The Ohio Department of Natural Resources announced a temporary ban on five fracking operations in Ohio after a 4.0 magnitude earthquake occurred in Youngstown, Ohio on New Year’s Eve near a fracking site. Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory has four seismometers in the area which documented 10 other seismic events which occurred last year within two miles of a hydraulic fracturing, or fracking site. The 10 earthquakes were all 2.7 magnitude or lower.
Won-Young Kim, a research professor of Seismology Geology and Tectonophysics at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory at Columbia University told Reuters that he thinks there may be a link between the earthquakes and fracking. Kim said that data collected from seismographs set up in the area confirm there is a connection between the earthquakes and water pressure at the well.
“We know the depth (of the quake on Saturday) is two miles and that is different from a natural earthquake,” said Kim, who is advising the state of Ohio.
“There is circumstantial evidence to connect the two — in the past we didn’t have earthquakes in the area and the proximity in the time and space of the earthquakes matches operations at the well,” he said.
“We have several examples of earthquakes from deep well disposal in the past,” Kim said.
There are 177 deep wells in Ohio.
Although fracking operations are suspended in the area, earthquakes may still occur. “The earthquakes will trickle on as a kind of a cascading process once you’ve caused them to occur,” John Armbruster of Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory said. “This one year of pumping is a pulse that has been pushed into the ground, and it’s going to be spreading out for at least a year.”
Ray Beiersdorfer, a geology professor at Youngstown State University, said, “I wouldn’t be surprised if it continued for a year or so.”
Ohio Department of Natural Resources Director James Zehringer said that information obtained from the Columbia University scientists indicates that a 2.7 magnitude earthquake occurred on December 24 about “two miles below and within a mile of the injection site.”
“As a precautionary measure we’ve reached agreement with the well’s owner to halt injections until we are able to further assess and determine any potential links with recent seismic events,” Zehringer said.
Photo credit: Flickr user, marcellusprotest