(RxWiki News) A widening sinkhole in the tiny Louisiana town of Bayou Corne - about an hour west of New Orleans - is releasing dangerous levels of radiation. The situation grows more hazardous with the approach of Hurricane Isaac.
State air quality sampling has shown the site is releasing a variety of toxins into the air including benzene, toluene and ethylbenzene.
These chemicals frequently occur together at toxic waste sites.
The sinkhole, caused by a failed salt cavern, appeared on August 4 and quickly revealed a pit of toxic slurry. The hole is now the size of three football fields and still growing.
"Have your home tested for radon gas."
An expert in the health risks of naturally occurring radioactive material (NORM) says the situation is serious. Stanley Waligora is calling for more testing to make sure radium isn’t leaking into groundwater that could endanger human health and that of livestock.
NORM is a by-product of oil and gas operations. Proper disposal of this waste doesn’t always occur.
In addition to water contamination, Waligora has said that radioactive particles and radon gas that comes from the radium can be inhaled by the public. Radon gas is linked to lung cancer.
The specific types of radiation being released from the sinkhole are radium-226 and radium-228.
According to an analysis of recent test results, “Radium gives off alpha' radiation. This form of radiation is extremely dangerous if inhaled or ingested, and less dangerous if exposed by skin contact."
The salt cavern is owned by Texas Brine Co, which is monitoring the situation closely.
With the approach of Hurricane Isaac, all monitoring equipment and personnel are being removed from the area.
In a report about the situation, Walkigora wrote, “A long range plan must be developed for remedial action. Funding should be provided by the oil companies that used the cavern for disposal.”