Fracking: Ohio Earthquakes Tied To Injection Wells

Researchers blame fracking for Ohio earthquakes. Beginning in 2011, Youngstown, Ohio, experienced more than 100 earthquakes. Prior to 2011, the town never experienced a seismic event.

In December 2010, the Northstar 1 deep injection well went online. The well was built to dispose of toxic waste water produced by hydraulic fracturing, or fracking.

Some of the waste water is reused. However most of it is introduced back into the ground through an injection method.

As reported by New Scientist, waste water from Pennsylvania is routed to the Ohio well. As soon as the well went online, the earthquakes began.

Research conducted by Won-Young Kim, of Columbia University has concluded that fracking led to the Ohio earthquakes.

A total of 109 earthquakes were recorded in the Youngstown area beginning in January 2011.

As reported by ENN, the data shows that the seismic activity slowed when the well was offline for holidays. There was a noticeable decrease in activity over Labor Day and Memorial Day in 2011.

The earthquakes abruptly stopped in January 2012, when the well was closed by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources. Youngstown, Ohio, has not experienced any further seismic activity.

The study lends credibility to the theory that fracking increases seismic activity. Although rare, there are several examples.

Blackpool, UK, and the Horn River Basin, Canada, experienced similar increases in earthquakes in 2011 and 2009. The increase was linked to fracking and injection wells.

As water is injected into the ground with strong pressure, rock is displaced. As the rock moves and shifts, seismic activity can occur.

Officials with the EPA have acknowledged the issue. However, they do not sanction halting the practice. Instead, they suggest regulations that would limit the amount of waste water injected at each site.

The EPA also suggests guidelines for data collection and educating the public about the possibility of seismic activity at injection well sites.

The data suggesting that fracking caused the Ohio earthquakes is alarming. The earthquakes were not severe, and did not cause any serious injury. However, as fracking continues worldwide, there is concern that more severe seismic activity is possible.

[Image via Flickr]

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