Six months into the sinkhole crisis, Texas Brine decides to see what’s going on down there


The last time that we visited the sinkhole in Bayou Corne, the situation did not look good. The giant hole on the earth, in the heart of bayou country between New Orleans and Baton Rouge, was getting so big that some experts were predicting that it would soon be nearly big enough to hold the Louisiana Superdome, site of Sunday’s Super Bowl. But it wasn’t just the hole, but the brackish water from the old salt containment dome threatening the surrounding marshlands, as well as the methane, the radon and other worrisome gases rising up from the earth.

The people who live around the sinkhole, some 150 families in all, never expected when they were asked to evacuate their homes around the sinkhole back in the brutal heat of early August that this would drag on until Super Sunday. They are getting frustrated. Can you blame them? There was yet another community meeting this week, and some Assumption Parish residents are at their wit’s end:

Later, Mike Schaff, 63, who lived in Bayou Corne, evacuated for a time, but has since returned, told Hill that he noticed Hill’s and other consultants had seemed to become slightly angry under questioning from residents.

Schaff said Hill had to understand that it is the residents who are angry after six months of waiting to go home and going to similar meetings like the one they were attending Wednesday night.

“We are man enough and woman enough to accept the truth,” Schaff said. “Please tell us the truth.”

Here’s another report of what folks were saying at the meeting:

“You kind of have to understand our skepticism here.”

“The ground moves and something happens. Who’s buying the house? What are they paying?”

Here’s what may have aroused some of the skepticism on Wednesday night. Some two years after Texas Brine Co. — the owner of the salt cavern that collapsed — warned Louisiana officials that there might be structural integrity problems, and seven or eight months since the earth under the bayou began shaking and gases started bubbling up on the swamps, and five months after residents were forced from their homes, the company is finally testing to see what’s really down there:

Under a modified order from the Louisiana Office of Conservation, Texas Brine is planning to create a three-dimensional seismic image peering as far down as 7,000 feet beneath the sinkhole area.

Scientists believe a Texas Brine salt cavern in the Napoleonville Dome failed far underground, causing the sinkhole to form and releasing crude oil and gas from the formations in contact with the big salt dome.

The seismic work will involve use of vibration trucks, air guns and M-80-style explosives to send energy waves into the ground to reflect off subsurface formations before being collected by a series of geophones.

What could possibly go wrong? Truth be told, it’s a good idea to get a better handle on what is happening underneath Bayou Corne and surrounding communities. But why now, and why not two years ago, or at least in 2012 when the initial rumblings — literally, in this case — were just starting up? And why is Gov. Bobby Jindal still traveling the nation to promote his political agenda when he refuses to drop in on his constituents down the road. You can’t blame angry residents like this gentleman:

That is not good enough for Henry Welch who says he will never feel safe in his home again and would rather have the company just buy him out.

“I moved there to retire and to be able to fish and hunt and do the things normal retirees do and be lazy but I’d rather go on down the road,” said Welch.

Check out WAFB’s reports on the sinkhole at:

To learn more about the sinkhole meeting from the Advocate, please read:

Read my Jan. 22 post on Gov. Jindal’s failure to visit Bayou Corne at:

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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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