This August 3 aerial photo shows the sinkhole near Bayou Corne, Louisiana, which has grown since it first began forming in August. Sandia researcher David Borns is part of a group of experts providing technical evaluations about possible causes and remedies for the sinkhole. (Photo courtesy of Louisiana Department of Natural Resources)

The 300-foot-wide sinkhole that has threatened since August to swallow gas pipelines, homes, and property in south Louisiana has drawn in experts from Sandia National Laboratories normally associated with nuclear research to figure out its cause.

Experts are trying to determine what caused the sinkhole to form and expand in Assumption Parish’s Bayou Corne that threatened property and infrastructure in the area. Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal declared a state of emergency for the area on August 3. When the sinkhole continued to expand during the week of August 13, parish law enforcement officials said 150 homes and 350 residents were forced to evacuate. The company that owns the site, Texas Brine, LLC, said on September 27 that it is still analyzing the crater’s site and looking for a cause.

Sandia National Labs said in September 26 blog post that the manager of the labs’ Geotechnology and Engineering Department, David Borns, is providing technical evaluations in weekly teleconferences about possible causes and remedies for the sinkhole. The National Geological Survey, known for its seismic expertise, asked Sandia to consult on the evaluations.

“We try to be of support by adding expertise to federal and local governments when they’re faced with understanding technical issues that impact their resources,” said Borns.

Authorities have been trying to determine whether the sinkhole was caused by the collapse of an abandoned brine mining cavern along the margin of the Napoleonville Salt Dome or by something else. Texas Brine has drilled a borehole into the cavern at a depth of 3,500 feet to learn whether the cavern is the cause. The results of the drilling will determine what the technical evaluation committee recommends, Borns said.

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