Emergency declared, 100+ homes evacuated as Louisiana mining sinkhole grows

by Michael Mosher on August 12, 2012

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The potential failure of an inactive and plugged Texas Brine Co. LLC mining cavern in a massive salt dome has prompted Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal to declare an emergency in Assumption Parish.

Authorities said a 200 foot by 200 foot “slurry” area of collapsed land was discovered in Assumption Parish south of LA 70 in the swamp area between Grand Bayou and Bayou Corne Friday morning.

All of the trees in the 200 square foot area were consumed by the slurry sinkhole with only the tops of some trees visible under the mud, KPLC reported.

Department of Natural Resources (DNR) officials, in consultation with scientists, determined the potential failure of the closed mining cavern may be the cause, according to the Advocate.

The potentially failed cavern may also be the source of natural gas that has bubbled up on nearby bayous and from an abandoned water well, emergency preparedness officials said.

Federal, state and parish officials had been unable to pin down the source of the natural gas releases, despite months of varies tests of the oil, gas and brine production infrastructure in the area.

Sheriff Mike Waguespack says the sinkhole is several hundred feet away from several pipelines and a propane well and because of this they have ordered the evacuation of 150 homes in the Bayou Corne area.

The Red Cross is working with the Assumption Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness to open a shelter for displaced residents.

DNR issued an emergency order requiring Texas Brine to evaluate the structural integrity of the inactive salt cavern.

Texas Brine has mined the salt dome since 1973, using water to wash out salt deep in the dome and selling the resulting brine mix, company and DNR officials have said.

Salt dome operators also used salt-dome cavities left behind from mining operations to store hydrocarbons such as natural gas for companies that lease the well.

Texas Brine ceased operating the cavern in 2011 and plugged and abandoned the well used to access it, state officials said.

DNR says that a link between the company’s cavern and either the natural gas bubbling or the sinkhole have not been positively identified.

Full article…here

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