If you live along (or near) a geological fault line, you are probably familiar with earthquakes. But if you live in the center of the U.S., chances are that earthquakes aren’t really something you’re concerned with. Tornadoes, freezing cold winters, sure; but not earthquakes.
Well, more and more scientists are noting seismic activity and earthquakes in places where there normally wouldn’t be. And one of the most alarming part of this discovery is that seismic activity is not only happening, but it’s happening at a high frequency. For example, in March of 2014, there were a reported 77 minor earthquakes in Ohio! And a new study of Oklahoma found that this central state experienced a whopping 562 earthquakes in 2014 … that is three times more earthquakes than in California. Click here to see the interactive map in action.
U.S. Geological Survey National Hazard Model, Northern California Earthquake Data Center and UC Berkeley Seismological Laboratory
So what is going on here? What has changed in Ohio and Oklahoma that would cause this sudden onset of seismic activity? According to researchers from the U.S. Geological Survey, fracking.
Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, involves injecting millions of gallons of water and “trade secret” chemicals into the earth’s bedrock to push ancient pockets of natural gas to the surface. Not only is this process rather invasive in the sub-regions of the earth’s strata, but it involves setting off a series of mini-explosions to create fissures that will direct the gas to the surface.
The water that is used in this process returns to the surface so polluted with heavy metals and toxins that it can never be recovered. To handle these millions of gallons of waste, natural gas companies have taken to reinjecting wastewater into underground disposal wells, or in certain cases, aquifers.
In areas like Ohio and Oklahoma, researchers have noted a number of pre-existing faults that seem to be aggravated by an increasing in drilling activity. Injecting wastewater back into underground wells has been linked to earthquakes in the past and raises a red flag for oil and gas companies.
According to Matt Skinner, the spokesman for the Oklahoma Corporation Commission, “The Oklahoma Corporation Commission regulates oil and gas production and wastewater disposal in the state and has shut down 19 disposal wells since 2013 due to concerns about earthquakes.”
Given the influx of quakes that were noted in 2014, the Oklahoma Supreme Court is set to rule whether or not energy companies should be responsible for damages caused by these earthquakes. Either way the court rules, this seems to be undeniable proof that fracking causes earthquakes and will continue to do so as long as it is permitted.
With all that we know about how fracking harms people, animals and the environment, this is just another log to add to the fire. This entire industry is just a major fraccident waiting to happen … or maybe it already is.
Image source: Wikimedia Commons