Governor Bobby Jindal traveled to Bayou Corne today to hold a briefing with local officials on the sinkhole and contingency plan for Oxy-Geismar 1 and meet with families who have been impacted by the sinkhole.
Governor Jindal said, "We came to Bayou Corne to get a firsthand look at the sinkhole clean-up, contingency plan progress for Oxy-Geismar 1, and also meet with residents whose lives have been uprooted by the sinkhole.
"We are making progress on the sinkhole clean-up and contingency plan, and moving forward quickly to take all steps necessary to protect the lives and property in this community. Texas Brine has agreed to start the buyout process, and it's a step in the right direction, but the proof will be in the results. The bottom line is that Texas Brine is responsible for the sinkhole, and we remain committed to making sure that they clean up their mess."
Governor Jindal outlined a number of updates regarding the buyout process, blue ribbon commission, sinkhole clean-up, contingency plan progress and La. 70 monitoring.
For months, a group of Assumption Parish residents displaced by the sinkhole have expressed their interest in buyouts from Texas Brine. Before last week, Texas Brine had failed to agree to initiate the buyout process. After meeting with Texas Brine officials last week, Governor Jindal announced that Texas Brine agreed to begin the buyout process for affected residents.
Texas Brine had been waiting for a court-approved list of residents and orders from a judge before they could initiate conversations with affected residents. Texas Brine received the list on Friday, March 15. Now that Texas Brine attorneys have the list, they may approach people without attorneys to talk about settlements, but have to go through attorneys to approach those who have entered class-action suits.
Blue Ribbon Commission
Governor Jindal announced the creation of a Blue Ribbon Commission whose mission will be to ensure the long-term safety of Bayou Corne residents. The Blue-Ribbon Commission will develop specific criteria to determine long-term safety goals. Three areas of concern will be addressed by the commission:
Levels of shallow gas in the aquifer;
current and future stability on the western side of Napoleonville Salt Dome;
and management and containment of the sinkhole coupled with the determination of potential void spaces below the sinkhole.
To provide benchmarks for recommendations, the Commission will address at least two key factors: Appropriate conditions to determine sustained public safety and the data needed to assess those conditions. The Commission will make recommendations on what the safety benchmarks should be and on when they have been sufficiently met.
Commission membership will be drawn from scientific experts in fields specific to the different areas of concern -- including from federal and state agencies, academia, contractors and others with needed expertise. By the end of this week, state officials will make the appointments in consultation with local officials.
Currently, the sinkhole is approximately 700 feet in diameter and 210 feet deep. Worst case predictions on the size of the sinkhole place its edge approximately at 1,300 feet southeast of the Bayou Corne community and approximately 700 feet south of LA Hwy 70. Currently, the sinkhole edge is approximately 1600 feet southeast of the Bayou Corne community and 1100 feet south of LA Hwy 70. Any bubbling that continues to occur in and around the Bayou Corne community is believed to be fed by underground formations releasing gas through pathways created by Oxy 3's on-going and expected collapse.
DOTD is conducting daily visual inspections, weekly visual bridge inspections and monthly GPS surveys of La. 70 in the proximity of the sinkhole. They compare the results of each survey to determine any movement of the terrain.
Thirty-one observation/vent wells have been installed, 21 of which are currently flaring natural gas to remove it from the shallow subsurface. Ten of the wells not currently flaring are capable of flaring gas, but are currently shut in for work or safety precautions due to seismic activity near the sinkhole or a lack of gas in the area. Eight additional wells will be drilled once seismic data gathering is completed. To date, more than 10 million cubic feet of natural gas has been flared.
No new vent wells will be installed this week due to ongoing 3-D seismic data attainment, but DNR estimates conditions will allow for installation the following week. These wells will be installed slightly east of the Bayou Corne community and south of Hwy 70.
A group of wells will also be installed near the Grand Bayou community and near the intersection of Hwy 70 and Hwy 69. Once these are installed, DNR will be able to tell where more wells should be placed to maximize the removal of gas. Twenty-four pressure monitoring geoprobe wells have also been installed to monitor for the presence of gas pressure buildup in the area. Fourteen of these wells are in the Bayou Corne community itself.
Seventy-five pairs of methane and hydrogen sulfide continuous monitors have been placed into 33 residential structures in the Bayou Corne community. These monitors are integrated into an emergency response system overseen by Assumption Parish. No positive alarms have occurred to date.
