Mar 19, 2013 7:13 PM by Chris Welty
"If we have a collapse there, it would be a hell of a catastrophe and it worries me, it has worried me for many years. Seeing it first hand, I know what could happen," said Iberia Parish Sheriff Louis Ackal.
He vividly remembers the Jefferson Island Salt Mine Collapse in 1980 and is now asking Governor Bobby Jindal to stop AGL Resources from expanding its natural gas storage caverns at Lake Peigneur.
So far, Governor Jindal hasn't responded to the sheriff's letter. Ackal says the sinkhole in Assumption Parish would be a mud puddle compared to what he thinks could happen at the Lake.
November 20, 1980 is a day Sheriff Louis Ackal will never forget. He was Captain of Louisiana State Police Troop-I when a miscalculation sent an oil rig's drill directly into the salt mine instead of under the lake, collapsing the Jefferson Salt Mine.
"There was just swirls of mud, giant oak trees were being sucked down like a hand pulling them into the mud," said Ackal.
He believes the salt domes under Lake Peigneur that AGL Resources wants to expand are fragile. He wants more testing and studies.
"I'm not a scientist, I'm not an environmental wacko, I'm a sheriff who is concerned about the people and the homes around there."
Ackal is urging Governor Bobby Jindal to intervene. He wants proof the dome is safe, and wants answers to why bubbling happens sporadically.
"Whatever monies it is paying the State of Louisiana to use that dome is not worth a damn penny of it if it's going to endanger the lives and property of the people that live out there," said Ackal.
The sheriff hopes the governor or legislature will step in and condemn the mine and any expansion of it.
About two weeks ago, the Department of Natural Resources approved one of the permits AGL needs to dredge and lay pipe, but it comes with a stipulation. AGL first needs a permit to expand and create more caverns. So, right now the project is at a standstill.
AGL remains committed to this expansion of what they call a safe project that has been in operation for more than 15 years.