The state of Louisiana sent a $3.5 million bill to the Texas company it blames for a massive sinkhole that has swallowed more than 5 acres of land in Assumption Parish and contaminated an aquifer.
Attorney General Buddy Caldwell demanded payment from Texas Brine Co. LLC, saying it’s the tally so far of state response efforts to the sinkhole from six different agencies. The letter also names Occidental Chemical Co., from whom Texas Brine leased the site.
“The state reserves its right to submit additional demands for response costs incurred as a result of this incident, as well as any fines, penalties, fees or other costs authorized or allowed under state and federal law,” Caldwell wrote.
Caldwell said a lawsuit could be filed against the companies if payment isn’t made.
The attorney general’s letter doesn’t provide a line-by-line invoice or breakdown of the expenses incurred by the state.
“We have not received any detailed accounting of the costs incurred, but we will request an accounting of those costs and when we receive it, we will address the issue of payment in the appropriate manner,” Texas Brine spokesman Sonny Cranch said.
State officials have been testing, monitoring and trying to determine what caused the sinkhole and what threat it poses since the sinkhole opened in August near a community along Bayou Corne, a sparsely populated area of swampland about 40 miles south of Baton Rouge.
A voluntary evacuation order to about 350 people living in the area remains in effect.
The state says data shows the sinkhole is linked to the collapse of a side wall of an underground salt cavern that Houston-based Texas Brine operated. The company extracted brine and piped it to nearby petrochemical facilities.
The company has acknowledged a relationship between the sinkhole and the breached cavern, but has suggested geologic tremors in the area may have caused the cavern breach.