GONZALES, La. – Officials at a Houston-based brine company said Friday it will be at least 40 days before they get definitive answers about an enormous sinkhole that opened up in Assumption Parish.

Mark Cartwright, president of United Brine Services, a subsidiary of Texas Brine Co., said the company spent the last week “intensely focused” on an emergency response as it tries to figure out the cause behind a sinkhole near Bayou Corne.

Cartwright said they’ll be drilling a relief well to investigate a brine cavern they own, which is housed within the Napoleonville salt dome. It will take at least 40 days to drill the well, and scientists have speculated that the 372-foot-wide and 422-foot-deep sinkhole might be related to structural problems within the cavern, he said.

Cartwright said the company was just as shocked as anyone else when the sinkhole erupted Aug. 3, swallowing up an acre of bald cypress trees and leaving diesel fumes and slurry water in its wake.

The sinkhole sits on top of an underground mountain of salt and residents of Bayou Corne have been reporting tremors and gas bubbles for weeks. Despite a battery of tests from federal, state and local officials, the source has not been pinpointed.

When the sinkhole expanded Sunday, the owners of three natural gas pipelines at the edge of the liquefied area were asked to flare off and depressurize their pipelines as a precaution.

Louisiana Highway 70 was temporarily closed, and Gov. Bobby Jindal declared a state of emergency in Assumption Parish. At least 150 homes and several businesses were ordered to evacuate.