Bayou Corne, One Year Later
On this day a year ago, several residents of Bayou Corne about 40 miles south of Baton Rouge began watching their homes being swallowed as the earth gave way when a salt dome cavern collapsed under them. Since then, the affected area has grown to 24 acres, and 350 residents are still evacuated. The hole continues to grow.
On Friday, Governor Bobby Jindal and Attorney General Buddy Caldwell announced that the state of Louisiana has filed suit against Texas Brine LLC in district court in Assumption Parish for environmental damage, reimbursement for state response costs and civil penalties and money to mitigate wetlands damage. According to a spokesman for the Louisiana Department of Natural Resources, the state has already spent at least $12-million responding to the disaster. Occidental Chemical Corporation is also named as a defendant in the suit, as they are the company from whom Texas Brine leased the site.
In a statement, Governor Jindal said: “We have already pushed for buyouts for affected residents and are undertaking a thorough review of all of Texas Brine’s permits in our state. This suit is just the next step in making sure Texas Brine does the right thing and properly addresses the mess it’s caused.”
Sixty-three of the 150 homeowners in the evacuated area have accepted buyout offers from Texas Brine. The others want to stay or are still negotiating.
Texas Brine was drilling on the edge of a large, naturally occurring underground salt dome to create a cavern to extract the brine which is used in petrochemical refining. Scientists say the storage cavern was being mined too close to the edge of the dome and that is what caused the sinkhole.
Texas Brine has been providing subsidies to house affected residents and help cope with their displacement. The company hopes to have “initial containment” of the site finished by later this month.
In a statement, Texas Brine said: “Although the response effort hasn’t been perfect, significant progress has been made, and we look forward to the day when the residents of Bayou Corne can return to their home and resume their normal lifestyle.”