La. sinkhole methane explosion possible says sheriff, refuting naysayers
The Assumption Parish sheriff stated that methane ignition and explosion are possible in the Bayou Corne sinkhole area, refuting naysayers about such an explosion and spotlighting grave human rights issues related to the "history-making event" and "environmental nightmare,’ according to a KLFY Channel 10 three-part special televised report aired Friday.
The possibility exists that Louisiana's sinkhole-related methane, percolating in over a dozen sites near and miles away from the sinkhole area, could ignite and cause an explosion, according to Assumption Parish Sherriff Michael J. Waguespack, interviewed about the unprecedented Bayou Corne event unfolding in South Louisiana's swampland.
Waguespack, lover of south Louisiana people and culture, made the statement to KLFY reporter Chuck Huebner about the massive amount of methane known to be trapped below the Assumption Parish sinkhole area surface, continually leaking and bubbling to the surface.
“If it finds a source, an oil well, a water well, it will basically come to the surface. If that’s inside of a shed, or something off the ground and it’s captured, it’s an ignition source," stated Waguespack.
"Then 'Boom,' and you have an explosion,” he said.
Numerous comments about the impossibility of methane igniting have been posted on Deborah Dupré's Examiner.com article pages about the Bayou Corne sinkhole disaster.
This week, methane in tap water of a Napoleonville man's home was reportedly bubbling and flammable but claimed to be unrelated to methane leaks in the expanding sinkhole area of Napoleonville Salt Dome and not unusual in Louisiana, according to the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality on Wednesday.
In early October, the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals (DHH) advised the Assumption Parish President that the Bayou Corne sinkhole area had high levels of methane in nearby water wells, posing risks to health, fire and explosion and that residents need to heed the mandatory evacuation order.
Locals were not publicly advised about that DHH notice. Only about 150 of the 350 residents under mandatory evacuation have heeded the order, some saying they will be notified in time to leave if the situation is really life-threatening.
“Crazy,” Huebner says in his report, The History of the Assumption Parish Sinkhole. “What else can you call it when part of your parish is disappearing into the Earth?”
The sinkhole developed after two months of methane bubbling in Bayou Corne and Grand Bayou, according to locals and subsequent news reports. The methane bubbles were occurring as thousands of earthquakes were also occurring, according to USGS later reports.
“It’s almost like a live animal, everyday," Waguespack told Huebner. "It seems to grow and there’s a new issue that develops.”
Huebner says that for Waguespack, the most immediate problem has been the continued mandatory evacuation of some 150 people in the area.
"The problem is, nobody knows when it will end."
Experts are telling John Boudreaux, Assumption Parish Director of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness that "this is new science," Huebner says.
“The experts have never seen anything like this before.”
“Nobody expected anything like this to happen," local businessman Dennis Landry says.
Scientists working on the sinkhole “really have their hands full,” Huebner reports. “Although it appears only "one of 67 salt caverns has collapsed," it still has created an environmental nightmare that experts are still struggling to get a handle on.”
The report highlights that one big problem is that the aquifer beneath the dome is now "contaminated with natural gas and maybe possibly even oil."
"Fortunately, the area’s drinking water does not come from the aquifer. It comes from Bayou Lafouche," according to the KLFY report out of nearby Lafayette, Louisiana.
Unfortunately, according to this new report, Assumption Parish's Bayou Corne/Grand Bayou sinkhole problem began with a series of bubbles that began not there, but in nearby Bayou Lafourche.
This means that local sinkhole area people are getting their water from a source known to have methane in it.
Until a way can be found to stop the methane, nobody under the mandatory evacuation will be able to return to their home, the report highlights.
“The experts have never really seen anything like this before," Waguespack told Huebner. "This is really new science, and that’s what’s taking so long."
Waguespack says they need to get some 3-D seismic done.
Approximately three million cubic feet of material has gone into this cavern, according to Waguespack. He explained that the sinkhole itself only accounts for approximately 550,000 cubic feet of that material.
"So there is approximately 2. 7 million cubic feet of material that’s entered the cavern that’s unaccounted for,” said Waguespack.
If and when the voids settle, the volume of the sinkhole could be expected to be six times its current size.
“They may be pockets and voids, and that might be one reason the sinkhole continues to grow as things settle down,” said Waguespack.
“The problem that remains is how to get rid of the natural gas that scientists say believe is still down there,” Huebner stated.
Four vent wells have been installed. The casing that is about 200 feet down has been perforated to try to get the natural gas vented out, but so far, this has been un successful, according to Waguespack.
“The gas is only 100 or 150 feet down,” he said.
Butane stored in one of the caverns has added concern about an explosion that independent scientists have previously explained is a grave possibility.
"Butane explosion effects would differ from an H-bomb effects two ways: 1) It would take much longer and have insignificant radiation damage; 2) Temperatures reached would be lower, so the fireball, thermal radiation, and air blast radii would be smaller, but all three longer-lasting." (See: Sinkhole: H-Bomb explosion equivalent in Bayou Corne possible)
Within four months, methane bubbling had been observed at twenty-eight sites, according to some reports, including in Pierre Part, outside the mandatory evacuation zone but within hearing distance of loud "booms," seismic activity jolts and foul chemical odors nauseate and burn some residents.
Governor Bobby Jindal has not increased the mandatory evacuation zone, despite public outcry from across the nation petitioning him to protect people needing help to flee the catastrophe-in-the-making.
To date, Jindal has not publicly visited the sinkhole disaster site.
“The worst-case scenario, I guess, says Waguespack, "is if this gas in the aquifer comes to the surface and gets under some type of building, facility or structure and the bubbles come up and there’s ignition.”
Last month, independent physicists reported to Dupré that Assumption Parish's sinkhole methane could have traveled north through waterways or rock fissures and caused the Minden military bunker facility to explode during a meteorite event.
That explosion was reportedly felt across three southern states.
Deborah Dupré is author of the newly released book, Vampire of Macondo. In Vampire of Macondo, Dupré tells the censored stories about the BP-wrecked Macondo Prospect in the Gulf of Mexico that is causing catastrophic human and environmental devastation. Dupré is presently on a coast to coast book tour, looking forward to meeting in person more loyal readers. Follow the Vampire of Macondo slayer on Twitter as she tours. For interviews, email info@DeborahDupre.com.