Was That Another Fracking Earthquake?

earthquakesFeeling the earth move under one's feet can be unsettling, even in places like California, where it's a natural and fairly common occurrence. But far more disconcerting is when major tremors in places unaccustomed to earthquakes can be traced to human causes.

On New Year's Eve, a 4.0 magnitude quake shook northeastern Ohio. There was no major damage, but the temblor was enough to scare residents as household items shook and fell. The event inspired Youngstown Mayor Charles Sammarone to purchase earthquake insurance for his home -- as well as to demand information about the incident's possible causes.

Now, seismologists have attributed a recent series of 11 minor earthquakes in Ohio to injection wells that disposed of wastewater byproducts from fracking operations.

What the Frack?

Fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, is a method companies use to extract more oil and gas from otherwise hard-to-access deposits. The process involves blasting liquids laden with sand, glass beads, or chemicals at high pressure deep into the ground, causing rock layers to crack, and allowing the oil and gas trapped within them to flow more freely.

The practice has garnered its share of controversy for other reasons. Critics claim households near fracking operations sometimes experience extremely disturbing side effects, like contaminated and even flammable tap water. But that's not preventing its use from growing rapidly.

And the earth is moving in places beyond Ohio. Injection wells have also been blamed for recent seismic activity in Arkansas, Colorado and Oklahoma, adding one more reason to the list of why many Americans don't want anything to do with fracking, and certainly don't want it in their own proverbial backyards.

This week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention took on fracking, pushing for U.S. studies as to whether the process is hazardous to humans and food sources. After all, tainted water isn't good for drinking or for agricultural integrity in America; contaminated crops would endanger all of our backyards.

More Fracking Flak

The extraction of natural gas here in the U.S. does have some serious upside, since it reduces our reliance on foreign oil; natural gas is also much cleaner-burning than options such as coal. But increased seismic activity and contaminated drinking water are awfully nasty byproducts to greater energy independence.

Oil and gas companies defend fracking with the contention that many of the problems associated with the practice are actually the result of other drilling activities. But at some point, such hair-splitting isn't going to fly with average Americans, and the oil and gas industry is going to have to find innovative, safer methods to replace their current practices.

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cmbluetick

fracking is as the oil industry. Now a few nuts with no real evidence are tring to stop it. These are the same folks that want all oil and gas products ruled the cause of weather changes and the start of all wars. Let the experts find the cause of earth quakes and how to avoid them. Let me complain that these nuts cause brain truma and no one will research that. But I can prove that head truma and most butt pain come from from the same source.

January 09 2012 at 7:36 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Christian J.H

One other thing I would like to address. Saying Ohio had an earthquake without any major damage and adding a picture of a destroyed road that has no connection to the story is misleading if not actually slanting the article to express your bias. Why can't the media just report the news factually as they once at least attempted to do. Concerns about fracking may be accurate so it should be addressed as such with the benefits vs. possible consequences fairly stated.

January 09 2012 at 3:09 PM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply
Christian J.H

The potential of 100 yrs of natural gas as stated by Rosa earlier is the result of fracking. If you drill an oil well and remove the oil (which at one time led to a belief that Texas was going to cave in) and then dispose of the fracking compounds in to the empty basin what has changed? The fracturing of rock for new wells present some problems but to say that fracking has contaminated well water has not been substantiated and the burning tap water in Colorado was found to have nothing to do with fracking, the water in that area had already been documented as having benzene in it before any fracking had been done.
We borrow from China to pay for our imported oil. Let's use our own oil & gas and solve any problems fracking may cause. Ohio has had natural gas wells since before the 70's when I lived there and they've had earthquakes farther back than then. If we based everything we did on enviromental guess work we'd all still be living in mud huts on the east coast.

January 09 2012 at 2:54 PM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply
coloradokid.john

It is not true that Ohio hasn't had any earthquakes until water started being injected into deep wells. Since 1776 there have been 236 recorded earthquakes in Ohio with magnitude 2.0 or greater, and geologically speaking, such a small time interval would not be sufficient to estimate the frequency or magnitude of potential earthquakes. People, don't believe the media and the anti-scientific hype that is hitting the news media. Look up the facts for yourselves. Go to http://www.dnr.state.oh.us/tabid/8296/Default.aspx and read the information before it gets "adjusted" by the PC police.

January 09 2012 at 2:08 PM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to coloradokid.john's comment
rini1946

I do not know if fracking is causing more earth quakes but I live in the cleveland area or 50 mile range all my life and I have felt at least 10 earthquakes in my time here. I also felt that last one. So like the colaradokid says unless the come up with proff (which they should do quick) and not just from the tree hugger (or better know as kill american industry group) I am in the netural boat about fracking

January 09 2012 at 2:45 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
tmlbtb

Solar voltaic panels are competitive with Oil, Gas, Coal. With all of the damage being done to lives, resources, infrastructure, add up all the costs of wars for oil, shipping, oil spills, the list goes on, solar is the way to go. If our Congress didn't want us adicted to oil, this could happen.

January 09 2012 at 2:03 PM Report abuse -4 rate up rate down Reply
hangr54

Valero pipeline anyone?

January 09 2012 at 1:46 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
tzarolia

Yes, I believe fracking is causing earthquakes and contaminating our water.

January 09 2012 at 1:46 PM Report abuse -4 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to tzarolia's comment
ejorillion

and what facts do you base this on. Or is this just your liberal feeling

January 09 2012 at 1:54 PM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply
Mitch

If fracking causes earthquakes, and landslides, why hasn't California slid into the sea, back during the underground atomic bombs testing of the 1960's? ........HUH?

January 09 2012 at 1:44 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
Andy

What do you expect? Big oil is fracking us again.

January 09 2012 at 1:42 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Andy's comment
ejorillion

and you want Chinese gas huh

January 09 2012 at 1:56 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
ErinBliss

Yikes! We're causing our own destruction. Insert eye roll here. I am not surprised...

January 09 2012 at 1:40 PM Report abuse -2 rate up rate down Reply