Sinkhole Down in the Louisiana Bayou

LA Sinkhole

Image of Corne Bayou Sinkhole in Louisiana from early November fly-over.

Have you heard about the sinkhole in Louisiana? Yeah, neither have a whole lot of other people. For whatever reason there is no national news outlets reporting on what is going way down in the bayou. If you check CNN.com for Louisiana sinkhole that latest report they have on it is from August and the story is on two workers who had to be rescued from the sinkhole after the tree their boat was tied to sank into the murky depths along with fifty more feet of ground.

It started last spring when residents of Corne Bayou and Grand Bayou, located in Assumption Parish, began noticing bubbling in waters of the bayou then two months later on August 3 the sinkhole appeared. When the bubbles first started to appear they began checking natural gas pipelines in the area as well as gas storage domes and abandoned wells. They were still checking these things when the sinkhole appeared. Texas Brine, a company that mines salt domes to produce brine, claimed responsibility for causing the sinkhole. They claimed that a salt cavern that was carved from the Napoleonville Salt Dome, a 1-by-3-mile solid salt deposit that has been used for brine production, hydrocarbon storage and oil and gas exploration for several years, collapsed causing the sinkhole to form. The locals as well as the Sheriff claim that the Department of Natural Resources knew for months that the Texas Brine well had integrity issues but kept quiet about it.

As of November 2, according to Assumption Parish officials who did a fly over of the sinkhole, that after another collapse that happened on October 30 the sinkhole was now roughly the size of six football fields. However, Texas Brine continues to dispute this. This newest collapse comes six days after sharp earthquakes in the area.

Assumption Parish LA

Google map showing Assumption Parish in relationship to Baton Rouge and New Orleans.

There are several concerns surrounding this sinkhole. One of them being that it is very close to a well containing 1.5 million barrels of liquid butane. If the sinkhole reaches the butane and exposes it to the air, one small spark and you could have the explosion equivalent to that of 100 nuclear bombs.  Another concern is all the oil and gas that has already leaked into the water. Texas Brine has removed several thousand barrels of oil from the sinkhole already. One local claims that his tap water has become flammable due to methane from the sinkhole, however, officials are denying that the sinkhole is the cause of his flammable water. There are also reports of warnings going out that storms in the area could cause an explosion from cloud-to-ground lighting igniting all the methane that is in the air.

150 families, though the locals say the evacuation area should be made larger, have been evacuated because of the sinkhole and are still not allowed back with no time-frame for when they might return. The reason for this being that the failed cavern is filled with 3.3 million cubic yards of sediment which is 2.7 million cubic yards of sediment then what came from the sinkhole. Basically, there is more dirt and crap in the salt cavern then what could have come from the sinkhole alone. The concern is that with that much unaccounted for sediment displacement there could have been subterranean channels that emptied into the cavern which could have made the ground unstable for miles and new sinkholes could be forming in other places. There is also another theory going around that this could be a sign of or could even help trigger a major earthquake along the New Madrid Fault Line.

There is a Facebook page dedicated to the sinkhole, you can find it by searching for Bayou Corne Sinkhole. If you search Youtube you will find a variety of videos showing fly-overs of the sinkhole and locals giving accounts of what is happening there. You can also check Texas Brine’s website, their front page has a link which will take you to the Bayou Corne Incident 2012 Response Site with updates posted daily.

LA-Sinkhole

Crude oil and debris floating in the water above the sinkhole.

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