Officials upset by lack of salt dome info
Dome issues kept quiet
Drilling rig parts arrive at sinkhole site
Texas Brine offers residents checks, Cleanup of sinkhole halted; workers rescued
Projects/Sinkhole_2012 (ArcGIS MapServer)
1985 Napoleonville Field well map:
Title: Officials: Salt dome cavern failed, disagree with seismic claim
Author: Joshua Auzenne
Date: Sept 25, 2012
“Scientists with Texas Brine have discovered large amounts of what they’re calling an unidentified material in the bottom of that [salt cavern]“
They said the company’s statement about, “some type of dense material has fallen to the bottom of the cavern,” confirms the failure, which is what officials said they suspected had happened.
A public meeting to give residents additional information is being coordinated. Once a meeting is set up, people will be notified.
While measuring the depth of the cavern, the tool bottomed out at around 4,000 feet, which is about 1,300 feet shallower than they believe the cavern should be.
According to a spokesman for Texas Brine, the dense material doesn’t appear to be consistent with material normally found inside brine caverns. Samples have been taken to be analyzed.
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.
BY DAVID J. MITCHELL
River Parishes bureau
September 21, 2012
PIERRE PART — Residents and evacuees along with environmental groups and others worried about a large sinkhole, tremors and natural gas releases in the Bayou Corne area detailed on Thursday their concerns about the emergency dating four months with the appearance of mysterious bubbles in waterways.
Invited state and parish agencies were not present for the meeting, but an LSU disaster ecology undergraduate and others took down questions raised during two hours of discussion at St. Joseph the Worker Catholic Church hall.
John Achee Jr., a community activist who manages Facebook pages and websites dedicated to the sinkhole, organized the meeting, telling about 50 to 70 people present it was time for the agencies involved to provide an update.
Achee said they refused to attend the meeting Thursday but he said the questions will be submitted by the meeting organizers and the community will expect them to be answered.
“We are going to expect … that these questions get answered in a timely fashion, and we’re no longer just going to let it be pushed away and these questions not be answered,” Achee said.
Representatives from the following environmental groups were present for the meeting, expressing their interest and offering their help: the Louisiana Bucket Brigade, Gulf Coast Environmental and Health Coalition, and Bridge the Gulf Project.
Among the questions submitted by the public Thursday were the following:
- Who is going to pay for the damage to the region’s ecology?
- What are the results of tests promised a few months ago intended to fingerprint natural gas releases from area bayous?
- What does Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development survey data show about the elevation of La. 70 South before and after the sinkhole appeared and other incidents began?
- When will transparency of the operations surrounding the sinkhole, gas releases and tremors improve?
The sinkhole was found Aug. 3 in swamps between the Bayou Corne and Grand Bayou communities in Assumption Parish. The sinkhole, also known as a slurry hole or slurry area, is south of La. 70 South on property owned by Texas Brine Co. LLC of Houston.
The sinkhole discovery prompted a mandatory evacuation of 150 homes that remains in effect.
An abandoned Texas Brine salt cavern, which is inside the Napoleonville Dome, is suspected of failing and causing the sinkhole and possibly natural gas releases in area bayous that predated the sinkhole by two months.
As the meeting unfolded Thursday, Texas Brine’s exploratory well being drilled was drawing closer to piercing the top of the cavern to begin a testing program to determine underground conditions.
The 1- by 3-mile salt dome is a solid salt deposit that was pushed up from an ancient sea bed. It has been used for decades for brine production, oil and gas exploration, and hydrocarbon storage.
The Texas Brine cavern was hollowed out of the dome during nearly three decades of solution mining to make brine for various industries.
Some residents waited Thursday until after the meeting to write down questions on sheets of paper that had been posted to the walls of the parish hall.
Others speaking during the meeting mixed their questions with skepticism and frustration over the long wait for answers and a return to normalcy.
Allen Hill, 66, a retired petrochemical industry worker, questioned the length of time for tests to fingerprint or provide a blueprint of the chemical makeup of the natural gas releases, for example.
“Natural gas is coming out of the ground everywhere. We have yet to identify the source of this natural gas. It’s a massive amount of gas that is coming out of here. I don’t think there is enough that’s sitting in that cavern to go as far and as long as this has,” Hill said.
“Why have we not been able to get a blueprint of this gas and go back to this cavern and all these sources around here?” Hill wanted to know.
Hill asserted in a later interview that such testing can be done in hours by industry experts.
Parish and state officials have said a more complex type of testing was being performed that would take some time.
Later in the meeting, Police Juror Henry Dupre said officials were waiting on some of the findings to translate the data from those tests.
Debra Charlet, 54, of Bayou Corne, questioned the wisdom of holding the meeting and submitting questions to state agencies, saying federal government intervention was needed and state agencies would throw the questions in the trash.
Another man called for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to be involved.
State Rep. Karen St. German, D-Pierre Part, and Texas Brine Co. spokesman Sonny Cranch also attended the meeting. St. Germain answered several questions.
In an interview Thursday before the meeting, John Boudreaux, parish Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness director, said his office was not attending the meeting because of impending entry into the cavern by Texas Brine’s well and time needed to prepare for such a community meeting.
He said other state agencies were focused on this process as well, which has been under way for several weeks.
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.
UPDATE 8/21/12 Louisiana Sinkhole Grows Overnight; Authorities Monitor for Radiation – Aug. 11, 2012