Four Years Later, Louisiana Sinkhole Stable

By JACOB BATTE, The Courier | June 14, 2016

A massive sinkhole that went viral in 2013 swallowing trees in Assumption Parish, La., and forced more than 300 residents from their homes has quieted down as officials slowly allow residents to come home.

The sinkhole, located in Bayou Corne about 30 miles northwest of Thibodaux, is still growing. Assumption Parish Government officials say it has grown between 1 1/2 and 2 feet since last year, now up to about 35 acres.

Seismic testing has shown decreasing action over the last year. Previous tests have indicated that there are no further voids that would cause another hole in the area. Other scientific modeling has suggested the hole will not reach the nearby highway or the Bayou Corne waterway.

It’s that stability that has led the parish government to slowly drop mandatory evacuation orders to voluntary evacuations.

So far one eastern section with a few homes and a northwestern section near La. 70 have had their status decreased.

Assumption Parish President Martin Triche describes the decision to drop a hazard rating as similar to making an evacuation order when a hurricane threatens the state. Government officials try to determine which areas are low-risk and which are high-risk.

Assumption Parish Director of Emergency Operations said he expects more sections to become voluntary evacuation by the end of the year.

“We’re still waiting on some confirmation of investigations, not sure when they’ll provide that to us, so it’s hard to say when changes are going to be made, it’s completely up to the responsible party,” Boudreaux said.

The sinkhole was caused by a failed brine cavern Texas Brine mined in the Napoleonville Salt Dome. Salt domes are naturally occurring deposits of salt, which can span for miles and stretch thousands of feet below ground.

Texas Brine was originally blamed for the sinkhole but has since filed a $100 million lawsuit today against Occidental Petroleum Corp., claiming their irresponsible drilling near the dome is to blame. Last year, Texas Brine agreed to a $48.1 million class-action settlement for about 269 residents involved with about 100 properties in the tiny bayou neighborhood.

Scientists have found several wells, since plugged, didn’t produce any gas during the initial event, while areas toward the west have had a greater depth of clay, which would block the gas from expanding in that direction.

Texas Brine is still responsible for managing the sinkhole and has burned off about 40 million cubic feet of gas.

The sinkhole went viral last year after video captured by the parish showed the sinkhole swallowing several trees within a few minutes.

“Everything is dramatically slower now, you do see some minor changes, but nothing like the earlier events,” Boudreaux said.

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