Sinkhole saga

Sinkhole saga
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POSTED: Tuesday, November 26, 2013 - 10:03pm

UPDATED: Friday, December 6, 2013 - 9:41am

When Nick Romero first bought his home in Bayou Corne he had no idea how close he was to a brine cavern in a salt dome.

"Nothing was ever said about it at all. not from the seller." Romero, said.

Now more than a year after a massive sinkhole formed near his home he has a message for folks trying to buy a home. Check out what's going on underground near the property before you hand over any cash.

"I would tell them look. i lived through this thing. you don't want to do it. Any time that you have there will be great, but what you are getting ready to face is going to be worse than your worst nightmare," Romero exclaimed.

After the incident in Bayou Corne, state lawmakers like State Representative Karen St. Germain (D-PIerre Part) fought to get new law in place to protect future buyers.

"On that piece of paper now it will assure you you are or not next to a salt dome," St. Germain said.

The new law requires sellers to tell potential buyers if there are solution-mined, storage caverns, and solution mining injection well close to the property.

"It will give people some foresight to see where they are living how close they are to a situation, and the possibility of this kind of situation and make a decision. Not have to find out after the fact that oh I am living close to an area that may be 10 years from now 20 years from now may not be a safe site," St. Germain said.

Under the new law cavern owners and operators will be required to also submit information about where their caverns and wells are located in the mortgage and conveyance records of the parish where the property is located. Then they would have to send a copy to the Office of Conservation, which falls under the Louisiana Department of Natural Resources.

Right now the office of conservation has a set of proposed regulations regarding when cavern owners or operators will be required to start sending the information.The office of conservation held a public meeting Tuesday regarding these rules. DNR spokesman Patrick Courreges said those rules could be finalized as early as late January.

Louisiana isn't the only place to see a sinkhole in recent years. In Florida homes and hotels have disappeared into the ground as sinkholes form below the surface.

Courreges said there is a big difference between what's been happening in Louisiana, and what's going on in Florida.

"They (Florida) have a lot of limestone and rock that is water soluble over time the movement of ground water underground tends to dissolve it and basically eat way at the support structure of the surface until it can't hold the weight of itself or if there is houses or other infrastructure on it that collapses inward," Courreges explained.

Courreges stated that Louisiana doesn't have a lot of limestone.

"In Louisiana where we have any real limestone layers they're very deep and way from fresh water or moving water. We tend not to have that issue of naturally occuring sinkholes that other states have," Courreges said.

He said the Bayou Corne sinkhole is a different beast.

"Through some mechanism that collapse on the side wall materials flowed in and brine came out. It was a chain reaction working it's way up through several thousand feet of rock to the surface and created this catastrophic subsidence event," Courreges said.

Courreges said the sinkhole in Bayou Corne was an unprecedented event, but now officials know what to look for.

"We're trying to minimize that risk in every way we can. First and foremost knowing the signs understanding the processes that led to Bayou Corne as much as possible. and be able to spot the warning signs months in advance if not years," He said. "What happened in Bayou Corne probably began to happen many months before there was a surface expression. "

Courreges said the DNR has resources online to help people figure out where salt dome cavern operations are going on around the state and also includes some caverns that have been plugged and abandoned.

"Best I can say is that we do make sure that these are operated safely, so that someone living near by for most of their time would not notice that it's anything but a nearby industrial operation," Courreges said.

The Romero's say they won't ever feel safe living near a cavern.

"My suggestion is to somebody who lives around one. If you're financially able to get yourself away from there find yourself another place make yourself another home and live out your years in peace and comfort," Romero said.

Click here for a link to list of Louisiana salt domes and caverns.

Comments News Comments

They sure didn't make sure that Texas Brine's cavern was operated safely! TB and DNR knew long before the sinkhole appeared that there was a problem with the cavern and neither did anything to investigate or remedy the situation. Implementing the NEW regulations has uncovered dozens of other caverns operating under unsafe conditions. All of the operators at this dome were under-reporting inventory quantities, which also amounted to millions in unpaid severance taxes. This is oversight?

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