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Short meeting about Bayou Corne sinkhole leaves long list of questions

Tuesday, October 9, 2012 - 9:40pm

Evacuees of the Assumption Parish sinkhole had lots of questions Tuesday night for Texas Brine and the state agencies in charge of the response, but mother nature kept them from getting many of the answers they were looking for.

The public meeting at the sinkhole command center lasted roughly an hour, because of darkness and an abundance of mosquitoes. The abrupt ending left residents frustrated.

"You can't ask the questions you want to ask," said Harry Boudreaux, "because they got too many people, and not enough time to get your questions answered."

Tuesday morning, a 50-foot by 10-foot section of land broke into the sinkhole.

In the meeting Tuesday evening, officials gave two new pieces of information.

First, the liquid in the water in the sinkhole is crude oil, not diesel. And that oil is the exact same as the oil in the salt cavern, leading the team to admit for the first time that the collapse of the cavern caused the sinkhole.

"All the data we've looked at so far would lead you to that conclusion, yes," said geologist Gary Hecox of the Shaw Group.

Second, Texas Brine announced that it is bringing in an expert to determine how big the sinkhole can grow, and how long it might take to reach that size.

"I know you all are interested in that," said the company's Vice President of Operations, Bruce Martin. "And believe me, with my facility sitting right there, I'm very interested in it, too."

But people who live in the area saying they're losing trust in the response team.

"Every time you ask a question," Boudreaux said, the response is, "'oh yeah, we're going to check on that, we're going to check on that.' But they never give you a definitive answer."

One item that was never addressed was when the evacuation order might end for the 150 homes near the sinkhole.

"And that seems to be the common theme," said John Achee Jr. "They really don't talk much about what they're going to do to get people back in their homes.

"It's been, what, two months now that they've been evacuated? And still have no idea how much longer they're going to be evacuated. To me, that's heartbreaking."

The Shaw Group also said Tuesday it will begin slowly flaring gas from the three vent wells this weekend. It hopes that will stop the bubbles that keep popping up on the bayou.

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