Company: 3-D data show sinkhole subsurface stable

LAFAYETTE (AP) — New results from a seismic survey of the 13-acre sinkhole in Assumption Parish suggest that the subsurface is stable, said officials of the company that owns the failed cavern thought to have caused the sinkhole.

This means 350 people evacuated from the Bayou Corne and Grand Bayou communities in early August, when the sinkhole first showed up, may be able to return to their homes, Texas Brine Co. spokesman wrote in an email.

“The preliminary analysis of the 3-D imagery indicates that the subterranean conditions appear stable, which we hope will lead to a faster resolution and the safe return of residents to their homes,” he wrote Tuesday.

The new data also indicate that natural gas that bubbled up under the two communities came from one source that is now essentially empty, according to company officials.

Don Marlin, the state Office of Conservation’s seismic expert, had said that less refined data from 2007 suggested up to eight sources of oil and gas. That raised worries, other scientists said, that those sources were continuing to feed gas caught in the aquifer under the communities.

It probably will take a few weeks for Marlin to review and analyze the new data, spokesman Patrick Courreges said.

Texas Brine turned the data over Sunday to the Office of Conservation, which ordered the 2.28-square-mile survey in January. Company officials described it Monday during a three-day industry conference that was winding up Wednesday in Lafayette.

Scientists think the Houston company’s cavern failed at a depth of 5,600 feet after it was mined too close to the dome’s outer face, setting off tremors, creating the sinkhole and releasing gas and crude oil. Some have raised fears that the failure could endanger the entire underground dome of salt.

Gov. Bobby Jindal and others are pressing the company to offer buyouts to residents. Texas Brine has been sued in state and federal court.

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