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Fracking Caused Ohio Earthquake, Study Finds

Jan 12, 2015

The process of hydraulic fracturing is controversial for several health and environmental reasons; the potential to cause earthquakes are among those reasons, in addition to water contamination. Environmental scientists have suspected that fracking activity induces seismic activity. Now, a study published in the Bulletin of the Seismological Society of America has found that fracking likely induced 77 earthquakes near Poland Township in Ohio.

The earthquakes occurred between March 4 and March 12 in 2014, and ranged from 1.0 to 3.0 in magnitude. EcoWatch reported that on March 10th, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources forced drilling company Hilcorp Energy to cease fracking activity. The action occurred after nearby residents felt the 3.0-magnitude earthquake.

The recently published study was authored by Robert Skoumal, Michael Brudzinski and Brian Currie at Miami University of Ohio. The researchers compared the earthquakes to well stimulation reports, and found that they "coincided temporally and spatially with hydraulic fracturing at specific stages of the stimulation. The seismic activity outlined a roughly vertical, east-west oriented fault within one kilometer of the well."

Fracking is used to extract gas or oil. Large volumes of water mixed with sand and chemicals are blasted into natural rock formations to obtain resources. Many of the chemicals are known carcinogens; this a health concern, especially when considering how to dispose of the massive amounts of hazardous wastewater.

According to EcoWatch, the dramatic increase of earthquakes in Oklahoma may be an indication of what can happen in Ohio if fracking continues. Oklahoma saw an average of one to three earthquakes of magnitude 3 or greater annually between 1975 and 2008; that figure increased to 20 in 2009. The state experienced its largest recorded earthquake in 2011 with a magnitude of 5.7. The number of earthquakes with a magnitude of 3 or greater jumped from 100 to 564 between 2013 and 2014.

The Oklahoma Geological Survey and the U.S. Geological Survey reported in May 2014 that fracking was "likely a contributing factor" for the earthquakes. Researchers also suspect that the activity is spreading north into Kansas, which had 42 earthquakes in 2014 compared to a mere 2 the year prior.

Recently, Governor Andrew Cuomo banned fracking in New York state. He listed seismic activity,concerns about contaminated drinking water and climate change as reasons for this decision.

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