BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — A massive sinkhole that has swallowed more than 5 acres of land in Assumption Parish and contaminated an aquifer has cost the Louisiana Department of Natural Resources more than $2 million for response efforts.
And there’s no estimate of when the emergency response needs will end.
A department spokesman says the state will seek reimbursement for the spending from Texas Brine Co. LLC, which it blames for causing the sinkhole. But there are no assurances the company will cover the costs.
“Texas Brine has received no accounting of those costs, but when we do, we will address that issue in an appropriate manner,” Sonny Cranch, a company spokesman, says.
In August, the sinkhole opened up near a community along Bayou Corne, a sparsely populated area of swampland about 40 miles south of Baton Rouge. Residents in the area had reported strange bubbling in their waterways and tremors before the sinkhole emerged. Officials issued a voluntary evacuation order to about 350 people living in the area that remains in effect.
State officials have been testing, monitoring and trying to determine what caused the sinkhole and what threat it poses since August. Patrick Courreges, a spokesman for the Department of Natural Resources, released data showing the agency’s costs have reached about $2.2 million so far.
“DNR is using money from its own response budget to ensure swift action to protect the community; however, we will seek reimbursement from the responsible party and will hold Texas Brine accountable for all costs associated with the problems caused by its failed cavern,” Courreges says in an email.
Much of the department’s spending on the sinkhole, about $1.6 million, has been paid to Baton Rouge-based Shaw Environmental and Infrastructure Inc., for area testing and for overseeing drilling operations to remove gas from the aquifer.
The Shaw contract, which Gov. Bobby Jindal’s administration handled through an emergency procurement process and not through a regular competitive bid structure, started at less than $50,000 in September but has been amended twice and could grow even larger.
Courreges says the natural resources department doesn’t have a timeline for declaring the sinkhole stable or an estimate for what its final response costs might be.
“Those are not yet possible to estimate, because the fact gathering on the extent of the natural gas in the aquifer and the mechanics of the zone of collapse underground is still ongoing,” he notes.
The state says data shows the sinkhole is linked to the collapse of a side wall of an underground salt cavern that Houston-based Texas Brine operated. The company extracted brine and piped it to nearby petrochemical facilities.
The company has acknowledged a relationship between the sinkhole, the breached cavern and gas and oil found in both. But the company has suggested geologic tremors in the area may have caused the cavern breach.
JUNE 17 If anyone ever wonders why Saints fans hate Atlanta with a capital H, here's a good indication. Radio "professionals" at an Atlanta station created an entire segment around making fun of former Saints player Steve Gleason, who is now paralyzed by ALS. Listen, nobody's ever accused DJs of being rocket scientists. But how could someone think it is amusing to pretend to ask a man with a degenerative, fatal disease if he will be alive next week? The DJs have been fired, and are now whining about how gutless their former bosses are. Wow.
JUNE 18 Here's the latest from the Advocate on the fatal hit-and-run accident allegedly involving the president of the Livingston Parish School Board. He's accused by police of hitting a 21-year-old man on a highway early Sunday and driving away. The man died at a hospital later. On Monday, police seized the president's truck and towed it away. But he's available for board meetings: apparently a $500 bond is sufficient for this type of thing over in St. Helena Parish.
JUNE 18 Former broadcast journalist Griffin Scott has posted this plea on his blog for financial assistance from his readers. Scott, who says he was fired after he wrote something fairly innocuous (for Facebook) on his wall, is suing a media giant for his job back. He's framed himself as David going after a bloated media giant, and he's probably not far off.
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JUNE 17 Political columnist John Maginnis has some advice for Louisiana Republicans: grow up. After the schism that occurred in this past session - fiscal hawks teaming up with Democrats to spank the Republican "majority" and hand Gov. Jindal his, er, aspirations for continued solon control -- they need to figure out how to get along with each other, Maginnis writes.
JUNE 17 Here's the Picayune's obit story for Dorothy 'Miss Dot' Domilise, the lady who made poboys at the uptown restaurant that bears her name. Miss Dot moved to New Orleans during World War II, where she met and married her husband Sam. When she passed away Friday she was 90, and had spent more than 60 of those years working at the restaurant on Annunciation Street.
JUNE 17 This editorial in the Advocate speaks in favor of the consent decrees that have federal judges overseeing police operations and the sheriff's parish prison in New Orleans. Mayor Landrieu and Sheriff Gusman can't get along, so outside forces, like the Inspector General and the judges, are needed to make sure things run right, the editorial opines.
JUNE 18 Here's a post from Manny Schewitz on Forward Progressives that is good for a chuckle. Manny had an epiphany back in November, and is sharing it with us today: he believes that Fox "News" is killing the GOP by pandering to right wing nuts. Now, don't get it twisted: Manny's not broke up about it. He says he enjoys watching the downward spiral with a shot of whiskey and "a schadenfreude chaser."
Frank’s Casing Crew, now doing business as Frank’s International, will make its final appearance on ABiz’s list of the Top 50 Privately Held Companies in Acadiana this year, and once again, it will likely be at the top with more than $1 billion in annual revenues. The 75-year-old company specializing in tubular fabrication and installation services to the oil and gas industry plans to go public this year.
The defeat, or rather highjacking of House Bill 420 in the final days of this year's Legislative Session, say Reps. Vincent Pierre and Terry Landry, is the result of the propaganda spread by one unidentified local media outlet and an unnamed former state Representative, but nothing to do with the original legislation's lack of checks, balances or details.
He’s a singer. A songwriter. A piano man. A family man. He’s even got his own Wikipedia entry. He’s David Egan. And he knows ancient secrets about the monolithic stones of Stonehenge that he’s not willing to share.