Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Bayou Lost

I apologize for my absence as of late but I have been working on a lot of issues.  I think AZ would be better served by my efforts if I publish less with bigger stories than if I simply spout out smart-ass quips on a daily basis.

One story I am covering for LEAN is the development of the massive sinkhole that has formed in Assumption Parish over a salt dome owned by the The Texas Brine Company.

Bayou Corne Sinkhole videos

I had the opportunity to spend the day with 4 residents of Bayou Corne and Grand Bayou, the communities directly affected by the sinkhole, and the story they tell is heartbreaking.  The chemical industry in their community has been allowed to run amok and has essentially destroyed Grand Bayou and is now on the verge of destroying Bayou Corne.

As Louisianans, I think this interview is worth your time to watch.  While the RNC is calling for the elimination of the EPA on a national level, this is a perfect snapshot of what happens when industries are allowed to run unregulated and unmonitored.  Without the EPA, we would all most likely be dead or mentally retarded from lead poisoning right call for it's elimination is insanity.

Please take a moment to listen to Randy, Shelley, Gina and Rick as they describe what has happened to their community over the past few decades.

LEAN - Interviews with Grand Bayou and Bayou Corne residents affected by the sinkhole from Jason Berry on Vimeo.

This is our state, this is our health, this our responsibility.  More to come.

CORRECTION:  I had a Catholic slip and called Assumption Parish, "Ascension Parish".  I have corrected that mistake.  Mea Culpa.

Thanks NOE.


Anonymous said...

This situation is really scary.

Anonymous said...

Looks like Lake Peigneur all over again.

Anonymous said...

An environmental disaster that is being swept under the rug because no one in Baton Rouge or Washington,DC gives a shit about Grand Corne or Assumption Parish because to them this is a backwood issue involving people who have limited resources and limited voting power.

Jason Brad Berry said...

Yes...that's exactly what's happening.

Anonymous said...

Um, I knew sweet fuck all about this situation yesterday.

Some how I've ignored the news stories that are evidently all around me. I had heard, "sinkhole swallowing trees, people being evacuated", and then I tuned out completely, as if a fuse had been blown and I short circuited.

It's just too much, problem after problem every damn week. Never mind the shit one has to deal with just as an ordinary part of being alive.

But after reading this post, I did some more reading.

Nuclear waste is being stored in the holes in the salt, and not only nuclear waste, but motherfucking butane, like A LOT of butane?

Holy fuck, who is watching the store? How is that allowed to happen?

Does no one ever think, "This is a potential disaster in the making."

People, as in groups of people, somehow not one of them smart enough to blow a whistle, say "Gee gosh what a good idea!" when some Einstein suggests "Let's store the nuclear waste near the butane in the kind of geological structure we have seen collapse only a couple of decades ago!"

Please let what I read up on yesterday be the collective fantasies of disturbed individuals, and not the genuine facts on the ground.

Please tell me that that is not what is going on here.

Please tell me that the butane is not really there, that internet crazies make this shit up.

Please tell me they didn't, after seeing Lake Peigneur, they didn't just up and decide to put radioactive shit in holes inside a salt dome near where people drill for oil.

Tell me that all that isn't true.

And if it is true, then just one time, I have a request to make of you:

Lie to me, baby.

I am so weary of the greed and idiocy of people, but I'm not ready to see people and places I love blow sky high.

Jason Brad Berry said...

As of right now we only know of NORM being in the dome which is not radioactive waste it's less dangerous, however, there are rumors that radioactive waste was dumped in this dome.

The Butane well is next to this one but we don't think it poses a threat....but we're still not sure what is going on with this dome until Texas Brine completes the exploratory well and examines this thing.

I am working on a short documentary on the subject of salt domes in the state and the regulatory (lack of) process that oversees them. It's not a pretty story.

Anonymous said...

Well, I am somewhat mollified.

The internet did ratchet up the story a tad, then. There is some less than dangerous NORM (What is NORM?) material, and only a rumor of radioactive waste.

The Butane is real, though, holy shit. I'm glad that the experts on this don't think that it poses a threat, because I'm still feeling unnerved that it is there.

I can tell you I know almost less than nothing about salt domes, and it would not have occurred to me that I needed to see a documentary about them if you'd asked me last week, but yeah, I'm thinking your plan to make a documentary is a good one.

Ignorant as I am, I can maybe give you a one line description of the regulatory process for salt domes:

Look at who is getting elected: we let the same people who are regulating the educational content right out of the schools for penny wise and pound foolish political and financial gain regulate the salt domes.

Quick question:

How can people who truly believe (or falsely believe, for the right price) that the earth was created in six literal days, as described in the King James version of the Bible, regulate geological structures produced by millions and billions of years of seismic upheaval?

Jason Brad Berry said...

NORM is naturally occurring radioactive material. It is a byproduct of any drilling activity but it is particularly prevalent in the Gulf of Mexico.

I conducted an interview with two of the top scientists on the planet about it over a year ago:

And to answer your question about who is regulating the domes, LDEQ and LDNR, are responsible for the regulation of the domes but there are no real guidelines for the domes other than to simply report to the entities what is being put into them. That part isn't even enforced properly. They could be dumping bodies in the damn things for all we know.

