This update is the 21st article in this Opednews series about the Bayou Corne sinkhole.
BACKGROUND: In Spring of 2012, Louisiana's Corne and Grand Bayou residents noticed strange bubbling in the bayou for many weeks, and they reported smelling burnt diesel fuel and sulfur. Suddenly a sinkhole estimated to be the size of two or three football fields appeared on Aug. 3, swallowing scores of 100-foot tall cypress trees. The sinkhole resulted from the failure of Texas Brine Company's abandoned underground brine cavern. The Department of Natural Resources issued a Declaration of Emergency on Aug. 6, and 150 families were evacuated.
For maps, diagrams and additional information, please see the 20 previous installments in this series, listed at the end of this article.
It's the biggest ongoing industrial disaster in the United States you have never heard of.
When the Bayou Corne sinkhole was discovered on Aug. 3, 2012, it spanned a couple of acres. A year later it covered more than 24 acres and was 750 feet deep - the depth is much less now, but the sinkhole continues to expand.
The evacuation order has been in effect for over three years, and has not been lifted.
The sinkhole was a result of the failure of an underground salt cavern, abundant in the area, and typically used as storage reservoirs for crude oil. This one, OXY3, was operated by Texas Brine and owned by Occidental Petroleum. Unsurprisingly, each accuses the other, but the bayou residents, both human and otherwise, were the real losers. Almost all the former residents have had to leave their paradise, and all the remaining cypress trees are expected to die in the near future, since they only thrive in shallower waters.
The growth of the sinkhole has slowed down considerably, but it is likely that it has not stopped expanding. John Boudreaux, director of the Assumption Parish Office of Emergency Preparedness, said that the sinkhole is now about 32.5 acres.
Texas Brine noted that currently, "The contents of the sinkhole are contained by a 2.1 mile containment berm system."
Still, no one seems to have a clue about how to fix it. Is it unfixable and unstoppable?
Mother Jones says:
Bayou Corne is the biggest ongoing industrial disaster in the United States you haven't heard of. In addition to creating a massive sinkhole, it has unearthed an uncomfortable truth: Modern mining and drilling techniques are disturbing the geological order in ways that scientists still don't fully understand. Humans have been extracting natural resources from the earth since the dawn of mankind, but never before at the rate and magnitude of today's petrochemical industry. And the side effects are becoming clear. It's not just sinkholes and town-clearing natural gas leaks: Recently, the drilling process known as fracking has been linked to an increased risk of earthquakes.
-Mother Jones, Aug. 7, 2013