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Sinkhole Forces Hard Choice On Longtime Neighbors

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They were supposed to be planning camping trips, cookouts and potlucks. Instead, the Mistrettas, the Richies and many neighbors in the swampy Assumption Parish community are packing up decades’ worth of belongings, chased from waterfront homes that were supposed to be retirement nests by a gas-emitting, 22- acre sinkhole less than a mile away.

The sinkhole, discovered Aug. 3, resulted from a collapsed underground salt dome cavern about 40 miles south of Baton Rouge. After oil and natural gas came oozing up and acres of the swampland liquefied into muck, the community’s 350 residents were advised to evacuate.

Texas Brine Co., the operator of the salt dome, is negotiating buyouts of residents who have not joined lawsuits filed against the company. Texas Brine spokesman Sonny Cranch said 92 buyout offers have been made, with 44 accepted so far.

The Mistrettas, retired educators, are taking the buyout offer.

Richie, a high school literacy teacher, and her husband are part of a class-action lawsuit that’s scheduled for trial next year. Both families have bought new houses, in Ascension and Assumption parishes. After two decades together in Bayou Corne, they won’t be neighbors anymore.

“We just feel that this place is not ever going to be what it once was,” said Bucky Mistretta. “It was just a beautiful, pristine place on the bayou. And now that’s gone, and we just don’t feel safe about what’s underneath us.”

Residents who want to stay are wrestling with the same fears as their fleeing neighbors: Is it safe? Will the slow-growing sinkhole undermine the area’s infrastructure, including Louisiana 70? And will the natural gas bubbling to the surface on the bayou accumulate in confined spaces and cause an explosion?

Although parish officials have said they don’t think either will happen, they are monitoring both issues.

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Posted by FanningCommunications on Aug 1st, 2013 and filed under News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response by filling following comment form or trackback to this entry from your site

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