Examiner – by Deborah Dupre Louisiana’s giant sinkhole in Assumption Parish expanded 500 square feet Tuesday morning, according to officials. Earlier Tuesday, amid debating whether earthquakes caused the nearby breached salt cavern to fail, extra seismic activity was recorded, according to USGS monitors observed by this reporter, also noting that in 2010, experts foretold a methane crisis, one saying a methane-caused sinkhole could result from BP’s oil catastrophe in the Gulf of Mexico.
“A 10′ x 50′ foot slough in of (sic) the sinkhole on the SW side (towards the pipeline right-of-way, the 50′ is along the embankment of the hole),” Assumption Parish officials reported Tuesday, Oct. 9.
Five trees along with more land were lost during during what officials call another “slough in,” and “Clean up has been halted until further notice,” the officials said.
The slough-in occurred around 8:30 a.m. Tuesday, according to parish officials on their blog post.
A sharp increase of seismic activity began in the sinkhole area near Hwy. La. 70 in Belle Rose, Louisiana just before 7:00 a.m. Tuesday, according to USGS LA09 and LA03 monitors, two of six monitors placed in the area since the Bayou Corne sinkhole disaster was officially recognized.
The monitors were placed in the Bayou Corne and Belle Rose sinkhole vicinity by USGS-contracted University of Memphis seismologists on the sinkhole expert team of scientists.
Dr. Stephen Horton, a seismologist at University of Memphis on the expert team, told Dupré in a recent telephone conversation that heavy equipment and trucks used at the sinkhole site could cause monitors to show extra activity. He had previously explained that, to avoid misreadings, the monitors were placed away from where the equipment is being used and away from heavy trucks traversing the highway.
One monitor showing extra seismic activity, LA03, is south of the sinkhole. The other monitor, LA09, is due west of the sinkhole, as designated on the USGS Helicorder Map.
In the vicinity of the sinkhole, the DNR vent/relief well is north of La. 70 South, east of the most populated portion of the Bayou Corne community, while the Texas Brine LLC’s boring is south of La. Hwy. 70, reports the Advocate.
Last week, mysterious tremors were experienced and reported 45 miles south of the sinkhole. There were no monitors there, just as Dr. Horton told Dupré last week that there are no such monitors in Pierre Part where locals have reported feeling tremors.
Clara McCrea, a Bayou Corne sinkhole disaster news reader, commented Tuesday that “no monitors means [w]e didn’t see it coming and therefor[e] couldn’t have warned the people!”
Sinkhole, methane catastrophe predicted in 2010
The latest oil incident of BP’s Gulf catastrophic event and possible fissures or sea cracks in the Macondo Prospect is “exactly” what attorney Stuart Smith warned in 2010: “that the rig disaster, caused by BP’s reckless and foolish actions, would continue to wreak havoc on the Gulf environment for years to come,” Smith said last week.
Smith has said that he believed the BP “capped” well was breached, as documented in the film,The Big Fix.
Smith is not the only expert who has warned about BP’s “capping” of the Macondo Prospect well in the Gulf of Mexico and that the BP Gulf catastrophe would wreak havoc far inland as time passes.
Internationally recognized oil expert, the late Matt Simmons had said that the entire BP capping of the well was a sham and scientists had then expressed concern that a newly admitted seep and possible methane seen near BP’s well in the Gulf of Mexico were signs of leaks in the well “capped.”
On July 18, 2010, Dupré reported: “When MSNBC Host Dylan Ratigan asked Simmons, ‘What do you know about this cap Matt?’, Simmons replied, ‘The whole thing is just absurd.’
Simmons told Ratigan, “It’s time to stop deceiving the public.”
He also said, “If [BP] acknowledged it, they’d go to jail.”
“This world authority on oil stated (as reported in the Washington Post) all states in the Gulf Coast region must be evacuated, 6 million people, and that the story is 80 times worse than what he’d thought,” Dupré reported on June 27, 2010.
At the time, “TIME added the discrediting note that Simmons has been a doomsday reporter on the BP Gulf crisis since it occurred.”
“There is no way BP would not know they were misleading everyone,” Simmons had said.
“They would have to be deaf, dumb, and blind and they’re not. These are smart guys.”
Simmons repeatedly explained, contradictory to mainstream news and TV, “the real blowout as an open hole gushing 120,000 barrels of toxic crude every day below the surface of the Gulf six or seven miles away from the riser. And BP is ignoring it.”
He had also said, “Any other company would have fessed up right away and called this what it was: a tragedy and a national emergency.”
One week before his untimely death, Simmons explained at a community meeting in Camden, Maine, as reported by this reporter, “as oil reaches the upper layer of the Gulf waters, its heavy toxicity will be released, and as it comes ashore over the coming months, people still in the region will be more impacted than they already are.”
“There will be a heavy toll on human life, according to world renowned oil industry expert and whistleblower,” Dupré reported on July 16, 2010.
The oil insider had told the people at that Camden meeting that the worst effects on human health was yet to come.
“BP confirmed May 21 that the well is leaking methane, which sparked fears. An earlier BP probe also concluded that a methane bubble created the initial blowout of the wellhead in April,”reported Gulf Breeze News.
Over two years ago, after BP’s Deepwater Horizon catastrophe began, scientists observed that methane concentrations in the Gulf were up to 10,000 times higher than normal and also, corresponding oxygen depletion levels.
