Photo: Days of man-made earthquakes at Louisiana’s Napoleonville Salt Dome Disaster area: Seismic array, 5 Feb. 2013 Image credit: Assumption Parish Police Jury
A Center for Earthquake Research and Information (CERI) scientist has confirmed above-normal seismic activity for several days in the Louisiana’s giant collapsing salt dome area Bayou Corne “sinkhole” disaster site where thousands of quakes have rocked ground beneath nearby Cajun communities since May.
Experts are researching the cause of days of recent quakes near Louisiana’s historical collapsing 1-mile by 3-Napoleonville Salt Dome’s “sinkhole” in Assumption Parish, according to “news” reports.
Experts have been researching the cause of these quakes that began late May in the vicinity of the fossil fuel industry salt dome storage facility where the sinkhole is.
While sinkhole events are occurring throughout the world, the Bayou Corne “sinkhole” has risen to the title of Mother of All Sinkholes. It is unprecedented in its composition of fossil fuels. It is also irreparable, according to some officials. A global call for expertise has yielded no solution to stopping the expanding disaster.
On The Wings of Care recent “sinkhole” flyover showing oil slick entering nearby swamps and waterways about a half a mile from it, including Grand Bayou. Credit: On The Wings of Care, Louisiana Environmental Action Network, YouTube
In mid-August, seismologist Dr. Steve Horton told human rights reporter Deborah Dupré that over a thousand quakes had occurred within the first few months of the Bayou Corne disaster, made official on Aug.3 when it prompted a declared state of emergency and a mandatory evacuation.
These quakes have continued, with fluctuating intensity. So has expansion of the “sinkhole,” now approximately nine acres large.
At the time, Horton was the lead seismologist on Louisiana’s Bayou Corne disaster case. His work at University of Memphis involves monitoring the New Madrid fault line for the United States Geological Survey (USGS).
“Have fossil fuel industries in Louisiana, through their ENMODs caused today’s geological instabilities that have resulted in this disaster?” this author asked Horton.
“Possibly – I think that’s a real possibility,’ Horton responded.
“DNR (Department of Natural Resources) – they’re the big players here,” Horton said. “They don’t think the sinkhole caused the bubbles. The bubbles were there before the sinkhole.”
So were the thousands of quakes before the sinkhole developed, according to Horton, who said officials choose to call the small quakes “tremors.”
“On July 24th, the number of quakes went up hundreds or thousands or so a day until August 2nd when they stopped,” said Horton. “The next day, August 3rd, the sinkhole occurred – that morning.”
Since then, a published report showed that drilling wells can cause earthquakes, human-made quakes, the strongest of such quakes associated with deep-injection wastewater disposal wells.
Drilling even simple water wells is directly linked to man-made seismic activity, according to the study.
“Understanding how human-made activity triggers quakes” is important, Cornell University geophysicist Rowena Lohman said, referring to what the UN calls ENMOD techniques.
“‘Environmental modification techniques’ refers to any technique for changing – through the deliberate manipulation of natural processes – the dynamics, composition or structure of the Earth, including its biota, lithosphere, hydrosphere and atmosphere, or of outer space,” states the Convention on the Prohibition of Military or Any Other Hostile Use of Environmental Modification Techniques. (United Nations, Geneva: 18 May 1977)
Humans dump hazardous waste into Class II injection wells to save money for companies, changing dynamics, composition and structure of the Earth.
Near Louisiana’s Assumption Parish giant expanding sinkhole, Texas Brine company had been authorized by Louisiana’s DNR to inject hazardous waste, including radioactive waste from oil and gas industry operations, into the company’s leased storage well in Napoleonville Salt Dome.
That well had problems in early 2011, was sealed and abandoned. After two months of locals experiencing seismic activities and observing methane bubbles percolating in their beloved nearby bayous last spring, a large sinkhole emerged and has been expanding almost weekly, with chunks of land and swamp trees falling into it.
For decades. the fossil fuel industry has drilled, extracted and piped the oil- and gas-cursed area, devastating the once pristine and peaceful bayous of south Louisiana, Bayou Corne and Grand Bayou.
In Nov., public outrage erupted after learning that only two weeks after the sinkhole appeared and triggered a declared a state emergency, Louisiana’s Department of Natural Resources had issued a permit for deep oil drilling near the sinkhole.
Drilling wells are more likely to cause quakes than fracking, according to Mark Engle, a U.S. Geological Survey research geologist.
By October, scientists were investigating whether Louisiana state-ordered removal of crude and natural gas through hydraulic fracturing of Texas Brine’s failed storage cavern in the Napoleonville Salt Dome might be connected to the quakes that had been more pronounced in the area at that time.
The state Office of Conservation had ordered Texas Brine to pump brine into the cavern to push out the crude oil, that’s now been leaking for six months or more. That pumping process was similar but not the same as fracking.
The outer edge of the salt dome, not just the breached cavern in it, had collapsed due to what Shaw Environmental Group’s geologist Dr. Gary Hecox called a “frack-out,” then saying that it was “just like fracking.”
BP Gulf of Mexico oil catastrophe on land
“Because of the logistical challenges of taking images thousands of feet underground, scientists do not know with certainty the condition of the ground under the sinkhole or if other voids exist under the surface that could cause the hole to grow or another hole to form,” reports Houma Today.
