Bayou Sinkhole: Fears of Radioactivity And Explosions As the Hole Gets Bigger

 

SOURCE
Boiling bubbles in the waters of Bayou Corne, in Assumption Parish, about 50 miles south of Baton Rouge in Louisiana, US, concerned residents in mid-May. Then, suddenly a massive sinkhole appeared on August 3. It forced the closure of nearby highway 70 after a gas line along that route bent and led to fears of an explosion. Officials believe the sinkhole could give off radiation or cause explosions that would harm local residents. Nearly 150 residences were asked to evacuate their homes on August 13 after the sinkhole swallowed nearby trees. Assumption Parish Police Jury continues monitoring Bayou Corne and Grand Bayou waterway bubbles.

Officials with GOHSEP say the sinkhole has grown and it is now 145 meters (476 feet) by 195 meters (640 feet). As expected, the surface of the sinkhole that has formed in Bayou Corne has grown over the past few days as the land on the outer edge of the area is sloughing off into the sinkhole. The sinkhole sits on top of an underground mountain of salt and residents of Bayou Corne have been reporting tremors and gas bubbles for weeks.

Louisiana sinkhole

Potentially radioactive sinkhole in Louisiana swallowed trees and forced mandatory evacuation (Credit: Inquisitr)

Dr. Madhurendu Kumar, DNR director of the state’s oil and gas division, said the sinkhole could have been caused by structural problems in Texas Brine’s salt dome beneath it. Salt cavern is part of Napoleonville salt dome – a massive ancient structure that Texas Brine Company mines for use with mining petroleum, salt and sulphur. Texas Brine has mined the salt dome since 1973 for brine used by industry, using water to wash out salt deep in the dome and selling the resulting brine mix, company and DNR officials have said. DNR has ordered the Texas Brine Company to drill a well and see if it is the cause of the dark gray water-filled hole nearby. It will take at least 40 days to drill the well.

The potentially failed cavern may also be the source of natural gas that has bubbled up on nearby bayous and from an abandoned water well, emergency preparedness officials said. Texas Brine and other salt dome operators use salt-dome cavities left behind from mining operations to store hydrocarbons such as natural gas for companies that lease the wells. Texas Brine ceased operating the cavern in 2011 and plugged and abandoned the well used to access it, state officials said.

This is an aerial view of the sinkhole that emerged recently near Bayou Corne. The Texas Brine Co. LLC facility well pad for a plugged and abandoned salt cavern is at right; Crosstex Energy LP facility is in upper left, while the pipeline corridor is at far lower left. (Credit: Bill Feig/Advocate)
The 1.5 million barrels of liquid butane well and fear of radioactivity

The sinkhole could breach a nearby well that contains 1.5 million barrels of highly volatile liquid butane, which could easily turn into a highly flammable vapor. The 1.5 million barrels of liquid butane 458 meters (1500 feet) from the sinkhole has an explosive capacity of 100 Hiroshima nuclear bombs, 1.5 times the explosive force of the largest thermonuclear weapon in current service in the U.S.

Inhalation of butane can cause euphoria, drowsiness, narcosis, asphyxia, cardiac arrhythmia, temporary memory loss and frostbite, which can result in death from asphyxiation and ventricular fibrillation.

Local residents and sheriff point that the Louisiana Department of Natural Resources knew for months that the cavern mined by Texas Brine had integrity problems but that they didn’t tell authorities or do anything about it. Landowners near the sinkhole filed a lawsuit against DNR and Texas Brine claiming that their drinking water in Grand Bayou system is now contaminated because authorities didn’t do anything to prevent the appearance of the sinkhole. DNR and Texas Brine officials stated that the cavern may be closer to the outer wall of the dome than thought, that it could have failed and created the sinkhole.

The Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) put air-monitoring stations around the area to measure LELs (lower explosive limits) and say no radiation danger exists, although all test sample results will not be available until later this week. The Department of Natural Resources (DNR) had quietly permitted Texas Brine Company LLC to pump radioactive waste into its now failing cavern near the sinkhole DNR also hid documents showing that cavern may have had problems since 2010. DNR’s Office of Conservation had authorized Texas Brine in 1995 to dispose of naturally occurring radioactive material in the now-possibly failed cavern. Initial readings taken by state testers have not revealed any initial radiation.

“Based on the first round of data, we are confident that the potential exposure of citizens to NORM is not a problem in this matter,” DEQ Secretary Peggy Hatch said in the news release.

Louisiana Environmental Action Network (LEAN) reports that, in addition to over twelve areas in and around Bayou Corne and Grand Bayou having “waters rolling from escaping methane, ethane, and propane,” locals have also reported tremors and houses shifting. USGS maps show extra movement and stress from oil and gas operations are susceptible to present pressure of a series of earthquakes west of Louisiana, each being where fracking and frack waste injection storage are ongoing. There has been exploration for oil and gas in that area in the past, which would make the presence of low levels of naturally occurring radioactive material (NORM) possible. The material, called NORM, is often a by-product of oil and gas exploration and production. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s website, radioactivity can vary widely, from background amounts to much higher levels.

