step forward and one step back. Thanksgiving has already been ruined for these hearty bayou souls. Let’s hope they can make it home safety for Christmas:

For more on the discovery of dangerous hydrogen sulfide in the air coming from the Bayou Corne sinkhole, please read:

For a look at the safety issues surrounding the 120 or so salt domes across Louisiana, please check out:

© Smith Stag, LLC 2012 – All Rights Reserved

Add comment

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

Follow Us

© Stuart H Smith, LLC
Share This