That is the mini-doc I am working....I want to find out what has been put in these domes and how serious the problem is.

Anonymous said...

So people can put shit into the holes in the salt without consulting each other about what all else is in there, and different people can drill for oil close enough to maybe destabilize these structures, without anyone ever thinking to look at the dome as a whole to evaluate whether or not the various things being drilled and filled might create a big potential problem if you look at them all together?

Great. That's just great.

I hear that they are supposed to "report to the entities" but given that there is drilling, butane, naturally occurring radio active waste, and who knows the fuck else all going on in relation to the same salt dome, what are these entities doing?

There is enough government regulation for each entity to pass the buck and say that any problem is the other agency's fault, but not enough to ensure that no one puts butane near the radioactive shit, and then drills into and destabilizes the structure holding this extra special Bic lighter from Fukushima?

The people who want less regulation and the people who want more regulation may both be right. I'd like to find a way to cut to the chase here:

I don't give a shit if the needed oversight is done by government, business, or small groups of committed local citizens, but I sure as hell would like to see a moratorium on morons in charge.

All stakeholders at the the table, no side represented by damn fools. Too simple?

Sam said...

I fear I am getting very jaded, or cynical, or something, when it comes to things like this. It's been years and years I've been watching as horrible decisions are made with little to no consideration of consequences. There are fights, petitions, calls to local politicos, rallies, posters, tshirts, and in the end it happens anyway. This nightmare of the butane infused bayous is one more to add to the list.

Maybe I just woke up on the wrong side of the bed this morning. The deep sighing "we're fucked" side.

Many years ago, probably nigh onto 35 now, I was with a bunch of friends camping in Washington State. We drove down a highway and for miles and miles the land we passed had high cyclone fences, signs definitively stating that we should stay out, and barely anything growing. I asked one of my friends who lived in the state what that was. Through the cloud of pot smoke from the front of the ancient Ford Galaxy came one word: Hanford. Set up in the 40's for nuclear waste from the making of the bomb, it is mostly decommissioned now but is still one of the most polluted spots in the country. I remember being spooked by it. I later looked it up and was devastated by what I found.

Fast forward a decade or so. I was living in New Mexico and a project was up for approval. The Waste Isolation Pilot Plant, or WIPP as it was known. Here's a quickie blurb about that: "The Waste Isolation Pilot Plant, or WIPP, is the world's third deep geological repository licensed to permanently dispose of transuranic radioactive waste for 10,000 years that is left from the research and production of nuclear weapons."

We fought that tooth and nail. Seriously? 10K years? Then what? No one cared about that argument, it was too far down the we'd be ashes by then road, so we switched it to, hey, you assholes are going to be running truck loads of this shit past cities and schools and all over our freeway system. What if there's a leak or an accident?

My god, we fought that for years with engineers who knew way more than we did about the geological setting, or the half life of this or that level of waste, or what kind of containers were being used. I read more papers with a dictionary at the ready than I'd done since being in school.

As you can see, it went through anyway, and there it is.

The problem with this horror in the bayous is that it was already done. As one man in the video said, he asked about it all ten years ago. Now the question becomes how to contain that butane, how to keep that area from turning into a desolate Hanford with cranes and gators.

Please do the documentary. At the very least maybe, just maybe, if I get up on the other side of the bed tomorrow, I'll take a deep breath and believe that we can keep another of these ecological nightmares from happening BEFORE it's a done deal. I'll believe that we can find a way to contain it now that the Box Pandora carries around has been opened.

On the other hand, I just got my monthly letter from the good folks at Gulf Restoration and saw the latest news that the tar balls washed up by Isaac were indeed BP's oil. So it might be that you'll have to deliver beer with a straw snaked up under the covers that will be firmly planted over my head while I decide which side of the bed to get out of.

Keep up the good fight, my friend.

Anonymous said...

Ascension, Assumption: who can keep track?

I'd like to start seeing things renamed "Admission Parish" to celebrate the Church's willingness to start dealing with internal issues like paedophilia instead of their usual holier than thou crap aimed at tisk tisking the rest of the world for having problems.

I'd feel better about activist nuns and Catholic peace groups if they were as angry about their corrupt priests as the football fans were about Paderno's cover up for Sandusky.

Football fans had a stronger moral compass and more willingness to "speak truth to power" than the supposedly religious people who are willing to see everyone's sins but the ones in their own families and congregations.

It made me proud to be a football fan.

Anonymous said...

Do the sink holes opening up from Texas to Ohio and Pennsylvania have anything to do with the Madrid fault line becoming active again?

From what I hear, that wasn't much fun back in 1811.

Anonymous said...

WWNO had a story on this some time back that was pretty interesting. They interviewed one of the Texas Brine people on what the contingency plan was if the sinkhole got closer to the salt dome. The answer was "well, our contingency plan is to have the dome fail and all that butane come out in one massive release, and see if it blows up." Except they didn't use exactly those words.