Sampling Continues at Bayou Corne as Sinkhole Expands


Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality continues to monitor Bayou Corne Sinkhole as hole expands.

By Wilma Subra

Subra Company/Louisiana Environmental Action Network/Lower Mississippi River Keeper

The Assumption Parish Office of Emergency Preparedness has reported a series of expansions of the Bayou Corne sinkhole in recent days. Land and trees continue to disappear as the sinkhole grows in size. 

September 20, 2012: Approximately 25′ of embankment on the east side fell into the sinkhole.

September 18, 2012: Texas Brine reported a slough-in of approximately 200′ of embankment at the sinkhole.

September 17, 2012: Texas Brine reported a 20′ x 20′ growth of the sinkhole. 

Volatile Organic Compounds at Bayou Bubbling Sites

 The Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) sampled the air in the area of the Bayou Bubbling sites for Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs). The data consist of sampling from September 7, 2012 through September 16, 2012.

Volatile Organic Chemicals were detected at the bubbling locations on September 11, 2012 and September 14, 2012. The monitoring data for the other dates were none detected for the Volatile Organic Compounds.

Volatile Organic Compounds:

Bubbling Locations 9/11/12 9/14/12
1 0.9 ppm 0.2 ppm
2 0.2 ppm N. D.
3 0.6 ppm 0.2 ppm
4 0.2 ppm 0.4 ppm
5 0.2 ppm 0.3 ppm
6 0.9 ppm N. D.
7 0.8 ppm 0.1 ppm
8 0.5 ppm 0.2 ppm
9 0.6 ppm N. D.
10 0.9 ppm N. D.

N. D. – None Detect

The highest concentrations of Volatile Organic Compounds at the bubbling sites were detected at locations 1, 6, and 10 (0.9 ppm) and location 7 (0.8 ppm) on September 11, 2012. On September 14, 2012, the highest concentration of Volatile Organic Compounds were detected at location 4 (0.4 ppm).
Bubbling location 1 is on Grand Bayou west of Occidental Chemical Corp. Brine 002, an  active brine  solution mining facility.Bubbling location 6 is on Bayou Corne in the pipeline corridor area.  Bubbling location 10 is on Bayou Corne 1,250 feet north of Hwy 70.  Bubbling location 7 is on Bayou Corne in the pipeline corridor area.

Bubbling location 4 is on Grand Bayou, 1,800 feet south of Bubbling location 1.

Click here to see map of bubbling sites

Volatile Organic Compounds at Monitoring Locations in the Bayou Corne Area

DEQ provided the results of air monitoring for Volatile Organic Compounds from locations in the Bayou Corne area from September 7 through September 18, 2012. The Volatile Organic Compounds were non detect at all locations monitored on September 7, 8, 9, 10, 12 and 13, 2012.

Volatile Organic Compounds (ppm):

Location 9-11 9-14 9-15 9-16 9-17 9-18
Sportsman Landing
117 Sportsman Way 0.3 0.1 0.1
133 Sportsman Way 0.1 0.1
153 Sportsman Way 0.1 0.3
1451 Hwy 70 0.4 0.3
Hwy 70 & Gumbo St. 0.6
Hwy 70 & Well Head Road 0.6 0.1
Hwy 70 & Crosstex Gate 0.2 0.3 0.1
Gator Stop & Hwy 69 0.3 0.2 0.1 0.3 0.2
1130 Hwy 70 0.3 0.6 0.1 0.4
The highest Volatile Organic Compounds concentrations were detected at Hwy 70 and Gumbo St. and Hwy 70 and Well Head Road on September 11, 2012.  Gator Stop was the location with the most frequent detectable concentrations of Volatile Organic Compounds.  All  locations tested, with the exception of Sportsman Landing, had detectable concentrations of VOCs during one or more days of the sampling period.  

Sludge Material Floating on Surface of Sink Hole

On September 8, 2012, DEQ sampled the sludge material floating on the surface of the sink hole.  The material consisted of 48.1 % Diesel Range Organics and 15% Oil Range Organics.

Boston Chemical Data received a sample of surface material from the Bayou Corne sinkhole collected on September18, 2012.  On arrival, a portion of the sample was analyzed for radiation using an alpha and beta radiation counter, and a gamma spectrometer(Oil and gas production often concentrates naturally occurring radioactive material). The remaining sample was prepared for analysis of petroleum hydrocarbons, particularly diesel fuels. The results of which are still pending.
The gamma spectral results found 5.9 picoCuries per gram of radioactive decay products of naturally-occurring uranium and thorium.   Testing of total alpha and total beta radiation showed that these were at levels about twice the natural background.

State of Louisiana data shows that hydrocarbons in the sink hole sludge are dangerously elevated, while radiation levels exceeded background by only a small amount.  Based on this limited testing, this sinkhole sludge is a hazard because of the presence of the diesel fuel, which can contaminate air and groundwater. Hydrocarbon levels may also be in the flammable range.  

Radiation is still a concern.  The State of Louisiana found much higher levels of radiation in deeper parts of   the sink hole than the place where we received our surface sample.  There is enough radiation present to show that natural underground radioactive material has been concentrated in the sink hole.  Even though the diesel hydrocarbons are currently the greater hazard, radiation testing should continue.

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