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New seismic activity at huge sinkhole tied to Houston company

Carol Christia, Houston Chronicle
Updated 1:29 pm, Friday, November 1, 2013

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  • In this undated photo provided by the Louisiana State Police via The Advocate, shallow wells will be drilled in the vicinity of the sinkhole that emerged Aug. 3 in Assumption Parish swamplands in Bayou Corne, La..  The wells will be used to monitor the amount of natural gas being carried by an underground aquifer atop the Napoleonville Dome near Bayou Corne. (AP Photo/Louisiana State Police via The Advocate) Photo: Associated Press / Louisiana State Police Via The A
    In this undated photo provided by the Louisiana State Police via The Advocate, shallow wells will be drilled in the vicinity of the sinkhole that emerged Aug. 3 in Assumption Parish swamplands in Bayou Corne, La.. The wells will be used to monitor the amount of natural gas being carried by an underground aquifer atop the Napoleonville Dome near Bayou Corne. (AP Photo/Louisiana State Police via The Advocate) Photo: Associated Press

 

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Two cracks have appeared in a containment berm around a huge Louisiana sinkhole tied to a Houston-based company.

The cracks, reported Oct. 30, have halted activity at five or six wells that were put on the berm to help ventilate the sinkhole and provide observation spots, said John Boudreaux, director of the Assumption Parish Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness.

"The (observation) work outside of the immediate sinkhole continues," Boudreaux said Friday. "There's 40-some vent wells but only five or six on the containment berm."

The wells also offer a means of sampling for contamination, he said.

Texas Brine Co., whose corporate headquarters is in Houston, is named as a defendant in a class-action lawsuit filed in August by residents who had to evacuate their homes last year because of the sinkhole.

According to the suit, a sinkhole measuring 422 feet deep and 273 feet wide appeared Aug. 3, 2012, in the wooded swamp near Bayou Corne in Assumption Parish.

The suit alleges that the sinkhole and resulting contamination were the result of the collapse of a salt cavern owned by Texas Brine.

The hole's last observable growth was in August of this year, when Boudreaux shot a video showing a pond swallowing whole trees.

Since then, the visible growth has stopped but seismic activity, measured by underground instruments placed at depths as low as 3,000 feet, has increased, Boudreaux said.

It's unclear what the significance of the seismic activity is, he said.

A blog site maintained by the Assumption Parish Police Jury posts regular updates from both Boudreaux's office and Texas Brine.

"We try to give them the best we can in layman's terms," Boudreaux said. "That's one of the things we committed to the residents here - to try to give them what we know."

Boudreaux, who said he has been working seven days a week for the past 18 months, said he also is committed to seeing the incident through to the end.

"It's still an ongoing incident," he said. "We don't know when promising results will occur, but we continue to be on task."

Texas Brine's website has a section titled the Bayou Corne Incident 2012 Response Site (http://www.texasbrine.com/response/). It includes regular updates about the sinkhole as well as contact information for Texas Brine's Houston office and Assumption Parish Office of Emergency Preparedness.