The US Geological Survey recently released findings that show, as many people have suspected, that the process known as fracking is directly related to the incredible increase of earthquake incidence in the United States. According to the study, the amount of earthquakes has increased dramatically over the past few years; between 1973 and 2008 there was an average of 21 earthquakes of a magnitude 3 and larger on the Richter scale in the Central and Eastern United States. This increased to an alarming rate of 99M3+ earthquakes per year between 2009 and 2013, and this rate is continuing to rise.
Hydraulic fracturing, or more commonly referred to as simply “fracking,” is the “process of drilling down into the earth before a high pressure water mixture is directed at the rock to release the gas inside. Water sand and chemicals are injected into the rock at high pressure which allows the gas to flow out to the head of the well.”
It is a very controversial process to say the least. Much of this controversy comes from the lack of transparency regarding the chemicals being used. Also, there is an astronomical amount of freshwater used in the process and tens of millions of gallons of toxic wastewater byproduct is produced daily.
The study shows that it is not so much the fracking itself that is causing these earthquakes, but that the wastewater injection in deep disposal wells in several locations – including Colorado, Texas, Arkansas, Oklahoma and Ohio – directly coincides with the increase of seismic activity.
A study that was done in 2013 concluded that wastewater injection actually led to a chain reaction which ruptured three faults. Chief of the USGS National Seismic Hazard Modeling Project, Mark Petersen, said that the state of Oklahoma now has more earthquakes than even California, which had the most seismic activity of the continental United States. In a news release he stated:
“These earthquakes are occurring at a higher rate than ever before and pose a much greater risk to people living nearby.”
Apparently, fracking does not appear to be linked to any of the earthquakes of magnitude 3 and larger. But, just because it is not currently linked does not mean that scientists are eliminating the possibility.
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