All 5 holes in Assumption sinkhole’s containment berm now plugged

Texas Brine Co. contractors plugged the final two breaches in a containment berm around the Assumption Parish sinkhole by early Tuesday after heavy rain and high water punched through the incomplete earthen barrier late last week, authorities said.

With the holes plugged, Sonny Cranch, spokesman for Texas Brine, said workers resumed on Tuesday the previously planned work of building up the earthen levee surrounding the 71-acre area containing the sinkhole near the Bayou Corne community.

“Berm breaches are all repaired,” he said in an email Tuesday.

John Boudreaux, director of the parish Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness, said workers finished filling the last, largest breach about 8:30 a.m. Tuesday. It was about 75 feet across and 4 to 5 feet deep, he said.

Texas Brine officials said in an email response to questions that work on the berm is expected to last another 45 to 60 days, barring any further delays from weather or underground tremors.

The failures on the western and southwestern sides of the levee led to initial fears that crude oil in the 15.1-acre sinkhole’s waters might escape into surrounding freshwater swamp.

But parish and company officials have said it does not appear that happened and protective boom was deployed to prevent it.

The Louisiana Office of Conservation ordered the berm installed to prevent contamination from the sinkhole. The swampland hole emerged last August after a Texas Brine salt dome cavern failed deep underground. Residents of the Bayou Corne and Grand Bayou communities remain under evacuation orders issued for their own safety.

Texas Brine contractors gained initial containment around the sinkhole Feb. 22 with a first layer of sand, but the project has hit periodic delays due to weather and tremors, burps of gas and oil, and edge collapses around the sinkhole.

Overnight Thursday, floodwater began pouring through five openings eroded over a low section of the berm that had an initial sand base but lacked the geotextile fabric and clay cap designed to protect the structure from high water.

Water inside the original 71-acre berm encircling the sinkhole rose an estimated 3 feet from the earthen wall failures.

Texas Brine and parish officials said there aren’t plans
to drain the floodwater, but final plans call for two drainage structures, including a water control weir now being manufactured.

John Boudreaux, director of the parish Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness, said it is possible water inside the berm will drain into the sinkhole because that had happened previously.

View State Police video of the Assumption Parish sinkhole recorded May 14. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cMgKfbXd9JM