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Study: Disposal of Fracking Wastewater Associated with Earthquakes
Study: Disposal of Fracking Wastewater Associated with Earthquakes

NewsInferno; July 12, 2013

Researchers have found that the disposing of fracking wastewater might be associated with an increase in earthquakes.

Fracking drilling for natural gas involves horizontally injecting tons of silica sand, a massive mix of more than 600 chemicals, and water at least one mile underground via a drill into a concrete well that extends to a bed of shale rock deep beneath the earth’s surface. When this combination reaches the rock, it is blasted apart and natural gas is released and supposed to be returned to the surface and captured; most of the water remains underground. Industry has injected more than 30 trillion gallons of toxic fracking wastewater deep into the earth.

Now, researchers from Columbia University and the University of Oklahoma have found what they describe as a “profound” increase in the number of earthquakes at three different sites in which fracking wastewater was injected into the ground, said the study’s lead author, Nicholas van der Elst, a scientist at Columbia’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory in Palisades, New York, according to Bloomberg News. van der Elst’s article on the research appears in Science.

The researchers found that fracking wastewater disposal might impact fault zones, making them more prone to earthquakes. As subsurface rocks become saturated with fracking fluids, area fault lines, in turn, may become less stable, van der Elst said, according to Bloomberg News. “This study helps show the link between the pumping and the earthquakes,” van der Elst said in an interview.

In fact, the report indicated that “significant seismic activity” taking place in other locations on earth—even as far away as on other continents—might “induce” an earthquake in a fracking injection zone days, even hours, following injection. “Seismic waves from the distant earthquake can squeeze the rock like a sponge,” van der Elst told Bloomberg News.

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