Watch the video for yourself. What you’re seeing is a massive sinkhole in Bayou Corne, Louisiana. It’s estimated to be 25 acres wide and 750 feet deep. But while sinkholes often occur naturally, this one is the result of a collapsed underground storage cavity operated by Texas Brine. The first sign was a strange bubbling (turns out it’s methane) of the swamp in early 2012. Then, in August 2012, the ground shifted sideways 10 inches, the sinkhole formed, and 350 residents were forced to evacuate.
New York Times explains it nicely:
“A few words of fantastical explanation: Much of Louisiana sits atop an ancient ocean whose salty remains, extruded upward by the merciless pressure of countless tons of rock, have formed at least 127 colossal underground pillars. Seven hundred feet beneath Bayou Corne, the Napoleonville salt dome stretches three miles long and a mile wide — and plunges perhaps 30,000 feet to the old ocean floor.
A bevy of companies has long regarded the dome as more or less a gigantic piece of Tupperware, a handy place to store propane, butane and natural gas, and to make salt water for the area’s many chemical factories. Over the years, they have repeatedly punched into the dome, hollowing out 53 enormous caverns.
In 1982, on the dome’s western edge, Texas Brine Company sank a well to begin work on a big cavern: 150 to 300 feet wide and four-tenths of a mile deep, it bottomed out more than a mile underground. Until it capped the well to the cavern in 2011, the company pumped in fresh water, sucked out salt water and shipped it to the cavern’s owner, the Occidental Chemical Corporation.
Who is to blame for what happened next is at issue in a barrage of lawsuits. But at some point, the well’s western wall collapsed, and the cavern began filling with mud and rock. The mud and rock above it dropped into the vacated space, freeing trapped natural gas.
The gas floated up; the rock slipped down. The result was a yawning, bubbling sinkhole.”
Meanwhile, the sinkhole continues to grow, taking more land and cypress trees like in the gifs above. Oh yeah, and there’s diesel floating on the surface of the water now, too. Geologists believe it’ll stop eventually, possibly at 50 acres, but no one really knows. The Daily Kos calls it “the biggest ongoing disaster in the United States you haven’t heard of”.