After two months of residents in the Bayou Corne and Grand Bayou communities experiencing and reporting methane gas bubbles and tremors, the parish requested the assistance of USGS in determining locations and probable cause(s) for this seismic activity.
“USGS immediately detected seismic activity through their monitors and began recording this data; however, no probable cause was able to be detected,” officials say.
According to USGS data of former activity in the area after the reports were filed, thousands of earthquakes had occurred, as Dr. Horton told Dupré.
Before seismic monitoring started, when questioned about Bayou Corne tremor, DNR officials noted “a 4.2 temblor and the role of ongoing subsidence in Louisiana,” according to the Advocate.
Asked if it is confirmed that failure of the Texas Brine cavern caused the sinkhole, geologist with Shaw Environmental, Gary Hecox said “All the data we’ve looked at so far would lead you to that conclusion, yes.”
What caused the cavern to fail and cause the sinkhole, however, is still in question by officials and locals.
The “USGS consensus” is that the seismic activity was the result of the cavern collapse, not the cause of it, DNR reported.
The ongoing April 2010 BP oil catastrophe in the Gulf possible link to the sinkhole intensified recently with more news about the company having likely breached the Gulf of Mexico ocean floor and that fissures or cracks are leaking methane and oil.
In 2010, USA Today reported startling findings of a June study conducted by ocean chemist John Kessler of Texas A&M University. Kessler and a group of oceanographers from Texas and the University of California-Santa Barbara discovered methane levels in deep-ocean waters near the Macondo Prospect oil well under the exploded Deepwater Horizon oil rig that were 10,000 to 100,000 times higher than normal. The team had determined that gases were coming up from the same geological layer as the oil.
Gary Byerly, Professor of Geology at Louisiana State University, said methane and oil leak into the Gulf naturally – explaining that the weight of rock on the seabed usually restricts leaks to a very slow rate.
“I could see something like this causing a sinkhole to form,” Byerly said.
Byerly, now head of LSU’s Graduate School, had stated at the time that he could not see a methane tsunami forming.
Over two years later, methane gas increasingly percolates in south Louisiana’s sinkhole area swamplands and was recently found in the aquifer above the 1-mile by 3-mile Napoleonville Salt Dome farther east and deeper underground in the dome’s hard cap rock, Department of Natural Resources (DNR) officials said. DNR then ordered the Napoleonville Salt Dome’s seven operators to locate and vent or flare any gas. Flaring is to begin Friday.
The sinkhole in south Louisiana’s methane-bubbling swampland has grown to over four acres since it first developed on Aug. 3. The hole occurred after thousands of earthquakes, that USGS prefers to call “tremors,” occurred in the vicinity, according to Horton on the telephone with Dupré.
The expanding sinkhole is now 449 feet at its deepest point, according to Texas Brine LLC. of Houston on Wednesday.
Texas Brine asserted in a written statement late on Sept. 24 that regional earthquakes damaged its salt cavern in the Bayou Corne area of Assumption Parish.
“Less than 12 hours after that 10:31 p.m. news release, the company was on the receiving end of a vigorous response from Louisiana Department of Natural Resources and parish officials to rebut the claim that the cavern failure was caused by natural causes and also to call on Texas Brine to back up its claim,” the Advocate reported Wednesday.
(See the slideshow above showing the size and the cross section of the depth of the sinkhole.)
Within hours of the latest slough-in Tuesday, the Assumption Parish Waterworks advised parish officials that a main water line break occurred along Highway 70 that runs alongside the sinkhole.
“They are working to restore water to the area. This situation should be resolved within the hour,” officials stated.
Some of the Bayou Corne community evacuated after a mandatory evacuation was ordered following the sinkhole discovery on Aug. 3. The DNR scientists suspected an abandoned Texas Brine salt cavern had failed and caused the sinkhole.
A petition, now signed by over 150 people from across the nation concerned about the health and safety of hundreds of people not in the present evacuation area, requests that Gov. Bobby Jindal expand the mandatory evacuation order, as the sinkhole has expanded, fears of an explosion mount, and chemicals in the vicinity are linked to over 80 people to report health symptoms that are typical of chemical poisoning.
Such chemicals have a cumulative effect, according to environmentalist and award-winning human rights defender Dr. Wilma Subra.
Two rules of thumb that doctors and toxicologists responding to the BP Gulf oil catastrophe have advised are: “If you smell it, you’ve been poisoned,” and “There is no safe level of toxins.”
Louisiana Environmental Action Network (LEAN), a non-government organization, is urging Assumption Parish residents to record every time an odor is smelled by using its Odor and Symptom Log that the organization is providing at no coast, so that Dr. Subra can analyze the data and continue to effectively assist.
Dr. Subra said Wednesday that activities related to the failed cavern in Napoleonville Salt Dome, the sinkhole and the natural gas in the aquifer could continue resulting in health impacts.
Last week, Dr. Raoult Ratard, State Epidemiologist with Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals Office (DHH) of Public Health, sent an environmental data report of the Bayou Corne oil and gas sinkhole event to Assumption Parish President Martin S. Triche, stating that methane, detected in the area industrial water wells, presents a potential health risk, a “Type 2 of fire/explosion.”
In that report, Dr. Ratard encouraged local residents to “heed the evacuation orders issued.”