NAPOLEONVILLE, La. (AP) — Environmentalists and landowners in the area of a huge sinkhole in Assumption Parish are expressing worries about Texas Brine Co.'s push for a five-year state permit to discharge salty groundwater with traces of benzene and toluene into the sinkhole.

The Advocate reports ( that the process has been underway for a year through short-term permits in a process to help remove potentially dangerous methane gas collecting beneath the Bayou Corne community.

Environmentalists say the discharge introduces contaminated groundwater into the sinkhole and poses a risk to the surrounding freshwater swamp.

State environmental officials have declined comment while the draft permit is in a public comment period. That period ends Sept. 16.

Scientists believe the sinkhole was caused by the failure of a Texas Brine salt dome cavern.