GRAND BAYOU, LA (WAFB) - Just two days after a federal court approved a class-action lawsuit for people impacted by the giant Louisiana sinkhole, the company responsible for the salt cavern that caused the sinkhole says they're ready to begin making settlement offers to affected residents.
On March 13, Texas-Brine, the Houston based company that owns the salt dome, announced it would begin assessing the homes and offering buyouts and settlements for the 350 people evacuated.
To date, no buyouts have been offered. As of May 16th, Texas Brine indicated that 110 residents have requested settlement forms; 102 residents have submitted claim information sheets; 97 properties have been inspected; and five properties remain to be inspected.
According to the Associated Press, Texas Brine spokesman Sonny Cranch says 23 settlement offers were ready and officials were contacting those residents Friday afternoon and Saturday.
News of settlement offers comes just days after Gov. Bobby Jindal issued an executive order to review the company's permits with the possibility of revocation - because of the company's slow response to residents seeking buyouts.
Sonny Cranch, the spokesman for Texas Brine, said the company found out in the eleventh hour its insurance carriers were not in support of the buyout process.
Friday afternoon, Texas Brine released a statement saying "We will move forward with the effort to reach settlements with members of the Bayou Corne community affected by the sinkhole," said Bruce Martin, Texas Brine's vice president of operations.
"We understand the frustration of the community and appreciate their patience as we worked through the unexpected delays in this process," said Martin.
"While not every resident has chosen to participate in the settlement process, Texas Brine is committed to offering fair and reasonable settlement offers to those who may wish to move," said Martin.
"Offers will begin with residents who have expressed an interest in settlements and have completed the inspection and appraisal process." said Martin.
It's been almost a year since a massive sinkhole near Bayou Corne and Grand Bayou began causing problems. Bubbling in the bayou led to the now 15-acre sinkhole. About 350 people have been forced out of their homes since August.
A New Orleans attorney is handling the class-action suit. There has not been a response from Texas Brine about the lawsuit.
The sinkhole grew by three acres last month, bringing its total size to about 15 acres.
It has been nine months since hundreds living near the giant sinkhole were forced from their homes.
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.