November 21, 2012
By: Deborah Dupre
Assumption Parish's Bayou Corne sinkhole area residents have been alerted that workers at the disaster area detected high level of an "extremely dangerous" poisonous gas at one of the company wells while they were flaring it Tuesday.
The extremely dangerous poisonous gas, hydrogen sulfide is in high concentrations at a Texas Brine well near the sinkhole, according to workers at the Bayou Corne disaster site Tuesday.
Wells at the sinkhole are being flared in attempt to rid it from gases inside the 1-mile by 3-mile Napoleonville Salt Dome facility used for storage by oil and gas industry companies.
"Texas Brine has reported high levels of H2S from their sonic vent well that is drilled into the cap rock," according to officials first on their blog post and then, in a written statement by the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Office of Conservation.
"The Texas Brine well was shut due to these levels," according to local officials.
"Please be advised that H2S is an extremely dangerous gas," officials alerted on their blog post. "Unlike methane, it is heavier than air and collects at low to the ground levels."
This globally historic event, that was first observed in May, is posing human rights violations, including the right to security.
The uncontrollable and irreparable hole continues to grow. Dangerous chemicals are being released. Seismic activity rocks the area.
(Watch on this page the sample video clip of a training program about hydrogen sulfide that has caused injuries and deaths of oil and gas industry workers.)
"Brief exposures to high concentrations of hydrogen sulfide (greater than 500 ppm) can cause a loss of consciousness and possibly death," reports the Agency for Toxic Substances & Disease Registry (ATSDR).
In "many" individuals, "there may be permanent or long-term effects such as headaches, poor attention span, poor memory, and poor motor function," according to ATSDR.
DNR Office of Conservation concurred with Texas Brine late Tuesday that the well needed to be shut to ensure safety of the public and workers on the site.
"Texas Brine has also established a safety perimeter around the well, including use of barricades and gas monitors, under the oversight of Conservation staff on site," DNR stated in a written statement about this latest deterioration of the disaster site, adding that the poison does not extend to the Bayou Corne community.
"Hydrogen sulfide does sometimes occur naturally in the cap rock of salt domes, and while the cap rock of the Napoleonville Salt Dome does underlie the Texas Brine facility, it does not extend to the Bayou Corne community."
Workers created a perimeter around the well with gas monitors to ensure no more gas escaped from the well.
DNR says daily environmental safety testing in the community by DEQ has included tests for hydrogen sulfide and those tests have not detected the poisonous gas in the community to date.
"Additionally, DEQ took an extra round of samples today and will continue to monitor the community. The Office of Conservation will be meeting with Texas Brine representatives to further assess the next steps to be taken with the well."
Officials continue to advise locals to heed mandatory evacuation
On September 14, the DNR declaration about the life threatening emergency, Declaration of Emergency and Directive, included:
It is hereby declared that the presence of natural gas in formations and sands shallower than the underlying cap-rock, and in the Mississippi Alluvial Aquifer, and its top stratum in and around the Bayou Corne area has the potential to threaten lives, the environment, property and operations, sites and facilities under the regulatory authority of the commissioner of conservation."Since early October, it has been recognized that dangerous gases are posing the possibility of a powerful explosion in the sinkhole area communities. Last week, at a resident briefing in Pierre Part, Dr. Gary Hecox, the key geologist on the team of experts working on the historic sinkhole event, again answered the burning question about an explosion that has been debated by others.
"Is there a possibility of an explosion in this area," a local asked Hecox.
He answered with one word: "Yes."
He soon advised the room filled with locals and officials that residents needed to evacuate and also register for industrial gas monitors being ordered for inside homes due to the methane threat posing the risk of explosions.
In early October, the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals urged parish officials to ensure three things due to the dangerous gases being released in the area: 1) "heed the evacuation orders issued," 2) "avoid restricted areas," and 3) "discuss any health concerns they have with their physician."
Many locals in the mandatory evacuation area have chosen to stay. Others near the evacuation zone have reported smelling foul odors and being ill at times with symptoms that reflect gas poisoning. They, however, continue to have no aid to leave.
DNR’s contractor, The Shaw Group, is investigating the latest health and public safety risk.