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Count on more Valley quakes, seismologist warns

Published: Tue, January 3, 2012 @ 12:10 a.m.



Staff and wire report


More earthquakes will occur despite the shutdown of the injection well on Ohio Works Drive in Youngstown, a seismologist investigating the quakes said Monday.

“The earthquakes will trickle on as a kind of a cascading process once you’ve caused them to occur,” said John Armbruster, a seismologist at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory in Palisades, N.Y.

“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,” he said Monday.

The well used to dispose of wastewater from oil and gas drilling almost certainly caused a series of 11 minor quakes in the Youngstown area since last spring, Armbruster said.

Research is continuing on the now-shuttered injection well at Youngstown and seismic activity, but it might take a year for the wastewater-related rumblings in the earth to dissipate, he said.

Brine wastewater dumped in wells comes from drilling operations, including the so-called fracking process to extract gas from underground shale that has been a source of concern among environmental groups and some property owners. Injection wells have also been suspected in quakes in Arkansas, Colorado and Oklahoma, Armbruster said.

Thousands of gallons of brine were injected daily into the Youngstown well that opened in 2010 until its owner, Northstar Disposal Services LLC, agreed Friday to stop injecting the waste into the earth as a precaution while authorities assessed any potential links to the quakes.

After the latest and largest quake Saturday at 4.0 magnitude, state officials announced their beliefs that injecting wastewater near a fault line had created enough pressure to cause seismic activity. They said four inactive wells within a five-mile radius of the Youngstown well would remain closed. But they also stressed that injection wells are different from drilling wells that employ fracking.

State Rep. Robert Hagan of Youngstown, D-60th, on Monday renewed his call for a moratorium on fracking and well injection disposal to allow a review of safety issues.

“If it’s safe, I want to do it,” he said in a telephone interview Monday. “If it’s not, I don’t want to be part and parcel to destruction of the environment and the fake promise of jobs.”

He said a moratorium “really is what we should be doing, mostly toward the injection wells, but we should be asking questions on drilling itself.”

State Rep. Sean O’Brien of Brookfield, D-65th, said he thinks a two-week moratorium on all injection wells in the area is more appropriate.

“I think we have a responsibility to act in the appropriate manner,” he said in an interview with The Vindicator Monday evening. “This is big business that’s coming to us, and we recognize that. ...We’ve got to slow down and make sure we’re doing it right.”

The quakes began last March with the most recent, on Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve, each occurring within 100 meters of the injection well. The epicenter of the New Year’s Eve day quake was on state Route 711 near the Mahoning River, in Youngstown, near the D&L injection well. It caused no serious injuries or property damage.

A spokesman for Gov. John Kasich, an outspoken supporter of the growing oil and natural gas industry in Ohio, said the shale industry shouldn’t be punished for a fracking byproduct.

“That would be the equivalent of shutting down the auto industry because a scrap tire dump caught fire somewhere,” said Kasich spokesman Rob Nichols.

He said 177 deep injection wells have operated without incident in Ohio for decades, and the Youngstown well was closed within 24 hours of a study detailing how close a Christmas Eve quake was to the well.

The industry-supported Ohio Oil and Gas Association said the rash of quakes was “a rare and isolated event that should not cast doubt about the effectiveness” of injection wells.

Such wells “have been used safely and reliably as a disposal method for wastewater from oil and gas operations in the U.S. since the 1930s,” the association’s executive vice president, Thomas E. Stewart, said in a statement Monday.

Environmentalists are critical of the hydraulic fracturing process, called fracking, which utilizes chemical-laced water and sand to blast deep into the ground to free the shale gas. Critics fear the process itself or the drilling liquid, which can contain carcinogens, could contaminate water supplies, either below ground, by spills, or in disposed wastewater.

Permits allowing hydraulic fracturing in Ohio’s portion of the Marcellus and the deeper Utica Shale formations rose from one in 2006 to at least 32 in 2011.


