The Louisiana sinkhole known as the Bayou Corne sinkhole continues to expand, and brings new fears of mini-earthquakes and explosions. Scientists who have been studying the collapsed area since it opened in August of 2012 now say they will need to continue monitoring it for decades.
The Bayou Corne was a salt mine owned by Occidental Petroleum and operated by Texas Brine Co. When the initial collapse which covered 15 acres and fell nearly 750 feet was discovered on August 3, 2012 it resulted in the 350 nearby residents of the area being evacuated. It’s now believed as the sinkhole continues to expand that the evacuated area might need to remain uninhabited for years if not decades.
The sinkhole sent shockwaves through the mining industry as the collapse of this type was considered impossible, but scientist had previously warned regulators and those involved in salt mining that the geology of salt caverns made such an event a possibility. Neither Texas Brine Co. nor Occidental Petroleum admit any wrong doing in the collapse, they have however taken some of the responsibility for damage. Some of the residents who haven’t been allowed to return to their homes have received $875 per week from Texas Brine Co. Other residents have opted to remain in the area despite warnings to leave.
A policy analyst for the Louisiana Department of Natural Resources went on record with reporters this month saying that the while the direct cause was a manmade action it is “natural forces” that are now at work in making the sinkhole larger.
Recent studies of the area around the sinkhole show even more methane gas has leaked into the nearby aquifer than the 45 million cubic feet predicted. This leads to the fear the methane, one of the most highly combustible gases will collect in crevices or enclosed spaces where it could ignite from a number of causes.
After the second collapse in August Gov. Bobby Jindal and Attorney General Buddy Caldwell announced they planned to file a lawsuit against Texas Brine Co. in an attempt to recover an estimated $8 million the state has spent working on the problems associated with the sinkhole.
Texas Brine Co. spokes people however have stated publicly these fears are unjustified as they have worked to remove 20.5 million cubic feet of the methane gas, and over the last year and half no methane has leaked into homes in the area. Monitors installed in the homes have not recorded methane, and no above ground methane has been reported.
In August of 2013 the sinkhole collapsed further to an area believed to be as large as 25 acres swallowing large trees as the ground sank. In early November of this year a second crack was discovered in one of the berms installed above the sinkhole to attempt to stabilize it. Texas Brine has reported they have detected increase seismic activity that’s consistent with “mini-quakes” or minor tremors. These episodes are of short duration according to the company.
Texas Brine offered to buyout residents of Bayou Corne affected by the sinkhole after a class action suit was filed in May of 2013, and over half of the evacuated have elected to take these offers.