PLAQUEMINES PARISH, LA (WVUE) - The evidence is purely circumstantial, but geologist Chris McLindon believes a levee that breached in Plaquemines Parish last week may have been the victim of a fault in the earth.
"What caught my attention was we had the breach and it was in an area that we had flagged for further investigation," McLindon said.
Over the past couple of years, McLindon has spearheaded an effort through the New Orleans Geological Society to map underground faults in South Louisiana. Area universities are in the process of creating an "underground atlas" of fault lines with seismic data donated by the oil and gas industry.
The Plaquemines Parish levee breach near the Phillips 66 Alliance Refinery lies in roughly the area where Tulane University researchers
had pinpointed a possible fault.
"Any time there's a failure of something at the earth's surface, there's a possibility there's something deep there," McLindon said on the FOX 8 Morning Edition.
He noted that the failure of the so-called "back levee" and its relationship to the fault line may have been purely a coincidence.
McLindon, who has become active in issues involving coastal land loss, points out that deltas have formed and disappeared over thousands of years, often sinking as the earth compacts. He argues Mississippi River levees caused "hot spots" of subsidence, hastening land loss.
Many other scientists blame a variety of factors for subsidence, including oil and gas extraction.
The levee, which is maintained by the refinery, is separate from the Mississippi River levee. On Friday refinery employees spotted the breach, which eventually spread to about 70 feet.
Parish crews plugged the breach with help from Louisiana National Guard helicopters dropping large sand bags.