9:00 a.m. Morning Update

Overnight, there was a 30’ x 50’ slough in on the SE side of the sinkhole (towards Texas Brine). The slough in took many trees and part of the road that was built to park excavators on to resume cleanup activities. This area has never sloughed in before as opposed to previous slough-ins that have taken place in the same spots along the embankment of the sinkhole.

Tests continue to be run in the cavern. Once any results are available, they will be shared.

A bubbling spot was observed on Bayou Drive in Pierre Part. DEQ will take samples today that will determine if this bubbling is natural gas or “swamp gas”. Monitoring was done by OEP and there were no harmful risks detected.

We will hold a resident briefing this Saturday, September 29, 2012 at 10:00 a.m. The location is tentatively set for here at the command post; however, the weather forecast may force us to move indoors. We will advise you with details closer to Saturday through blog posts and a notification phone call.

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2:45 p.m. News Release from DNR

Office of Conservation Orders Texas Brine to Report Well Findings

Order requires samples, data and analysis be provided to Office of Conservation

BATON ROUGE – Louisiana Commissioner of Conservation James Welsh today placed new requirements on Texas Brine LLC for providing data and analysis promptly to the Office of Conservation, in addition to the existing orders issued to the company in response to the formation of the sinkhole/slurry area next to the company’s abandoned brine cavern in the Napoleonville Salt Dome.

Welsh said the amendment to the existing Declaration of Emergency and Directive came following Texas Brine’s unilateral declaration that its cavern had been breached due to regional seismic activity.

Texas Brine issued a statement late Monday night making the claim of a regional seismic cause for the cavern failure and citing U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) seismic analysis, without prior notice or consultation with state agencies, Assumption Parish officials or the Science Work Group created to support investigation of the sinkhole/slurry area and ongoing presence of natural gas in the ground water and surface water near the Bayou Corne community.

On Tuesday, USGS Senior Adviser for Earthquake and Geologic Hazards William Leith stated that USGS consensus is that the seismic activity detected in the area is a consequence of the cavern collapse, not the cause of the collapse and sinkhole/slurry area.

“Texas Brine has elected to let its own interests guide a premature conclusion lacking sufficient supporting analysis – breaking away from the ongoing cooperative effort to apply scientific principles to determine causes and impacts, guided by the need for accurate data and analysis to best protect public safety,” Welsh said. “The investigation and the remediation for environmental damages will be driven by the best science available and carried out to standards set by the state of Louisiana to ensure the safety of the Bayou Corne community – and will not be driven by Texas Brine’s timetable or concerns about corporate liability.”

The new requirements for Texas Brine include turning over the studies and data the company claims show seismic activity as the cause for the collapse, immediate reporting of changes to cavern status and immediate reporting of activity logs, well logs and test results generated by the company’s activities involving the cavern. To ensure transparency to the public, Texas Brine must immediately report any change in the cavern conditions to the Office of Conservation. The Office stands ready to issue penalties or other fines to Texas Brine should it not comply.

Welsh said the Office of Conservation will continue to maintain a constant and active presence in the parish and on the well site – including 24/7 oversight at the well site by Office Conservation staff to ensure safe and responsible operations.

The Office of Conservation also will continue to have contract staff from the Shaw Group on the drilling site, performing ongoing testing and analysis, including:

  • Sampling of natural gas in the cavern to compare with natural gas found in other areas near the Bayou Corne community
  • Analysis of results of sonar testing to determine the current profile of the cavern structure
  • Determining stability of the roof of the cavern
  • Analysis of types of fluids found in the cavern

These tests, combined with the cooperative efforts of the state agencies such as the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) to sample and assess the cavern contents, will assist in determining possible causes of the cavern collapse and how it may be linked to the ongoing situation near the Bayou Corne community, Welsh said.

Welsh said he has also directed the Office’s contractor to perform an independent root cause analysis of the cavern failure.

The Office of Conservation is also continuing the work, through its contractor, of establishing locations to drill water wells near the Bayou Corne community to assess the presence of natural gas and ensure it is removed.

The Office is also ensuring that salt dome operators in the area are complying with the directive to assess the presence of natural gas beneath their facilities and remove where needed to protect public safety, and continue to coordinate efforts and share information with the Office’s contractor staff.

“We are committed to doing things the right way, making the process as transparent as possible for the public, taking action supported by science and holding the responsible parties accountable, all with the goal of protecting the people and the environment and a return to normalcy – and we will be here until the job is done,” Welsh said.

12:50 p.m. DEQ In-Home Air Monitoring

DEQ and the Assumption Parish Sheriff’s Department are conducting indoor air monitoring within the Bayou Corne community as a result of the ongoing sinkhole investigation and because of concerns from local citizens. The air monitoring at Bayou Corne involves the use of real-time air monitoring equipment. After residents have completed a right-of-entry form, a DEQ air monitoring expert and a parish sheriff’s deputy will come to the resident’s home and with the resident present, the air monitoring team will begin sampling efforts. Indoor air sampling teams are monitoring for Lower Explosive Limit (LEL), Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs), and hydrogen sulfide (H2S). The LEL is lowest concentration of a gas or vapor that is capable of producing a flash of fire in the presence of an ignition source such as flame or heat.

For the entire press release of this testing, visit:
http://www.deq.louisiana.gov/portal/portals/0/news/pdf/indoorair_bayoucorne_PR.pdf

To schedule in home monitoring, please call 225-219-3015.

To download the rite of passage form, visit:
http://www.edsuite.com/proposals/proposals_280/right_of_passage_fi_474.pdf

*NOTE* The rite of passage form MUST be completed in witness of a DEQ representative. If this form is completed prior to a scheduled monitoring, you will have to redo the form.

9:30 a.m. Assumption Officials Respond to Texas Brine’s Press Release

Assumption Parish officials have been advised by DNR that their exploratory well observers have confirmed that brine cavern #3 has failed. Per Texas Brine’s press release, “The tool used to measure cavern depth bottomed out at approximately 4,000 feet – a point estimated to be 1,300 feet higher than the floor had been measured prior to the cavern closure in 2011.  This preliminary finding indicates that some type of dense material has fallen to the bottom of the cavern. A sample of the material has been retrieved from the cavern floor and will be analyzed.  The retrieved material does not appear to be consistent with material normally found in brine cavern operations. We expect that the sonar inspection that is currently being conducted will provide a more detailed image of the cavern’s interior conditions and the possible source of the material at its base.”  This statement confirms the suspicions of parish officials: Texas Brine Oxy Cavern #3 had failed.

It has come to our attention that Texas Brine’s press release was released to the media at 10:31 p.m. last night, prior to consulting with parish and state officials. Parish officials are not in agreement with Texas Brine’s preliminary conclusion that their well was damaged by “regional-scale seismic activity” (earthquakes). Given the confirmation of the failure of Texas Brine’s cavern, the parish will continue to look to Texas Brine for accountability and evacuee assistance.

The mandatory evacuation order will remain in place. Parish and state officials are working together to host and coordinate a public meeting to provide additional and updated information in the near future. The time and date of this meeting will be circulated via blog posts, press release, and phone calls to residents. If you have any questions, please feel free to call the Assumption Parish Office of Homeland Security & Emergency Preparedness at 985-369-7386 or stop by the command post.

1:00 p.m. Update

We have been advised by Texas Brine that caliper logging has begun and they hope to begin sonar testing later this afternoon. The time range on which we can expect results is unknown at this time.