Where access has been granted by homeowners, homes in the Bayou Corne community have been inspected and tested for natural gas and hydrogen sulfide on a regular basis. To date, no natural gas or hydrogen sulfide has been discovered in these homes.
Containment is currently being completed around the sinkhole through installation of an earthen berm to stop the spread of dissolved contaminants onto surface water outside of the sinkhole and the surrounding area.
The initial berm installation is complete, and DNR expects the berm completion work to be finished by late May. Once this berm is completed, it will be used to access locations for additional vent well installation. To date, a total of 123,488 cubic yards of sand and 3,416 tons of limestone have been imported to construct this containment.
Oxy Geismar 1 Contingency Plan
The Department of Natural Resources was given data that showed the Oxy Geismar 1 cavern was closer to the edge of the salt dome than previous top-of-salt maps had indicated.
According to experts, there are no data currently to indicate a failure is occurring or that a failure is imminent. Since late last year, the state has been monitoring this second cavern and will have test results within the next month to determine the structural integrity of the second cavern.
A network of micro-seismic arrays is monitoring the western edge of the Napoleonville dome.
The Department of Natural Resources is also performing rock-mechanics modeling of the cavern. This is an evaluation of the structural composition of the rock to see how it might be impacted by seismic activity and the failure of the Oxy 3 cavern.
The state is currently utilizing two monitoring systems: one for the sinkhole and the Oxy 3 Cavern and one specific to Highway 70 and the Oxy 1 Cavern. The monitoring system for the sinkhole and the Oxy 3 cavern is geared primarily toward the safety of workers in and around the sinkhole and is numerically based.
The system for Highway 70 and the Oxy 1 cavern is geared primarily toward the public and its access to Highway 70 and is color-coded (green, yellow, red). Oxy 3 is on status 2 because of seismic activity detected last week; however, this is expected as the remains of the cavern are still shifting. Oxy 1 is on status green.
The state is also acquiring additional 3-D seismic data while ongoing seismic monitoring continues. The 3-D Seismic investigation has about 94 percent of the survey work completed and 75 percent of the drilling work completed. 3-D Seismic data collection will be completed by the end of this month, and the analysis and results are due April 21.
Seismic activity in the area is also being continuously monitored with seven surface seismic arrays and 2 subsurface seismic arrays. One of the subsurface arrays is installed in Oxy 1 and will soon be replaced.
The pressure of surrounding salt caverns is also continuously monitored and reported on 10-second intervals for any sudden changes, which might suggest a change in structural stability in the area.
La. 70 Monitoring
DOTD is also taking steps to ensure the safety of La 70 due to its proximity to Oxy 1. DOTD has prepared a three-part monitoring system. The different types of monitors will bounce data against each other to ensure that abnormalities are not due to malfunction of the sensor, wild animals, weather, etc.
The three part system includes:
Automated, continuous monitoring of roadway and bridges for movement;
Automated, continuous monitoring of roadway and bridges for subsidence and
Detection and Motorist Warning Systems.
DOTD has started the installation process, which they anticipate will take six to eight weeks.
The first step is for the state to execute right of entry agreements to gain access to the property to place sensors, and work out arrangements to have them remain in place for the duration of the project with access for service.
DOTD is working with Texas Brine to place monitors/sensors on DOTD right of way property and property leased by Texas Brine. At this time, DOTD does not anticipate the need for any property in addition to the DOTD right of way and property already leased by Texas Brine.
DOTD will have to perform site preparation work, which will include access (inclusive of driveways) and security fencing, and which could include cameras to ensure that sensors are not tampered with.
Governor Jindal Outlined Next Steps For The Sinkhole Clean-Up and Contingency Plan
3-D seismic data will be received by April 21st and it will be analyzed to determine subsurface conditions, including potential sources of the natural gas.
Additional vent wells will be installed near the Bayou Corne community during the week of March 25th to remove more natural gas from shallow subsurface.
More seismic arrays will be installed over the next three weeks to continue monitoring the stability of the western edge of the Napoleonville Salt Dome and all of its caverns.
The berm containment system for the sinkhole will be completed by the end of May.
DOTD will be installing a monitoring system on La. 70 and also complete the feasibility study of rerouting La. 70 north.
Members of the Blue Ribbon Commission will be selected by the end of this week and the first meeting will occur by the first week of April.