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 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.

The state environmental department argues that the process is simply putting water that was already in the sinkhole back into the sinkhole — minus the gas. The department says the process is not affecting surrounding swamps and bayous.