Louisiana sinkhole, bubbles, 1000s quakes link to oil, gas ENMOD
University seismologist sheds light on mystery sinkhole and related rights abuses. Gas bubbles, 1000s of recent quakes and giant sinkhole ‘quite possibly’ have same source: oil and gas industry environmental modifications
On Monday, as officials warned an explosion is possible from gas in Louisiana’s sinkhole area where radioactive waste has been pumped into a cavern and the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) authorized drilling a new well in the danger sinkhole zone, a seismologist told the Examiner that seismic activity exists in that zone and that fossil fuel industries’ environmental modifications (ENMODs) causing the gas bubbles, giant sinkhole and thousands of quakes resulting in the State of Emergency, is a “real possibility.”
Reported diagnostic tests from federal, state and local officials and industry pinpoint no source of the sinkhole or gas bubbling bayous, but seismologist Dr. Stephen Horton says the link between those events and oil and gas industry ENMODs in south Louisiana is a "real possibility."
“The sinkhole and bubbles may be caused by the same thing,” Dr. Horton told the Examiner Monday.
Seismic activity is being detected from Louisiana’s giant sinkhole area, according to Horton, whose work at University of Memphis involves monitoring the New Madrid fault line for the United States Geological Survey (USGS) as well as the Louisiana disaster.
Have fossil fuel industries in Louisiana, through their ENMODs caused today’s geological instabilities that have resulted in this disaster?
“Possibly – I think that’s a real possibility,’ Horton told Deborah Dupré on Monday.
“DNR – 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 thousands of earthquakes before the giant sinkhole developed, according to Horton.
Sinkhole developed day after quakes stopped
“On July 24th, the number of quakes went up hundreds or thousands or so a day until August 2nd when they stopped,” Horton said. “The next day, August 3rd, the sinkhole occurred – that morning.”
Seismometers picked up thousands of quakes in the Assumption Parish disaster area since June, according to Horton. He and colleagues had installed four instruments underground to record quake activities, and since then, two more, each monitored daily.
Monday, DNR issued a permit to the company possibly partially responsible for causing the disaster, Texas Brine Company to investigate the problem by drilling into the sinkhole area.
"We have to arrange for the driller. We have to pick a location. We have to be very careful to not be in a point that's too close to the sinkhole because of the weight of the rig," Texas Brine Company spokesman Sonny Cranch told ABCNews.com Monday. "We don't want to aggravate the situation."
Assumption Parish Sheriff Mike Waguespack said last week that his greatest worry is a nearby butane well exploding.
"That's why the mandatory evacuation is going to stay on, because there is a risk for explosion," John Boudreaux of Assumption Parish Emergency Preparedness said last Tuesday at a meeting with residents, WBRZ reported.
Locals say their greatest worry is the explosion and cover ups, not being well enough informed about matters such as the Texas Brine cavern near the sinkhole having radioactive waste pumped into it and the massive butane-filled well only 1500 feet from that salt cavern.
Anyone with information on bubbling gas locations or potential origin of them is asked to contact Assumption Parish Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness at (985) 369-7386.
Because locals reported feeling quakes and small damages, along with subsequent technical equipment, much is known now about the disaster, according to Horton. People reported quakes on June 8 and July 3, so he and others installed seismic facilities in the Bayou Cornes area on July 12.
“It’s kind of technology and people coming together as partners that makes us know what we know now.”
Asked if USGS records ENMOD-caused quakes as it does natural quakes, Horton answered, referring to the recent quakes in Louisiana, “They would not have been recorded at USGS because they attenuate quickly because of where they were.
“We were surprised there were quakes large enough to be felt and had done damage but not recorded. They were picked up by a program at the national seismologist that didn’t initially see or report them," Horton explained. “The signal was there but may not have gone above the noise level.
"USGS then looked and said, 'Yes, there have been tremors there,' he explained, adding, “USGS likes to use the word ‘tremors’ for quakes.”
Quakes ended when bubbling sinkhole developed but seismic signals continue from sinkhole area
“Sharp tremors stopped the day the sinkhole occurred and there has been no resumption of them,” he said.
Seismic signals, however, continue in the sinkhole area, according to Horton.
The 372 feet diameter sinkhole is centered in the “worst-case scenario area” in the Napoleanville Salt Dome, the Advocate reports.
DNR’s Kumar said “the worst-case area displayed is a smaller area than the 2,000-foot worst-case scenario that parish and state officials feared Friday was a possibility when a mandatory evacuation was ordered for the Bayou Corne community,” The Advocate reported in a separate article Monday.
While strong quake activities have halted, Horton told the Examiner, “There are seismic signals that appear to emanate from the vicinity of the in the Napoleonville salt dome, in the low amplitude range.
“I don’t know what they are or what they mean seismically, but they are happening.”
One of the reasons it’s hard to pinpoint this is "a lot of plants have more than one pipe coming into their operations,” Louisiana Chemical Association President Dan Borné said, according to The Advocate on Monday. “They get their natural gas from more than one supplier, and the suppliers can also reroute their gas depending on the capacity of various pipelines.”
The Advocate reported that Borné declined naming the plants affected.
DNR ordered Texas Brine to evaluate the structural integrity of the salt cavern and begin remediating any problems in the seismic activity area.
An explosion from a natural gas pocket or from a nearby salt cavern failing and releasing flammable gas is possible, stated John Boudreaux, director of Assumption Parish Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness.
Eighty miles west of Bayou Corne is Lake Peigneur that balances above a salt dome that collapsed in 1980 when a drilling rig punctured a protective layer in the salt mine wall, causing the entire lake, including a drilling rig, several larges barges and large chunks of surrounding land to be pulled down into the cavern.
Pressure was so great, the bayou ran backwards, created a large waterfall, and was sucked back into the puncture hole.
Scientist Dr. Wilma Subra, award-winning human rights defender worked extensively on the Lake Peigneur incident and has done so for several decades. She suspects drilling too close to the edge of the salt might have compromised the Bayou Corne cavern.
Subra was excluded from meetings of scientists last Monday. She worries for the safety of the surrounding communities.
Assumption Parish Police Jury continues monitoring Bayou Corne and Grand Bayou waterway bubbles. Officials report no explosive risk is detected from any of the bubbling sites in the giant sinkhole area. Drilling equipment will start arriving in the area late Wednesday or early Thursday and drilling is scheduled to begin a few days later.
“I do think from the standpoint of emergency management, this disaster has been handled very well," Horton told Dupré, adding, "considering what they know."
Sources: ABC News, The Advocate, WBRZ, WAFB, Department of Natural Resources, The Clarion Ledger, Examiner