BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Owners of a failed brine storage cavern are doing their best to comply with a state order to quickly resolve problems created by an eight-acre sinkhole in Assumption Parish, spokesman Sonny Cranch said Sunday.
He said Texas Brine Co. lawyers will review a $100,000 fine imposed Saturday by state Conservation Commissioner James Welsh, who said the company hasn’t complied with his Nov. 12 order to speed work.
“We are working as fast as we can to comply with the order,” Cranch said in a phone interview.
The sinkhole began to develop after a Texas Brine salt cavern failed in August. Texas Brine and other companies own at least five other caverns in the Napoleon Salt Dome, which is about three miles long and a mile wide. None of the other caverns is threatened, Cranch said.
Welsh said the company is too slow in three areas: installing air monitors and improved ventilation in slab homes around the sinkhole; installing a system to prevent more waterway contamination; and drilling new vent wells to burn off natural gas.
Residents of 150 Bayou Corne-area homes evacuated in August, after the sinkhole formed. Natural gas was later found in the underground water supply, which Cranch said has never been used for drinking water.
It has grown from less than one acre to eight acres.
It has also become much shallower, from 490 to 195 feet at the deepest, Cranch said.
He said Texas Brine has been using containment boom and absorbent boom from the start, and has skimmed 2,700 barrels of oily water from the surface in the three months since debris was cleared from the edges of the sinkhole.
Cranch said figuring out how to permanently block the sinkhole from other waterways is complex in a swamp, especially since officials don’t yet know how big the sinkhole will get. In the meantime, crews move the boom constantly and skimming continues to make sure oil doesn’t get into any waterways, he said.
“It is being controlled,” Cranch said.
He said the company is also working to find ventilation equipment and air monitors that can be watched at another site, contractors qualified to install them correctly, and landowners’ permission to dig vent wells.