Only a few months ago at a public meeting, after a local Homeland Security official and Assumption Parish Sheriff said there was justified fear of another sinkhole forming, Hecox stated that another hole forming was less likely than the existing one continue to expand.
Officials anticipate that the “sinkhole” could become a chemical lake the size of 30 football fields.
On Aug. 3, the “sinkhole” above the salt dome was reported. Its size was approximately an acre. Today, it is approximately 9 acres.
State officials attribute the disaster to one failed cavern owned by Houston-based Texas Brine LLC, one of the two storage caverns the company has in the salt dome facility. There are 52 such oil and gas industry caverns in the dome.
Chris Knotts, a Louisiana DNR civil engineer, who was coordinating the science group studying the sinkhole, had said just over three weeks after the sinkhole appeared that, “If it’s a cavern fracture, failure, whatever, there’s little that you can do.”
The cavern is fractured. Little done in the area has succeeded in stopping the catastrophe in the making.
Today, not only the salt dome cavern, but also the western edge of the 1-mile by 3-mile Napoleonville Salt Dome is collapsing. That western edge extends 7000 feet below ground, where gas and voids lurk.
Texas Brine’s contracted geophysicist Kevin Hill is creating a three-dimensional seismic image of the ground below the area. To do this, Hill is employing a network of 2,500 devices: air-guns, various vibrating devices and firecracker-sized explosives underground.
These devices will “thump” the area, yet another concern for locals. Can the vulnerable area be thumped much more without catastrophic results?
Previously, the company was ordered to drill investigation wells: “Texas Brine has been ordered to implement these steps as soon as possible and move full-steam ahead,” stated Commissioner of Conservation Jim Welsh in August.
One of those well-drilling missions was aborted after geological events occurred there. Texas Brine had warned that its new drilling as ordered might worsen the situation.
The unstoppable oil and gas industry’s collapsing dome, gulping part of Assumption Parish with it, has been referred to as a BP Gulf of Mexico oil catastrophe on land.
As in other communties across the nation, the human toll of this historical fossil fuel event is immense and hidden.
For over six months, innocent locals caught in the state-declared emergency area have been under a mandatory evacuation. Many of these energy refugees continue working for their rights to health, security and safety they once knew at home.
Alicia Heilig, a nearby resident, has established and maintains a Bayou Corne Sinkhole Facebook Page. There local concerned citizens are learning and organizing. Most of them agree that government and industry are not protecting them adequately, according to their messages on Facebook and conversations with this author.
Aside from thousands of quakes shaking the ground beneath their homes over the past six months, and gas bubbling nearby, children and parents are reportedly ill from chemicals belching out of the sinkhole area. Little to no medical monitoring is being offered to the bayou residents, despite their pleas for help. (See video below.)
Demonstration of Bayou Corne sinkhole disaster response failing adequate medical monitoring of locals impacted by hazardous chemical release and of inadequately observing right to self-determination. Retired neuroscientist and professor Dr. Paul Brown addressed residents and officials at a public meeting in Nov. after a boat tour of the disaster area. Brown asserted that the level of chemicals being released in the area is posing a human health risk. Credit: Deborah Dupré, YouTube
Natural gas bubbling in those two bayous is now seen in over 30 spots. After recent heavy rains, the gas was bubbling in the yards of some homes. A bus route was changed late last year after methane was discovered below the neighborhood.
Not only is methane being released. So is hydrogen sulfide. Since at least Oct. 2, other hydrocarbons have also been leaking into the bottom of the cavern in the collpasing salt dome.
Carcinogenic crude oil has now spread as far as half a mile outwards, into the swamps, bayous and communities, as Louisiana Environmental Action Network proved with photographic evidence this week. Its flyover in the video above shows more destruction than recent state official flyovers posted on the parish website dedicated to the disaster.
The possibility of a giant explosion is one reason these refugees remain under the mandatory evacuation, although some choose to remain.
“The hole has also sent naturally occurring petroleum and gas toward the surface, with natural gas accumulating in the area’s aquifer. This creates the potential for the gas to dangerously accumulate in enclosed spaces above the surface.”
At least insurance companies will not cancel the policies of the evacuation resisters, as companies are threatening some who did abide by the evacuation order.
Two or more evacuated residents and parish officials in the past two weeks have said some insurers were not renewing or had threatened not to renew their policies due to their homes being vacated over 30 days.
The Louisiana Department of Insurance is investigating those reports.
Officials will meet with disaster site locals again Wednesday at 6:00 P.M. at Assumption Parish Community Center, 4910 Highway 308, Napoleonville, LA. There, residents will be updated on this ongoing, man-made environmental and humanitarian catastrophe-in-the-making.
Copyright 2013 Deborah Dupré
Related news by this author:
The Fracked Faulkner Cover-up: House Explosions, Suicides, Miscarriages (with video testimonies)
Human Rights news reporter Deborah Dupré is author of “Vampire of Macondo, Life, crimes and curses in south Louisiana that Powerful Forces Don’t want you to know,” packed with censored stories about the BP-wrecked Macondo Prospect in the Gulf of Mexico that continues causing hidden catastrophic human and environmental devastation.
Please watch the “Vampire of Macondo” book trailer, “First book to reveal BP Gulf Oil Human Rights Abuses.”
Follow Dupré on Twitter @DeborahDupre. For radio and television interviews, email [email protected]
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