The world finally sees what we’ve been watching in Bayou Corne


Over the last 12-plus months, I’ve written numerous blog posts about the situation in and around the small Louisiana town of Bayou Corne, where warning signs of earth tremors and methane odors gave way to a sinkhole that eventually grew to the size of the Louisiana Superdome and has kept on growing. One subplot in all my writing about the sinkhole — the result of a salt-dome mining operation by the Texas Brine Co. — has been wondering why a corporation’s destruction of a small bayou town and its way of life wasn’t a big national story.

Now, it is.

The video posted above — taken on a cell phone and showing the sinkhole as it burps and shockingly devours an entire stand of cypress trees — has become a global Internet sensation and has been featured on most major TV networks. It’s proof that one picture — or one video — truly is worth 1,000 words, or perhaps many more. Hopefully it will spark a national debate about environmental protection and corporate responsibility in a place we call, regrettably, “Cancer Alley.”

In addition to the video, an in-depth piece by the magazine Mother Jones has informed the public. Here’s an excerpt from that recent article:

Bayou Corne is the biggest ongoing industrial disaster in the United States you haven’t heard of. In addition to creating a massive sinkhole, it has unearthed an uncomfortable truth: Modern mining and drilling techniques are disturbing the geological order in ways that scientists still don’t fully understand. Humans have been extracting natural resources from the earth since the dawn of mankind, but never before at the rate and magnitude of today’s petrochemical industry. And the side effects are becoming clear. It’s not just sinkholes and town-clearing natural gas leaks: Recently, the drilling process known as fracking has been linked to an increased risk of earthquakes.

“When you keep drilling over and over and over again, whether it’s into bedrock or into salt caverns, at some point you have fractured the integrity of this underground structure enough that something is in danger of collapsing,” observes ecologist and author Sandra Steingraber, whose work has focused on fracking and injection wells. “It’s an inherently dangerous situation.”

Indeed, except that now people are hearing about it. It’s tragic to watch the sinkhole continue to grow, and think of the pain that this has caused in Assumption Parish. But hopefully the publicity will stir an improved regulatory climate in Louisiana and as well as common sense restrictions on how corporations can exploit the resources of the Bayou in the future. This video of Bayou Corne is something to see — but we never want to see anything like it again.

Here is a digest of our Bayou Corne sinkhole coverage:

Read the entire Mother Jones article about Bayou Corne at:

Watch the Bayou Corne video on Youtube:

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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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