Bayou Corne, Louisiana sits atop the Napoleon Salt Dome, which covers a one by three mile area and has 53 caverns. Salt domes are large, ancient formations of salt in the ground. Salt domes are used for the commercial mining of petroleum, salt and sulphur. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, such domes are mostly found along the northern coast of the Gulf of Mexico. Louisiana has more than 100 identified salt domes.
The salt dome cavern beneath Bayou Corne is operated by Texas Brine Company and owned by Occidental Petroleum. Texas Brine mines salt domes to produce brine, a salt-filled water used for the manufacture of chlorine and caustic soda, which in turn are used in products ranging from paper and plastics to pharmaceuticals. The company specializes in a process known as injection mining. The company sunk a series of wells deep into the salt dome and flushed them out with high-pressure streams of freshwater. The resulting brine is pumped to the surface and delivered to refineries.
In the summer of 2012, residents of Bayou Corne began to notice the ground was shaking and bubbles began to arise from the water. The US Geological Survey noted an increase in seismic activity. A natural gas pipeline leak was suspected, but that assumption proved false. As the symptoms worsened, Texas Brine officially denied the likelihood of a sinkhole. Then, in August, as residents reported the smell of oil, a sinkhole appeared.
The sinkhole initially spanned about an acre. The sinkhole has grown to measure nearly 37 acres and, according to a recent survey, about 271 feet deep.
Nearby residents were evacuated back in August 2012. Texas Brine drilled a relief well to investigate and discovered that the outer wall of the salt dome had collapsed. Sediment was pouring into the cavern, allowing oil and gases to escape to the surface. The evacuation order could last for years.
Scientists have said they believe the sinkhole was caused by mining a salt dome cavern too close to the surface, causing a breach in the dome that shifted surrounding rock and led to the sinkhole’s formation.
Residents of Bayou Corne have filed lawsuits against Texas Brine. The company has resolved the claims of some residents, but many were part of a class action that has recently been settled.
The federal judge overseeing the class action lawsuit against Texas Brine has granted final approval of a $48.1 million settlement that covers the claims of more than 80 families. Some residents who had been part of the class action have decided to not participate in the settlement and will continue to pursue their claims against Texas Brine. As to the claimants who are settling their claims, the exact amount to be awarded to each claimant under the settlement will be determined by a Special Master appointed by the court.
Property Damage from Drilling and Mining? You Have Rights!
If you or your property have been damaged or injured and you feel it may have been caused by a mining, oil, natural gas, or chemical company, you may be eligible to file a lawsuit and receive compensation for the injuries you have suffered.
Contact the lawyers at Heygood, Orr & Pearson for your free case evaluation and to learn more about your legal right to compensation. You can reach us by calling toll-free at 1-877-446-9001, or by following the link to our free case evaluation form.
Case results depend upon a variety of factors unique to each case. Results of other cases do not guarantee or predict a similar result in any future case.