1USNBOY413(17 comments)posted 4 years, 5 months ago

What is wrong with our local and state government to allow these people to "frack" in the city? These idiots are so desperate for money that they are putting our lives in danger. What happens when/if we have a serious earthquake next time? What happens if there is property loss and god forbid human loss? Who is over all responsible? I'm positive that if someone loses a house or a family member during an earthquake, there will be heads that will roll! These fracking procedures are notorious for causing earthquakes! That's why they do them out in the country away from large populations! Who's dumb idea was it to let D&L do it inside city limits? We need to start forcing our elected officials to do their jobs! We must have forgotten that they work for us! They are our employees! If they can't do the jobs that they were elected to do, we need to fire them and find someone who will do the job the right way! I have done multiple tours to Iraq and Afghanistan and that earthquake SCARED THE HELL OUT OF ME, MY WIFE, AND MY KIDS! We don't deserve to live in this kind of fear! We didn't ask for this and we don't deserve this! We didn't even know they were doing this let alone have a say in what goes on in our area! WE NEED TO TAKE CHARGE OF OUR TOWN BEFORE THESE POLITICIANS DESTROY IT BECAUSE THEY CANT SEE THROUGH THE $$$$$$$$ IN THEIR EYES!!! Money is NOT important when it can harm life or property! I'd be willing to bet that if/when we have a worse earthquake, there won't be a damn person responsible! There won't be anyone who will pay for damages or take the blame for human life! THIS IS DANGEROUS!!! What do we have to do to get these idiots to realize that? They should have done their research before letting them to frack in city limits NOT shut it down after an earthquake! They don't care about our safety!!! They just want money! They can spend money! We are disposable and we just get in the way of them making MORE money!

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2jonnyquest(20 comments)posted 4 years, 5 months ago

Well said! I agree with EVERYTHING you said!!!!

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3UnionForever(1470 comments)posted 4 years, 5 months ago

USNBOY413 -couldn't have said it better myself. Now let's see what that lying ODNR does about it. Everyone in the NE Ohio area should send a note to Governor Kasich to stop the madness now before we have a serious damage done to our property or life.

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4Freeatlast(1991 comments)posted 4 years, 5 months ago

(Reuters) - Oil major Total SA (TOTF.PA) signed a $2.3 billion deal with Chesapeake Energy Corp (CHK.N) and EnerVest, continuing a trend of European and Asian oil and gas companies buying into U.S. shale plays.
If you do not want it they will come and take out from under you

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5Attis(1128 comments)posted 4 years, 5 months ago

The love/addiction to money is the root of all kinds of evil. Earthquakes in our community can now be added to that long list of evils generated by those blinded by the glitter of fool's gold. Who owns the earth anyway? What right does anyone have to cause earthquakes? Outlaw fracking and injection wells as corporate rape of Mother Earth and a massive, direct threat to public health, safety and life. And throw out the political prostitutes who enable this corporate crime.

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6Muskiemouth(17 comments)posted 4 years, 5 months ago

Apparently they don't know enough to do what they're doing, but they use any trick in the book to keep at it because they're making lots of money. You are asking them to stop making money. They don't get it. What do you mean, "Stop making money?" (The petroleum industry says the same thing.) The person(s) who made the investment have the right to make a profit. That's all they know and care about and they paid good money to make sure the laws were made to aid and abet them. Unless stopped by law, earthquakes and toxic waste be damned, they will frack.

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7WHATSSHAKIN(42 comments)posted 4 years, 5 months ago

The injection zone slammed shut when the 4.0 quake hit and it's over. I look for the state to force the operator of the injection well to run cement plugs and abandon it.

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8USNBOY413(17 comments)posted 4 years, 5 months ago

I want my questions answered! Why isn't the media out crawling up someones behind getting those answers? Who's idea was it to change the epicenter location to within 100ft of an injection well when the original epicenter was in McDonald. Those sensors they use to measure seizemic activity are EXTREMELY sensitive! They know when you fart let alone a a 4.0 earthquake! Are they trying to hide something? Maybe they're trying to hide the fact that JUST MAYBE those chemicals from the fracking are going into the Mahoning River. These elected officials have no spine! They're spinal cord runs from their brain to their butt and wraps around their wallet! They use their brain to sit on their butt and hoard OUR money! Spineless, nutless and gutless!

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9Miki(99 comments)posted 4 years, 5 months ago

A class action lawsuit should be filed against Northstar for the pain, suffering and fear inflicted upon the residents of the valley. NOW!!! The people inflicting these quakes on us don't live here. If/when a major quake hits, we will have to pay for the damages. Northstar will file for bankrupsy and reopen under a nother name and we will be left holding their bag.

There was damage. I now have a crack in my garage floor. It was not there before the quake. I'm sure no one will pay for the damage and I will have to live with it.

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10msweetwood(179 comments)posted 4 years, 5 months ago

You want answers, USNBOY? OK...

