An earthquake occurred soon after 9 p.m. Wednesday at the giant Louisiana sinkhole in Assumption Parish, according to USGS monitors, parish officials and locals not only in Bayou Corne, but also those in nearby Pierre Part who felt the jolt.
“The tremor was large enough that the body wave phases could easily be identified,” stated Assumption Parish officials said on a blog only about 24 hours after residents learned that the outer edge of the 1-mile by 3-mile Salt Dome under many of them has collapsed.
“The preliminary location was just SE of Oxy #3 cavern at a depth of 500 m.,” the officials posted at 10:45 p.m. on Oct. 25.
Oxy #3 cavern is leased by Houston-based Texas Brine LLC.
The officials also stated on that same post, “There is no additional information specific to this seismic activity at this time.”
On the evening of Thursday, Oct. 26, there was still no additional information posted on the Assumption Parish sinkhole website.
Seismologist Dr. Steven Horton has explained that the USGS prefers to call earthquakes “tremors” but they are in actually earthquakes.
The largest earthquake recorded in Louisiana occurred in Napoleonville in 1930, awakening many people throughout eastern Louisiana. It damaged chimneys and broke windows in Napoleonville and cracked plaster as far away as White Castle, northwest of Napoleonville.
Many people in the area rushed into the streets, according to the USGS. With its Intensity V effects, people felt it at Allemands, Donaldsonville, Franklin, Morgan City, and White Castle. In areas that far, small objects overturned, trees and bushes shook and plaster cracked.
Some 40 years later, in the 1970s, Napoleonville Salt Dome was permitted to be developed as a storage facility for oil and gas companies to inject pressurized chemicals into it.
Tuesday, Deby Tomlin, a Pierre Part local, explained to Deborah Dupré that she experienced what felt like an earthquake that day, saying it felt like she was “walking on jello.”
Tomlin is a frequent commenter on the Facebook Page that community rights defender Alicia Heilig, a Pierre Part resident, created for sinkhole updates, advocacy and self-support, Bayou Corne Sinkhole.
Pierre Part residents being jolted from quakes, living only a stone’s throw from bubbling methane, are excluded from the mandatory evacuation area and funds to flee the area that is posing a public health and safety risk miles from the actual sinkhole.
Bayou Corne residents were forced from their homes on August third, two months after the bayous started bubbling and thousands of earthquakes occurred. They are still under a mandatory evacuation order declared by Gov. Bobby Jindal, although many remained.
Odd earthquakes have been felt as far as 45 miles south of the sinkhole, as reported on Oct. 5 after a swarm occurred with the highest quake registering over 4 on the Richter scale.
Tuesday night, Assumption Parish residents learned at a meeting that the Napoleonville Salt Dome outer edge has collapsed in a “frack-out” from pressurized brine, according to officials.
Officials are at a loss on how to rectify the rapidly escalating disaster. The sinkhole is now the size of five football fields and growing.
Louisiana state officials have called on experts around the world to offer expertise.
Early warning system to be installed for quakes and other events
At the meeting, officials said they were installing an early warning system that would detect earthquakes and other events. An official explained it would be more effective than the USGS monitors now in place, recording seismic activities that are occurring regularly.
“Devices looking for seismic activity will all be integrated to form another early warning-type of device,” a Texas Brine spokesperson explained.
The new devices are what he said were very similar to what USGS already has in place but “a step above USGS as they will be embedded, underground, more permanent.”
Most of the time, the quakes are not as jolting as the one Wednesday night. They are strong enough, however, to have nearby communities on edge, especially those with no way to flee the expanding disaster area.
A citizen petition, signed by 268 individuals from across the nation and beyond, urges the governor to expand the evacuation zone. Only a few hundred people within that zone, that was based on community boundaries instead of areas impacted by the disaster, receive aid to relocate.
Greg Jardee from Oregon signed the petition to Gov. Jindal and added the following comment for him to read:
Oil and gasoline production should NOT be our country’s top priority. The government’s #1 job is supposed to be keeping people safe. We have seen wherever there is some kind of [corporate] accident involving a big energy company, residents living in the [a]ffected area are used as stepping stones and ridiculed for asking questions that only government paid scientists are allowed to give the correct answer. It’s basically the same as paying off a referee to make sure the favorite team wins. WE THE PEOPLE should be the favorite team, not dirty chemical companies. Our country has this backwards due to the massive profits that chemical companies make by destroying the land, sea, and air.”
“This thing is disgusting and killing everything around it,” Heilig wrote in the text of the petition to Gov. Jindal that she created. “The stench is awful, and can be smelled by people well outside of the evacuation zone.
Linda Landry, from Morgan City signed the petition Thursday, telling Jindal in her comment, “I passed there in my car with my granddaughter and the smell was so bad. [Y]ou had to hold your nose it was so bad.”
Kaycee Glasse from Arkansas signed the petition saying, “Daily headaches for months after BP disaster – 500 miles aways – can only imagine what the locals are going through medically.”
“Doctors and toxocologists that responded to the BP oil spill said: ‘If you’ve smelled it, you’ve been poisoned,’ and ‘There is no safe level of toxins.’”
Tuesday evening, at the resident meeting, key geologist on the sinkhole disaster team, Dr. Gary Hecox told the crowd that he would not allow his grandchildren to stay there if they lived there.
After feeling the quake Wednesday night, Heilig told Dupré in a private text on Facebook, “It was just after I put the kids to bed.”
Asked what it felt like, Heilig texted, “Same as the others. Shaking like a washing machine on spin cycle. Lol.”
How does the 27-year old single mother of two children, both sick and suffering with signs of chemical poisoning, keep a sense of humor?
Heilig’s answer to that question Thursday evening was simply, “Have to laugh to keep from crying.”