Emergency officials dispute sinkhole safety claim
BAYOU CORNE - Emergency responders say the Bayou Corne sinkhole poses a threat to residents despite claims by the company said to be responsible for the 2012 disaster.
Texas Brine, the Houston based company, appealed to the Louisiana Department of Natural Resources at a Jan. 28 hearing to stop issuing checks to residents still living in the evacuation area.
Since August 2012, residents living near the sinkhole have been receiving weekly checks in the amount of $875 for evacuation assistance. To date, the company has paid out about $12 million dollars in assistance. According to officials with Assumption Parish, the danger posed to residents is from methane gas rising out of the sinkhole. If enough gas builds up inside a home, then it could cause an explosion.
"No data has been giving to us or the state to say differently, that no risk is there," said John Boudreaux, the parish's emergency preparedness director.
A spokesperson for Texas Brine claimed the company presented expert testimony at the DNR hearing, arguing the surface area of the sinkhole has been stable for nearly a year.
There are only a handful of residents who still live near the affected area. "It's really disheartening," Tim Brown, "to take a walk in the morning and evening and you look at these homes and it really hits you that they're gone, they're not coming back."
Brown is among those receiving weekly evacuation assistance, but he doesn't plan to move away from the sinkhole. "We built this home out here to retire," said Brown, "you can't find that water front property anywhere else."
Brown says Texas Brine should continue to pay him evacuation assistance until the company settles with him for damages."And that's all we want, we're not greedy, we just feel they should do us like they've done everyone else," said Brown.
According to Brown, most of his neighbors received evacuation checks until they settled with the company. A spokesperson for Texas Brine says the company is in the process of settling with the remaining residents.
The DNR has 30 days from the Jan. 28 hearing to make a ruling on the evacuation assistance.