BAYOU CORNE, LA — People living in Bayou Corne rallied together Saturday, August 3 to show each other sign of support after a year of heartbreak. One year ago a massive sinkhole formed near their homes forcing Assumption Parish Officials to order a mandatory evacuation.
"I left thinking it would be days, then weeks, then months. It's a year, and now it's never," Candy Blanchard, who lives in Bayou Corne, described. "We are never going back. Our community is destroyed."
Since the evacuation order began Bayou Corne property owners have known little peace. Now the Sinkhole sits at 24-acres in size.
"Today we know a little bit more than we know at this time last year, but unfortunately we still have so many uncertainties looming," Dennis Landry, Bayou Corne resident, explained. "We just don't know the sinkhole has been an anomaly. The scientist are confused. "
"Our lives have not been normal. I can't imagine when it will be again because this is a scar that cuts very deep," Blanchard exclaimed.
The community has a difficult decision to make: stay or go?
Dennis Landry wants to stay.
"We've settled in for the long hall. We know the problem isn't going to be settled over night. We know it's going to take a long long time. We are willing to stay her until it gets better," Landry said.
Others want to be bought out.
"From day one we've said we don't feel it's safe, so we are not going back," Carla Alleman, Bayou Corne resident who emceed Saturday's rally, said.
The people of Bayou Corne told each other to stand behind one message. No matter what they have to stick together.
"We need to be one. The people that decided to stay and the people who decided to leave we are not enemies with one another," Nick Romero, Bayou Corne resident, said. "The enemy is over there."
Residents say Texas Brine is responsible for the cavern collapse that eventually led a massive sinkhole forming near their homes. Residents also are dealing with the gas bubbles brewing on the bayou that started right before the sinkhole formed.
"How many tears have you (Texas Brine officials) wiped away from the eyes of aging citizens who wanted to die here. How many hands have you held when their children beg to come back home," Mike Schaff, Bayou Corne resident, yelled. "Please tell your sob stories to someone who knows better."
Texas Brine officials say they're doing what they can to help.
"We certainly regret that this event took place. We certainly acknowledge that this has been a terrible disruption to their lives and we understand that. But it did happen and we are trying to do everything in our power to remediate the situation to the degree that we can. Otherwise, we have to let nature take it's course," Sonny Cranch, spokesman for Texas Brine, stated.
Texas Brine officials said their main goal is to get the gas out of the aquifer. Scientist estimate that could take three to five years to do.
People living in Bayou Corne are ready to move on with their lives now.
"Think about it a business can come in and take over your life and your community. Our state needs to step up and not let this happen to people, " Blanchard said.
63 people accepted settlement offers before Wednesday's court ordered deadline for the company to talk directly with residents. Now residents can only fight for settlements if they have a lawyer.
Alleman, who has a lawyer, said, "I want people to know this is on going. Many of us have not reached a settlement and many of us are not emotionally detached from the place yet."
Now the Bayou Corne community want the state to step in to make sure nothing like this ever happens again.
"We need them to change the rules . I don't believe what was done here was illegal, and that's what scares me," Schaff said. "There are other salt domes around this state that are going to have the same predicament that we will."
"We've got to look to the future that we don't fail this moment put the laws and the people in that put our environment as a priority in the state of Louisiana," Ret. Army Lt. Gen. Russel Honore, Bayou Corne advocate, said.
Until the sinkhole situation is gets solved. Bayou Corne advocates said they want Texas Brine held accountable.
"Let's give notice if you break it you fix it. Let's give notice you will face this or go to jail. I'm a believer. If you don't fix it you will burn in hell," Honore stated.
Friday state officials filed a suit against Texas Brine. The state is suing for the environmental damage done in Bayou Corne.