BAYOU CORNE, LA (WAFB) - It took seven months, but Governor Bobby Jindal publicly met with residents who are affected by the giant sinkhole in Bayou Corne. Tuesday was the first time Governor Jindal met with the residents since the sinkhole forced more than 300 people to evacuate their homes.
"I've got my life's savings tied up here. Let's keep it," said resident Dennis Landry.
Jindal talked with state and local officials and then took questions from residents in a discussion closed to the media. Resident Bucky Mistretta was satisfied with Jindal's message.
"I was just extremely glad to see him come here and finally address the people in our community so that we all know what exactly is going on and how involved he and his administration is," said Mistretta.
In the press conference that followed, Jindal outlined a plan calling for more venting wells and a mandate for Texas Brine to make an offer to residents interested in a buyout option. The governor also received some ribbing from Assumption Parish Sheriff Mike Waguespack.
"The governor is going to stay with us. He was a little late getting here and I promise if he ever does that again we're going to make him swim that sinkhole," said Waguespack.
"Our commitment from that state is we will hold Texas Brine accountable. We're going to make sure they're responsible for cleaning up mess they have caused. We are going to do everything we can to make sure that they truly make this right," said Governor Jindal.
That is a promise the folks in Bayou Corne plan to hold him to.
"If he sticks to his word, he's going to make it right for everybody," said resident Henry Welch.
Jindal's visit comes 10 days after California based environmentalist Erin Brockovich visited residents at Bayou Corne with California based attorney Tom Girardi. Girardi has offered his legal services to any resident who decides to take further action against Texas Brine and all parties responsible for their troubles over the past seven months. Brockovich says litigation, if things come to that, could take months or even years to resolve. She says her role, as it has been for nearly two decades in dozens of cases like this one, would be to keep the community united.
On March 13, Texas-Brine, a Houston based company which owns the salt dome that caused the sinkhole, announced they would begin assessing the homes and offering buyouts and settlements for the 350 people evacuated.
Bubbles were spotted in Bayou Corne and Grand Bayou in June 2012. Two months later, the ground opened up and left a nine acre sinkhole. Residents were evacuated and have been for the past seven months. Most affected residents began receiving weekly checks from Texas-Brine in the amount of $875 per week. The sinkhole is now about 12 acres in size.