Texas Brine will offer sinkhole buyouts to Assumption Parish homeowners, according to a statement by Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal on Wednesday.
The massive sinkhole first appeared last August in an area of swampland located roughly 40 miles south of Baton Rouge. Several hundred feet of land and trees were overtaken with its formation and nearly 350 residents were placed under an evacuation order.
Scientists have indicated that the sinkhole was most likely formed following the collapse of a cavern drilled into the underground Napoleonville salt dome. Texas Brine operated the cavern, piping brine collected at the site to area petrochemical facilities.
After a private meeting with Texas Brine officials on Wednesday, Governor Jindal issued a statement confirming the Texas-based company’s commitment to offering voluntary sinkhole buyouts to affected residents.
“They caused the situation,” the governor explained. “They’ve got to make this right.”
According to Jindal, Texas Brine intends to begin the process on Monday by dispatching appraisers to the location. The officials will help assess home values and determine the homeowner’s level of interest regarding the sinkhole buyouts.
Many Assumption Parish residents have been displaced from their homes for as long as seven months. Several affected homeowners have moved forward with federal lawsuits against Texas Brine to recoup their damages.
Texas Brine will reportedly be required to abide by any regulations set forth by US District Judge Jay C. Zainey before following through with the company’s sinkhole buyout initiation.
“Our legal counsel was able to bring the governor up to speed on where things stand with the current legal filings and explain that Texas Brine is preparing to engage either directly or through counsel with those residents interested in discussing a possible resolution to their claims,” explained Texas Brine president Ted Grabowski.
Governor Jindal also addressed the issue of compensation to state and local agencies for costs incurred from the Assumption Parish sinkhole. The governor reportedly stated that Texas Brine is accountable for the roughly $8 million state departments have expended on the sinkhole, adding that the government will be “aggressive in making sure they pay.”
In addition to the sinkhole buyouts, Governor Jindal also announced plans to form a blue ribbon commission to aid in the matter. Comprised of experts chosen by the Department of Natural Resources, the commission will help determine safety measures for residents who decline the sinkhole buyouts in favor of returning to their homes.
[Image via Wikipedia]