Tempers flair at Bayou Corne community meeting, residents demand action
POSTED: Tuesday, December 18, 2012 - 11:52pm
UPDATED: Wednesday, December 19, 2012 - 5:46pm
ASSUMPTION PARISH, LA (NBC33) — Texas Brine Officials got an earful Tuesday night from Bayou Corne residents and Assumption Parish leaders. Community members say it's time for the company to step up its game plan. They say the company hasn't gotten any closer to getting people back into their homes.
People shouted, venting their anger and frustration at the lack of progress.
"It's been five months. It's long over due. They need to get things moving," Marty Triche, President of the Assumption Parish Police Jury, stated.
The meeting was supposed to give the community some answers and closure regarding the massive sinkhole, bubbling on the bayou, and tremors in the Bayou Corne area. Residents weren't pleased with what they learned.
"Used to see my grandkids four times a day. Now I see them once a week," Carla Alleman, former Bayou Corne resident, cried. "We are not out of our homes. We are out of our lives. We are out of our routines."
The Texas Brine Company pleaded with residents to have patience. Bruce Martin, Vice President of Operations for Texas Brine, told the community one big reason for the delay is a lack of landowner agreements. He says in order to more forward with requirements set up by the state they need permission from property owners to put equipment in their homes. He also told residents that work is also slowed down by the holidays.
Parish leaders say after almost five months of delays Texas Brine is only blowing smoke.
"Texas Brine has the expertise and the resources to resolve this issue to bring it to an end, but they just will not come forward quick enough," Marty Triche, exclaimed.
"It's like they are grasping at straws and not really worried about the people," Randi Russeau, Grand Bayou resident who evacuated from his home, said. "I understand they need to contain the situation, but they need to take care of the these people."
"I just don't know where to turn anymore. It's just business run rampant and the residents, oh well," Kenneth Simoneaux said.
The state Office of Conservation requires Texas Brine to add more in-home monitoring equipment for the area. 81 homes fit the requirements to have the monitors of having a slab foundation. The company says right now they only have 38 homes signed up for the program. People living in the area expressed they don't want their homes to filled with science equipment.
"If you think you're going to walk into my house and put a probe in it, you're crazy," Gary Metrejean, Bayou Corne resident, shouted.
"Nothing is normal.That isn't normal living with geoprobes, vent wells, and monitors in your home," Alleman stated.
James Welsh, Commissioner of Conservation, fined the company $160,000 on Monday, Dec. 17 making a grand total of $260,000 in fines for the delay of progress. According to a spokesman for the state Department of Natural Resources, the department responsible for the Office of Conservation, the company has not paid up any of the money. DNR officials say the company had asked permission to use that money to go toward paying off debts owed to the state and local emergency agencies. Lawyers for the DNR wouldn't approve the plan because they say the company has not shown enough progress and never made a commitment to paying off their debts. DNR officials say so far there is no deadline for the company to pay that money.
Resident say the situation will not get any better unless Governor Bobby Jindal steps in to help their community.
"We're in crisis mode here. We have been since August, and we haven't seen the governor once," Russeau explained.
Community members tell NBC33 they have tried to contact the governor's office on dozens of occasions, but they never get a response that the governor will come to their community.
The last community meeting discussing the sinkhole was more than a month ago on November 13. Tuesday, only a few new facts were revealed.
Texas Brine spokesman told residents the latest information is the sinkhole sits at 8.4 acres in size. They say 75 percent of the failed brine cavern is filled with debris. Shallow water 24 geoprobes were installed in the Bayou Corne community to measure pressure and presence of natural gas.
Martin says residents can expect a change of guard in the measuring of seismic activity. He said the USGS plans to pull out its monitoring equipment at the end of January. The company plans on taking over this responsibility.
Some residents tell NBC33 that ultimately they want to see the company buyout the land from those who want to leave and compensate those who stay. Overall, the residents said they want to see the situation end immediately. They want to be able to move on.