The comments of USNBOY reflect a a serious problem in dealing with an emerging industry like shale: A dangerously uninformed populace.

For example: "What is wrong with our local and state government to allow these people to "frack" in the city?"

As we have reported innumerable times, there is actually no fracking going on in Mahoning County. Once again: "Fracking is a process in which water, chemicals and sand are blasted into rocks thousands of feet — in the case of the Utica Shale, about 6,000 feet below the ground to unlock natural gas and oil. Fracking is an extraction process ... Injection wells are the opposite; the fluid left over from the fracking process is injected deep into the ground, sometimes as deep as 9,300 feet in Ohio. The brine injections is a separate practice from fracking."

People must read and educate themselves. It's OK to be mad, but be mad at the right thing. An injection well is NOT fracking.

Also as to: "Why isn't the media out crawling up someones behind getting those answers? Who's idea was it to change the epicenter location to within 100ft of an injection well when the original epicenter was in McDonald."

That's just more uninformed nonsense. In nearly every earthquake, even in quake-prone San Francisco which has far more seismic measuring devices than we have, it takes hours even days after a quake to pinpoint the epicenter. Here, there were no seismic measuring devices near the well until just before the Dec. 24 quake. After that event, it took six days for the experts to research the data to pinpoint both the location and the depth of the epicenter, which is why the D&L injection well was shut down Dec. 30. When the quake hit Dec. 31, the preliminary epicenter as noted by USGS was near McDonald. Using the seismic information, that was quickly updated to closer to the D&L site. This is routine and part of a transparent information gathering process.

Then this from USNBOY: "Maybe they're trying to hide the fact that JUST MAYBE those chemicals from the fracking are going into the Mahoning River."

This is just hysteria for hysteria's sake: There are no chemicals going into the river from fracking because there is no fracking near the river.

Look, be angry that Ohio has 177 injection wells to Pennsylvania's 6. Call elected officials on the carpet. BUT: Be educated. And just because you can type whatever pops into your head, that does not mean it makes sense. Do your research. Be sensible. Be accountable.

We have and will continue to publish stories about this and keep our "Shale Sheet" section updated here: http://www.vindy.com/news/fracking

That's a must-read section for those who want to become educated about what is going on in our area. It's all there. For free. You only have yourself to blame if you don't take advantage of the information.

Mark Sweetwood
Managing Editor

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11walter_sobchak(2672 comments)posted 4 years, 5 months ago

Mr. Sweetwood,
Please do not try to confuse the situation by providing the truth!

The level at which the byproducts are injected are well below the levels of the groundwater and are past other impermeable layers of rock. It is possible, however, that the injected fluid has a lubricating effect on a fault line and, thus, a sudden release of energy. Sort of like spraying WD-40 on a frozen hinge. Since Ohio is not active geologically, it is natural to use it for injection. Engineers and scientists see the problem and will solve the problem. Common sense dictates now that we must take the time now and do some analysis so that the problem will be solved.

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12Attis(1128 comments)posted 4 years, 5 months ago

Thank you Mr. Sweetwood for allowing us uninformed residents to be angry, but take your own advice to us lowly uneducated peons and educate yourself and the editorial staff on this very serious issue. True education, of course, requires an open mind, something that seems to be sorely missing in your offices. For starters you may wish to revise your propagandistic editorial about "untold potential" beneath our feet in the wake of this serious corporate-made earthquake and others to come. You shall (maybe) know the truth, and the truth shall set you free. The sooner, the better. Happy New Year which began with a bang.

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13Freeatlast(1991 comments)posted 4 years, 5 months ago

Thank you Mr. Sweetwood

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14legend33(169 comments)posted 4 years, 5 months ago

We had a quake..I thought that was just all the dead weight following Dave Betras around!

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15USNBOY413(17 comments)posted 4 years, 5 months ago

Wow! How much is sweetwood making from these brain dead politicians and big business dopes for trying to force feed nonsensical "facts" to the public? Sorry, I don't believe anything from anyone! Here is proof no one knew what was going on and the dangers we were subjected to without warning, one guy gathered everyone and headed to the basement...I think he was confused with a tornado. In an earthquake, you get the heck out of the house as fast as you possibly can! Its easier to find bodies in the yard than in a basement which contains the house that used to be above it. Your job is to inform the public. Using ONLY FACTS! It doesn't matter what you call it, it was still dangerous and no one knew what was going on. Picking up the vindicator is almost as bad as the supermarket tabloids. They are told what to say and when. They're basically teletypes for politicians and big business. They lie there for they report lies.

