Louisiana Sinkhole Spurs Evacuations, Lawsuits and a Resignation

Louisiana Sinkhole Spurs Evacuations, Lawsuits and a Resignation by Susan Buchanan, August 22, 2012, Huffingtonpost
After a sinkhole formed in Assumption Parish early this month, hundreds of neighbors fled, lawsuits were filed and Louisiana Dept. of Natural Resources Secretary Scott Angelle resigned. A hole on the edge of a salt dome near Pierre Part, La. — about 80 miles northwest of New Orleans — has grown to 400 feet wide and over 400 feet deep in spots. The salt water or “slurry” within it contains diesel fuel. Underground salt domes, used to mine brine, salt and sulphur, dot the area. Natural gas pipelines crisscross the region. And because caverns mined for brine are also used to store natural gas, propane and butane, residents are worried about possible fires and explosions. … Authorities say they’re also keeping an eye on a nearby cavern that’s full of butane.”The sinkhole is about 1,600 feet from a cavern containing over 900,000 barrels of liquid butane,” operated by Crosstex Energy of Dallas, according to Assumption Parish Sheriff Mike Waguespack. Butane turns into a highly flammable vapor when it’s released. … Attorney Daniel Becnel Jr. in Reserve, who filed a class action suit on behalf of neighbors, said “the reason residents worry about radioactivity is because companies store radioactive material at the bottom of these caverns. All the companies around here inject pollution into deepwater wells, hoping it will never surface. Gas, however, has started bubbling up from this sinkhole.” Becnel’s class action suit, filed in U.S. District Court in New Orleans on August 10, claims that Texas Brine knew the cavern’s walls were vulnerable as early as January of last year but didn’t warn the public. A Baton Rouge attorney and other lawyers in the area have also filed suits for property owners. … On August 9, Louisiana Office of Conservation Commissioner Jim Welsh ordered Texas Brine to drill a relief well to assess the integrity of the cavern. Texas Brine contracted Riceland Drilling of Lafayette to do the job. … They will drill from a location that’s about 500 feet from the suspect cavern location” on Texas Brine’s 40-acre site south of La. 70 South. Drilling was expected to begin on August 19, Waguespack said last week. “They have to drill down at least 3,000 feet and directly into the cavern to try to find the source of the bubbling,” he said. Cranch said “drilling will take 40 days, give or take a few days. … “The sinkhole remains about 400 feet across and is still bubbling,” [Emphasis added]

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