Louisiana Sinkhole: A Year Later, Residents Making Tough Choices

Monday, 08 Jul 2013 06:08 PM

By Morgan Chilson

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A 22-acre Louisiana sinkhole is forcing residents to make difficult choices: take a buyout offered by the company that may have caused the hole, or risk staying.

The sinkhole, which was found in August 2012, was caused after a salt dome cavern collapsed about 40 miles south of Baton Rouge, The Associated Press reports. Oil and natural gas bubbled up and the swampland “liquefied into muck,” causing around 350 residents to be told to evacuate.

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The Assumption Parish community has been struggling with the problem ever since, with some people accepting buyouts while others decide whether to stay and sue the Texas Brine Co., which operated the salt dome. A spokesman for the company told The Associated Press that 92 buyout offers were made and 44 have been accepted.

It’s unclear at this point what effects may still occur from the collapse, although gas was found under at least four homes, according to the AP. Although levels were low, residents still are concerned about possible explosions.

The AP reported that a class action lawsuit is scheduled to begin next year.

In June, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal signed a “slew” of bills aimed at tightening regulations for underground cavern operators, many of which were generated by the Assumption Parish sinkhole, The Times-Picayune reported.

One bill required that companies offer assistance to residents should a sinkhole occur.

“These laws will ensure that companies are acting in good faith and upholding public safety. It's critical that we hold companies accountable when they put communities at risk and these new laws will help achieve that goal,” the Times-Picayune reported Jindal saying in a statement.

First indications that something was wrong occurred in early summer 2012 when residents noticed gas bubbling in some bayous, io9.com reported. Then small earthquakes occurred, and finally, in August, the sinkhole was discovered.

Io9.com reported that the Louisiana Commissioner of Conservation fined Texas Brine $100,000 for being slow on cleanup efforts, and also said the sinkhole may impact a bigger area than originally thought.

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