Bayou Corne sinkhole swallows six more trees

The 29-acre sinkhole in Assumption Parish swallowed six cypress trees Wednesday and had its first deep burp of gas and fluid since late August, parish officials said.

The event comes nearly two weeks to the hour after lead scientists investigating the sinkhole for state regulators said the hole seemed to be on the path to stabilizing.

The sinkhole slowly pulled down six trees about 3:45 p.m. Wednesday on the southeastern side of the lake-like hole, near an earthen well pad operated by Texas Brine Co.

“The trees went straight down this time,” said John Boudreaux, director of the parish Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness.

Hydrocarbons could be faintly smelled in the Bayou Corne community near the sinkhole, parish officials reported.

Boudreaux said the smell is likely from oil-saturated earth around the sinkhole being stirred up. At one time, the sinkhole was producing a crude-like fluid.

Boudreaux said the sinkhole edge collapse, known as a slough-in, followed Texas Brine’s efforts since Monday to reduce rising pressures in the failed salt dome cavern suspected of causing the sinkhole to form in August 2012.

The pressure-reduction efforts coincided with a rise in underground micro-earthquakes near the sinkhole that peaked Tuesday, Boudreaux said. The earthquakes have been said by scientists to be signals of shifting rock underground.

Boudreaux declined to speculate whether the pressure-reduction efforts and the slough-in were related, but scientists have said rock from outside the salt dome cavern is flowing into the damaged cavity and filling it.

Scientists believe the Texas Brine cavern was mined too closely to the outer face of the Napoleonville Dome, a massive salt deposit, and had a catastrophic wall collapse or breach that led to the sinkhole.

Editor's note: This story was changed on Thursday, March 27, 2014, to correct the location of the trees swallowed on Wednesday, March 26, 2014.