Letter: Bayou Corne and conjecture

Throughout the course of the response to the Bayou Corne incident, Texas Brine Company’s primary focus has been on three key objectives:

1. Ensuring sinkhole containment and determining if additional sinkholes could form that could threaten the surrounding area.

2. Locating and mitigating the risk posed by shallow gas in the aquifer.

3. Confirming the stability of the Napoleonville Salt Dome’s western flank.

Significant progress has been made in meeting these key objectives. Initial sinkhole containment is complete with final construction to be completed next month. We have more than tripled the number of relief wells flaring, with a total flaring rate approximately 10 times greater than it was.

Preliminary results from relief well logging indicate the gas zone is diminishing and flaring rates are decreasing. The Vertical Seismic Profile surveys are complete and the data tell us that the western flank has not changed. We are hopeful that images from the recently completed three-dimensional survey will confirm this positive finding.

While much work is being done and we are meeting response objectives, we still need scientific consensus to tell us when the work is complete and that it is safe for the evacuation order to be lifted. It is for this reason that we strongly support Gov. Bobby Jindal’s creation of a Blue Ribbon Task Force to help guide actions and determine endpoints.

Although experts have been involved since the beginning, we hope the task force can provide the necessary leadership and structure to independently define appropriate metrics based upon peer-reviewed, responsible science and best practices. This complex situation requires thoughtful analysis by qualified and experienced experts to ensure the right course of action is underway.

It is also important that the task force make sense of the information being gathered so it can be communicated to the public in meaningful ways. Public interest is not served if response activities are driven by conjecture and theory instead of facts and responsible science. Information and conclusions should be based on the consensus of professional opinions of recognized experts in the relevant fields.

Our response activities are being conducted in parallel with the gathering of remaining scientific data and settlement discussions with interested Bayou Corne residents. Soon, we should have additional data that will help inform the task force’s determination of appropriate ongoing mitigation actions as well as what risks remain, if any.

From the beginning, our approach has been guided by facts and responsible science. TBC remains an active participant in the response and is committed to working with the Unified Command and the residents of Bayou Corne to ensure work is done safely and in a timely manner with minimal impact to the environment.

Bruce E. Martin, vice president, operations

Texas Brine Co. LLC

Houston