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Wastewater Linked to Fracking Blamed for Ohio Earthquakes

The disposal process may have ruptured an ancient fault line


FrackingEnvironmentalists have more evidence to use in their battle against fracking.

A Columbia University seismologist, Won-Young Kim, says that a series of earthquakes near Youngstown, Ohio, are linked to the disposal of wastewater from hydraulic fracking. The researcher notes that the earthquakes started less than two weeks after wastewater was pumped into an underground well, NBC News notes

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In hydraulic fracking, water is injected under high pressure into drilling wells, causing the surrounding rock to fracture, drawing out oil, gas and minerals. The oil and gas industry has defended the practice, saying that it is essential to recover vital fuels. Environmentalists contend that it pollutes groundwater.

Youngstown had not experienced an earthquake in centuries of observation. But that changed after the Northstar 1 injection well began pumping wastewater from fracking operations in Pennsylvania deep underground in December 2010. Over the next twelve months, the town experienced 109 earthquakes, including a December 2011 tremor that reached 3.9 on the Richter scale.

After the largest quake, pumping at the disposal well was halted. Researchers have published a report in the July issue of Geophysical Research Letters, showing that earthquake activity closely followed the injection of wastewater into the well.

Youngstown is located near an ancient and relatively inactive fault line. The researchers say that the wastewater disposal may have caused that fault to rupture.

A recent report from the energy industry attributed significant increases in U.S. economic activity and industrial competitiveness to oil and gas assets derived through fracking.

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