Mary Tutwiler

"Sinkhole de Mayo" may aid Lake Peigneur

The folks at Lake Peigneur have another horror story to tell in their fight to keep two more storage caverns from being scoured into the salt dome below the lake which straddles the Iberia and Vermilion Parish line. Dubbed “Sinkhole de Mayo,” a giant sinkhole, about 900 feet long and 260 feet deep caved in on Wednesday, threatening to swallow the small town of Daisetta, in east Texas. The falling earth slowed today, but geologists aren’t certain if it has stabilized or not. Daisetta sits on top of a salt dome, the same geologic formation beneath Lake Peigneur. Normally extremely stable formations, the integrity of the Daisetta salt dome may have been compromised by injected saltwater, a waste product of nearby oil production sites which is being disposed of in the dome. Donald Van Nieuwenhuise , a geosciences professor at the University of Houston told the Associated Press, “It probably fractured part of the salt dome and it’s leaking out,” dissolving parts of the dome.

The Save Lake Peigneur group has been fighting the expansion of compressed natural gas storage caverns beneath the lake since 1994, when AGL Resources created two caverns by pumping fresh water from the Chicot Aquifer into the dome, dissolving salt to form cavities, and pumping the brine deep into the ground below. There have been many attempts through lawsuits and legislation to block the company’s plans to scour out two new caverns. Yesterday, the second bill this legislative session by Senator Troy Hebert passed the Senate by a 30-0 vote. The bill forbids the withdrawal of three million gallons of water from the Chicot Aquifer to be injected in the subsurface in parishes with populations more than 70,000 and less than 75,000--a prohibition specific to AGL’s plans. Senate Bill 754 heads to the House today.