Louisiana sinkhole area residents, that say that the scientific data officials are providing is not answering their questions, have been advised by Unified Command that the two-hour meeting community members plan to hold Thursday to gain information about the growing disaster, would be “inappropriate.”
Texas Brine and the Assumption Parish Office of Emergency Preparedness have been providing daily updates and photos online, but those are not answering questions of Bayou Corne residents, some 150 evacuees, and other impacted locals in the vicinity.
Government, industry human right to security issue
“There are so many different possibilities. Is it worse than we think?” asked Warren Coupel, a public meeting organizer.
Monday, the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) ordered that each company with active industry in the Napoleonville Salt Dome, part of which is beneath the sinkhole, investigate the presence of natural gas and vent or burn any gas found.
According to WAFB, those companies have been identified as:
- Texas Brine
- Pro Mix
- PB Energy
The meeting was long, and when it started getting repetative, I stopped videoing. This is part one of four.
Each of those companies has been required to submit their plans about DNR’s vent or burn order to DNR.
Parish officials said that they and state agencies will review and discuss those plans Tuesday at the industry meeting.
At such meetings, residents are excluded.
“The parish should also be receiving engineered plans from DNR for the vent wells that will be placed within the community sometime this week,” officials said Tuesday.
“Frustrations are mounting,” said Coupel about locals trying to manage their safety and security during the ongoing disaster.
Earthquakes, that had been disturbing locals for two months until the day the sinkhole developed, have begun again.
The sinkhole grew another 400 feet this week.
The number of gas bubbling sites continues to mount and appear further from the sinkhole. There are now 14 such sites, the latest “within miles” of the sinkhole.
Gas pressure was so great at the sinkhole this week, it caused the drillers to halt work on their well. The pressure prevented them from setting the well.
The radiation level at the sinkhole is 15 times over the state’s acceptable limit, according to state officials in a small newspaper article, revealed by environmental attorney Stuart Smith.
DNR had quietly issued a permit for radioactive waste to be injected into the Texas Brine cavern in the salt dome. The government cover up also includes DNR neglecting to publicly disclose that a structural problem with the cavern has existed since early 2011. Both of these issues have prompted legal action by residents.
The owner of the butane well, Crosstex, recently issued a flawed report concluding “no danger,” according to independent scientists.
Adding to the potential catastrophe this week is that a gas set off a gas detector alarm in a Bayou Corne home on its second floor.
“Is it not as bad as we think?” Couple asked.
“We need some answers,” he asserted.
Three weeks have passed since the last public meeting, and according to John Achee, another informal community organizer, another three weeks would have passed before the next one.
“We don’t feel like that’s acceptable,” said Coupel. “These people need answers, and they need to be supported by our officials.”
The residents called the meeting “out of an abundance of concern and caution for the lack of real-time information from the Assumption Parish Office of Emergency Preparedness (OEP), Louisiana Department of Natural Resources (DNR), Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) and Texas Brine Co., the company in charge of the suspect cavern inside the Napoleonville Salt Dome,” WAFB reports.
Coupel and another concerned citizen organized the town hall meeting to be held Thursday, Sept. 20 at St. Joseph the Walker Church.
“They hope all parties involved in the sinkhole investigation will show up and answer their questions,” reports WAFB.
Those parties, however, might not be party to the meeting. Tuesday, officials stated such a meeting on Thursday is “inappropriate.”
“It has been brought to our attention that a meeting planned by citizens has been called for on Thursday,” Assumption Parish officials stated in a blog post on Tuesday. “No formal notice of this meeting was issued to parish and state officials prior to information being released to the media.”
“It would be inappropriate to hold a meeting on Thursday, 9/20/12,” parish officials stated Tuesday, saying that the “focus and resources of all responding agencies are on Texas Brine entering the cavern.”
The officials say it would require a “72 hours, minimum” to prepare for “professional and up-to-date data to be presented and distributed.”
“We have been advised by Texas Brine that entry into Oxy Cavern #3 could take place on Thursday at the earliest; however, more likely by Friday evening.
“For the safety of the residents, workers, and all concerned citizens, the Unified Command Group feels that this operation continues to be the main objective. More information will become available once the cavern has been entered and tests on the cavern, established by the scientific group, have been performed and hopefully will provide answers to the questions the residents have asked from the beginning of this event.
“The Unified Command Group will continue providing information through blogs posts and press releases as it becomes available. They have also committed to schedule a date in the near future once results from tests conducted after cavern entry and further information is available.
“In addition, the science group continues to meet and provide oversight to the operation and provide support to the Unified Command Group.”
Bayou Corne community organizers say Texas Brine already agreed to attend their community meeting on Thursday.
“Now they hope parish and state representatives will attend, as well. They think two hours is not too much to ask,” NBC reported Monday.
“It’s about the residents of Bayou Corne wanting updated information, and there’s no reason that these guys shouldn’t show up,” said Achee.
Information from newly drilled monitoring wells provides guidance for action
BATON ROUGE – Louisiana Commissioner of Conservation James Welsh announced today that he has ordered all companies operating on the Napoleonville Salt Dome to immediately begin work to assess the presence of natural gas in both the ground water aquifer and the salt dome cap rock beneath their operations; capture, vent or flare any natural gas that is encountered; and analyze any potential impacts to ground water in the Mississippi River Alluvial Aquifer.
Welsh asked the Shaw Group [Shaw's ties to nuclear industry here and here] to oversee the evaluation of natural gas concentrations in the ground water aquifer and to oversee the removal of any natural gas found through venting or other means.
Welsh said he issued the order to dome operators as part of a formal Declaration of Emergency and Directive to ensure public safety following the Office of Conservation’s discovery of two shallow pockets of natural gas in an area between the western edge of the Napoleonville Salt Dome and the Bayou Corne community. A contractor hired by the Office of Conservation drilled monitoring wells to sample for natural gas, and encountered the natural gas pockets at a depth of less than 50 feet from surface on Thursday.
This discovery comes as Conservation staff analyzed new data from Texas Brine LLC’s report to the Office of Conservation. The data indicated pockets of natural gas within the Mississippi River Alluvial Aquifer and the cap rock above the salt dome. That data came after DNR ordered Texas Brine to evaluate belowground conditions. Part of Texas Brine’s effort to comply with that order included the drilling of a shallow well to house seismic equipment in addition to the deeper well intended to enter the abandoned salt cavern.
Texas Brine’s shallow seismic well, drilled to about 465 feet, encountered natural gas near the top of the ground water aquifer at about 120 feet deep, and again within the salt dome cap rock at about 420 feet deep.
“This is the reason that the Office of Conservation ordered Texas Brine to take steps to evaluate the belowground conditions near its operation and the reason we have hired contractors and negotiated with land owners to get observation wells drilled near the Bayou Corne community. This will help us gather information that gives a clearer understanding of potential threats to public safety and what the underlying causes are,” Welsh said. “This new data indicates the presence of natural gas in the aquifer and cap rock near the existing salt dome operations, and the Office of Conservation is ordering immediate action to assess that risk and take actions where necessary.”
Welsh said that, while the Office of Conservation had already begun the effort to assess the presence of natural gas nearer the Bayou Corne community by hiring two drilling contractors to drill wells for sampling and venting, he is actively seeking to accelerate those efforts with a solicitation this week to any companies with the necessary equipment to drill these water wells.
That solicitation, as well as the Shaw Group contract for overall evaluation and remediation of natural gas in the ground water aquifer in the area, followed Office of Conservation review of data from the most recent monitoring.