It’s looking like a neighborhood in Assumption Parish, La., has been permanently wiped out by a sloppy salt-mining company.

A sinkhole in the area has grown to 15 acres since an old salt mine that was emptied to supply the local petrochemical industry with brine began collapsing in August. Hundreds of neighbors were long ago evacuated, and many of them are now accepting that they will never return to their homes.

The sinkhole isn’t just endangering homes, it is also burping out oil, natural gas, and debris, shaking the area so powerfully that seismic equipment is being used to monitor the site. And brine from the sinkhole is in danger of contaminating local waterways. This thing is so big it even has its own Facebook page.

This is not a lake. It's part of the 15-acre sinkhole in Assumption Parish.
On Wings of Care
This is not a lake. It’s part of the 15-acre sinkhole in Assumption Parish.

By Monday, the company responsible for the disaster, Texas Brine, had reached agreements to buy up the homes of 44 affected households, but dozens more are still negotiating or have filed suit against the company. From the Baton Rouge Advocate:

“While not every resident chose to participate in the settlement process, Texas Brine has been committed to offering reasonable offers to those residents who decided they wanted to move from the area and voluntarily participated in the settlement process,” [Texas Brine spokesman Sonny] Cranch said.

But not everybody thinks the offers are reasonable.

“Me and my wife worked for the last 10 years to get where we are,” Jarred Breaux said at his home Tuesday afternoon. “Do you feel like starting over?”

He said Texas Brine’s offer just wasn’t enough for him to pick up his family and leave his home, but he would be interested in extended discussions and participating in mediation with Texas Brine.

“I know we’ve got a big decision (to make) pretty soon,” said Breaux, who doesn’t have an attorney but said he likely will look for one soon.

This is not the first such trouble triggered by a former brine mine, but it caught the attention of Louisiana lawmakers. From a report earlier this month in the New Orleans Times-Picayune:

Gov. Bobby Jindal [on] Friday signed a slew of bills tightening regulations for underground cavern operators and written in response to a debris-filled sinkhole in the swamps of Assumption Parish. …

“These laws will ensure that companies are acting in good faith and upholding public safety. It’s critical that we hold companies accountable when they put communities at risk and these new laws will help achieve that goal,” Jindal said in a statement.