Texas Brine Engineers started drilling an exploratory well in Assumption Parish near the sinkholeon August 20.Homeland Security Louisiana, including extra Hazardous Materials & Explosive Units are on the site and police Hazmat Unit is providing 24-hour operational monitoring and support. Daily summaries of their drilling operation can be found here.
According to the Homeland Security advisory, the science advisory team is working to confirm existing theories, determine methods for testing theories and developing alternative ideas and approaches. A mandatory evacuation of the area near the site could be in place for at least two months.
Elevated radioactive radium levels caused health concerns
The Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality (LA DEQ) released the results of testing for NORM showing Radium-226 was detected as being present at a concentration of 63.569 pCi/liter while Radium-228 was detected as being present at a concentration of 18.705 pCi/liter. While State officials are saying naturally occurring radioactive material (NORM) is below hazardous levels independent testings has confirmed that radium-226 and radium-228 levels at sinkhole are about 15 times higher than the safe limits and state’s soil contamination standards.
“Radium in the body is absorbed because it is chemically similar to calcium. The normal maximum guideline level for radium in surface water is 5 picoCuries per liter, (pCi/L). The state’s testing found 82 pCi/L in the water of the growing sinkhole. Radium gives off alpha’ radiation. This form of radiation is extremely dangerous if inhaled or ingested, and less dangerous if exposed by skin contact.“ Marco Kaltofen, Boston Chemical Data Corp. (for Examiner)
Decaying of radium produces radon which is radioactive gas that can cause lung cancer. Toxic radium could leak into nearby groundwater making it serious threat to health. Louisiana Environmental Action Network (LEAN) already found elevated levels of benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene, other volatile organic compounds and components of natural gas and radium, as well as other airborne chemicals associated with highly explosive butane (stored in cavern near the sinkhole).
Water in Bayou Corne’s sinkhole is contaminated with salt water, diesel, chemicals associated with the diesel contaminants such as volatile organic chemicals, ethyl benzene (a known carcinogen), toluene, xylene and a large number of polynuclear aromatic hydrocarbons such as naphthalene, anthracene, and pyrene, according to Louisiana Environmental Action Network (LEAN).
“Health impacts associated with the chemicals detected in the air in the residential area consist of known and possible cancer causing agents; respiratory irritants; skin, eye, nose, throat, and lung irritants and can cause headaches, nausea, vomiting, difficulty breathing, dizziness, lightheadedness, weakness, muscle aches and pains, joint pain, abdominal pain and stress,” from LEAN report.
Bayou Corne Air monitoring result by LEAN (issued August 20)
LEAN has developed an Odor and Symptom Log for community members and is urging locals to complete it each time they smell an odor.
DHH Office of Public Health encourages residents to follow evacuation orders, avoid restricted areas and discuss health concerns with their doctors. Residents have already reported headaches and respiratory problems.
DEQ’s Mobile Air Monitoring Lab picked up high levels of methane and non-methane organic compounds.
Featured image credit: Assumption Parish Police Jury