Oct 8, 2012 8:01 PM by Maddie Garrett

Bayou Corne Sinkhole Raises Concerns at Lake Peigneur

A sinkhole in Assumption Parish is raising concerns in Acadiana. Crews are digging wells near a four-acre sinkhole beneath Bayou Corne. The wells are being sued to vent and investigate natural gas trapped below the salt brining facility.

Louisiana Senator Fred Mills said in light of this incident, he will try and take action to prevent a similar disaster from happening at the salt domes beneath Lake Peigneur. Mills said he plans to introduce a bill for the second time that would require companies to conduct an environmental impact statement before expanding natural gas storage caverns at Lake Peigneur. A similar bill failed in the last legislative session.

Residents at Lake Peigneur said such legislation would be a relief, but the Louisiana Oil and Gas Association said it would be a set back from the industry.

"This has been home for our family for generations and I'd like to preserve it," said Lake Peigneur resident Louis Derise.

Derise sits on a wooden, raised deck overlooking the lake. It's located on his own private peninsula that extends from his backyard. Derise said his father helped turn Lake Peigneur from an industrial lake to a recreational and residential lake. He's worried that expanding natural gas storage would be an environmental and health risk.

"Some accidents are possible leakage of the storage cavern and it leaking into the aquifer," said Derise.

The company AGL is proposing building two new storage caverns about a half mile from the shore, they would sit in front of the two storage caverns already built in the salt dome. Derise wants to stop further natural gas storage here, he's now the Vice President of Save Lake Peigneur Inc.

"We'd like to see... for these companies to consider the residents around the salt dome and make sure their expansion would not interfere with the residents," said Derise.

Derise cited two incidents that raise concerns: The salt mine disaster of the 1980's, and the Bayou Corne sinkhole. But Louisiana Oil and Gas Association Vice President Gifford Briggs said those accidents can't be compared to creating storage caverns at Lake Peigneur. He explains the differences:

"That was 30 some odd years ago, and technology has advanced. And that wasn't a salt cavern issue that was a salt mine issue," said Briggs of the Lake Peigneur salt mine collapse. "Bayou Corne are salt brining facilities where literally they leach out the cavern, they store the salt water there and the salt water is later pumped out and used for industrial manufacturing and refining purposes."

But back at Lake Peigneur, residents said they've seen bubbling around the lake, and believe it's a warning sign.

"There's bubbling on the south side of the lake, and it's usually about the same spot," said Derise. "It'll be a white foam that you can actually break up."

Scientists have not yet determined what could be causing the bubbling.



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