New salt dome regulations aimed to prevent more sinkholes: could cause shutdowns

Photo provided by staff.
Monday, November 25, 2013 - 9:48pm

Over a dozen salt dome caverns in Louisiana are close to the size of the Bayou Corne sinkhole and that would be a problem under new rules the Department of Natural Resources is Proposing.

We're talking the possibility of new regulations for salt domes in Louisiana, which if adopted would mean violations for some of existing ones.

DNR’s new regulation simply gives a distance the boundary the salt line can reach in any given cavern but right now over two dozen already violate that.

The Department of Natural Resources says there are ways they can work around this and hopefully it’s not too late.

"This is something that had not been seen before in science experience here or anywhere else," said Communications director of the Department of Natural Resources, Patrick Courreges.

He is referring to the massive sinkhole that formed in Bayou Corne; a disaster that's left a few hundred people in a bind.

“So far no ones been hurt we don’t have any homes that were damaged,” said Courreges. “That is a recorded want to hold on to."

That’s where these new regulations come into play.

“The distance from side of salt is not the only factor. We know if that factor is maintained at a safe distance it will quite possibly nullify some of the other factors that have come into lay with the failure of oxy 3.”

The law says that there needs to be 300 feet from the "edge of salt" which is the distance from the salt edge to the rock, something 27 of the 256 caverns in Louisiana already violate. 12 of which are close to the distance the The Texas Brine Co. cavern was at when the sinkhole formed.

"They have been in that position some of them for decades without a problem and we've been checking since this happened."

At Bayou Choctaw in Plaquemine they have at least three within 100 feet of the salt border which is far from the 300 feet regulation that is being presented by DNR.

Right by Bayou Choctaw lives Rory Vaughn who is a resident that told NBC33 this is something that does worry him.

"What happened there it bothers us that it could happen here but its not on our mind all the time,” said Vaughn.

With these new rules, DNR says they are not worried.

“If an operator has a cavern wall that's already within the 300 foot line they will have to take some extra steps to give up some assurance that it is safe now and will continue to be so. If they cannot prove that, their caverns may have to be shut down."

And Courreges says these new regulations are being embraced by not only the public but the operators as well.

"I hope that it doesn't affect me," noted Vaughn.


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