Seismic activity

Seismometers picked up thousands of quakes in the Assumption Parish disaster area since June, according to seismologist Dr. Stephen Horton. He and colleagues had installed four instruments underground to record quake activities, and since then, two more, each monitored daily. People reported quakes on June 8 and July 3. Quakes ended when bubbling sinkhole developed but seismic signals continue from sinkhole area. There are seismic signals that appear to emanate from the vicinity of the in the Napoleonville salt dome, in the low amplitude range.
Lake Peigneur example

Eighty miles west of Bayou Corne is Lake Peigneur that balances above a salt dome that collapsed in 1980 when a drilling rig punctured a protective layer in the salt mine wall, causing the entire lake, including a drilling rig, several larger barges and large chunks of surrounding land to be pulled down into the cavern. Pressure was so great, the bayou ran backwards, created a large waterfall, and was sucked back into the puncture hole. The event permanently affected the ecosystem of the lake by changing the lake from freshwater to saltwater and increasing the depth of part of the lake.

The lake drained into the hole, expanding the size of that hole as the soil and salt were washed into the mine by the rushing water, filling the enormous caverns left by the removal of salt over the years. The resultant whirlpool sucked in the drilling platform, eleven barges, many trees and 260,000 m2 (65 acres) of the surrounding terrain. So much water drained into those caverns that the flow of the Delcambre Canal that usually empties the lake into Vermilion Bay was reversed, making the canal a temporary inlet. This backflow created, for a few days, the tallest waterfall ever in the state of Louisiana, at 164 feet (50 m), as the lake refilled with salt water from the Delcambre Canal and Vermilion Bay. The water downflowing into the mine caverns displaced air which erupted as compressed air and then later as 400-foot (120 m) geysers up through the mineshafts.

Since 1994 AGL Resources has been using Lake Peigneur’s underlying salt dome as a Storage and Hub facility for pressurized natural gas. There is currently concern from local residents to the safety of storing the gas under the lake and nearby drilling operations.

Sources: Inquisitr, CNN, Examiner, WBRZ, The Advocate, NBC33TV, DNR Louisiana

The Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) put air-monitoring stations around the area to measure LELs (lower explosive limits) and say no radiation danger exists, although all test sample results will not be available until later this week. The Department of Natural Resources (DNR) had quietly permitted Texas Brine Company LLC to pump radioactive waste into its now failing cavern near the sinkhole DNR also hid documents showing that cavern may have had problems since 2010. DNR’s Office of Conservation had authorized Texas Brine in 1995 to dispose of naturally occurring radioactive material in the now-possibly failed cavern. Initial readings taken by state testers have not revealed any initial radiation.

“Based on the first round of data, we are confident that the potential exposure of citizens to NORM is not a problem in this matter,” DEQ Secretary Peggy Hatch said in the news release.

Louisiana Environmental Action Network (LEAN) reports that, in addition to over twelve areas in and around Bayou Corne and Grand Bayou having “waters rolling from escaping methane, ethane, and propane,” locals have also reported tremors and houses shifting. USGS maps show extra movement and stress from oil and gas operations are susceptible to present pressure of a series of earthquakes west of Louisiana, each being where fracking and frack waste injection storage are ongoing. There has been exploration for oil and gas in that area in the past, which would make the presence of low levels of naturally occurring radioactive material (NORM) possible. The material, called NORM, is often a by-product of oil and gas exploration and production. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s website, radioactivity can vary widely, from background amounts to much higher levels.

Seismic activity

Seismometers picked up thousands of quakes in the Assumption Parish disaster area since June, according to seismologist Dr. Stephen Horton. He and colleagues had installed four instruments underground to record quake activities, and since then, two more, each monitored daily. People reported quakes on June 8 and July 3. Quakes ended when bubbling sinkhole developed but seismic signals continue from sinkhole area. There are seismic signals that appear to emanate from the vicinity of the in the Napoleonville salt dome, in the low amplitude range.
Lake Peigneur example

Eighty miles west of Bayou Corne is Lake Peigneur that balances above a salt dome that collapsed in 1980 when a drilling rig punctured a protective layer in the salt mine wall, causing the entire lake, including a drilling rig, several larger barges and large chunks of surrounding land to be pulled down into the cavern. Pressure was so great, the bayou ran backwards, created a large waterfall, and was sucked back into the puncture hole. The event permanently affected the ecosystem of the lake by changing the lake from freshwater to saltwater and increasing the depth of part of the lake.

 

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