Officials fine Texas Brine $100,000 over sinkhole

BATON ROUGE, La. — Louisiana officials have fined Texas Brine Co. $100,000 over the company’s failure to follow state orders on a giant Assumption Parish sinkhole.

State Conservation Commissioner James Welsh announced the fine Saturday.

He says that the company hasn’t complied with provisions of a Nov. 12 order he made meant to speed work at the 8-acre sinkhole, which began to develop when a Texas Brine salt cavern failed in August.

Houston-based Texas Brine could not immediately be reached for comment.

Residents of 150 Bayou Corne-area homes were forced to evacuate in August because natural gas was leaking into the underground water supply. Officials say there’s a small chance of an explosion. Crude oil is also leaking around the edge of the collapsed salt dome.

“We cannot and will not tolerate delays or excuses in the effort to protect public safety and the environment, especially when the people of Bayou Corne still cannot feel comfortable returning to their own homes,” Welsh said in a statement. “Texas Brine needs to accept its civic responsibility, react quickly and act with urgency.”

The fine comes days after the company shut down one of its vent wells because it detected poisonous hydrogen sulfide gas.

Welsh is demanding immediate payment of the civil fine and immediate compliance with his order. The fines include:

— $80,000 for failing to start installing a containment system by Nov. 16 around the sinkhole to prevent further contamination of nearby waterways.

— $10,000 for failing to install in-home air monitors and upgraded home ventilation for slab homes “immediately” on gaining property-owner permission.

— $10,000 for failing to begin drilling two new vent wells to burn off natural gas by Nov. 27.