How's that for hysteria sweetwood?

Oh yeah, and don't you just love the poop eating grin on Obrians face at the top of the article? Looks like he was eating a money/poop sandwich! Big business money, his poop. No wonder he full of it!

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16Maggie_Pentz(88 comments)posted 4 years, 5 months ago

USNBOY and others who are concerned about this issue and would like their questions answered must come to the Youngstown City Council meeting tomorrow at 5:30-6:30PM, 6th floor City Hall (26 S.Phelps St.). There will be a local geologist there to speak on these issues and other citizens are encouraged to speak out as well.


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17USNBOY413(17 comments)posted 4 years, 5 months ago

Maggie, THANK YOU VERY MUCH!!! I will be there for sure!

See sweetwood, that's all you had to do.

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18msweetwood(179 comments)posted 4 years, 5 months ago

I am just wondering how someone who doesn't "believe anything from anyone" ever learns anything, especially when there is so much to learn?

Many of us, when first confronted with the emerging shale industry and terms like "fracking," began to read whatever we could to learn what we needed to know about what could be going on in our own backyards.

As for "no one knew what was going on," that "no one" would only include those who have failed to read a newspaper for the past year.

Check this story out from October:

Cloaking yourself in the pride of your own ignorance and making increasingly foolish statements does not advance the discussion on injection wells or even fracking, for that matter. I hope others pause long enough to avail themselves of actual facts – found here and elsewhere – and add to an important discussion with thoughtful comments.

Mark Sweetwood
Managing Editor

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19Silence_Dogood(1670 comments)posted 4 years, 5 months ago

msweetwood I remember you saying in the past that you seldom reply to people that post and I can understand your position, when confronted with facts this anti-fracking crowd (Bob Hagan included) refuse to understand the difference between an injection well and a fracking well. Save your breath(fingers) with USNBOY, as with most children, he is to lazy to hear from all sides of the issue, let alone learn the difference between a fracking well and an injection well.

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20Askmeificare(1167 comments)posted 4 years, 5 months ago

We interrupt your programming with this bulletin:





You may now go back to your regular programming.

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21USNBOY413(17 comments)posted 4 years, 5 months ago

Now, after all the stupidity, can we get back on point? My whole problem with this whole subject is its dangerous, it shouldn't have been permitted in the first place, we need to do something about it, we need to hold those responsible for this, I DO think there should be a class action lawsuit against the company responsible and the state of ohio for allowing this to happen.

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22prodgodq(172 comments)posted 4 years, 5 months ago

"USNBOY and others who are concerned about this issue and would like their questions answered must come to the Youngstown City Council meeting tomorrow at 5:30-6:30PM, 6th floor City Hall (26 S.Phelps St.). There will be a local geologist there to speak on these issues and other citizens are encouraged to speak out as well."

I would be stunned if any of the people ranting on this board, either pro or con, would actually move away from their keyboards to actually show up.

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23craigd(7 comments)posted 4 years, 5 months ago

That's funny that there is no fracking going on right now. When a certain company came to my house and tried to put 6 wells next to me that landman said, and i quote, "It's safe, we have been doing it for years.". Need less to say after much debate and research we found the whole process unsafe. Franking or injection wells; in want nothing to do with either!

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24DwightK(1535 comments)posted 4 years, 5 months ago

They want to put a brine injection well in Hubbard about a hundred yards from the I-80 overpass over Rt 62. I'm guessing that causing an earthquake right there is a pretty bad idea. It's time to follow Pennsylvania's example and outlaw brine injection wells.

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25Muskiemouth(17 comments)posted 4 years, 5 months ago

Many do know the well is an injection well, not a fracking hole, but the process of fracking includes the disposal of waste and for geological reasons it was decided Ohio was a good place to send it. Wherever the waste comes from, the injection wells are part of fracking.

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26WhatRUAfraidOf(85 comments)posted 4 years, 5 months ago

DWAP - Are you out of your flipping mind?!? V&M is investing nearly $1 BILLION in this area in new construction for a modern steel facility, along with other ancillary projects that will occur once that is finished.

Do you realize how many construction jobs have been created with this project? (Hundreds, if not upwards of a couple of thousand.) Do you know how many millions of dollars this is going to add to the local economy when people who work in the construction of the mill are able to spend some of the money they will earn from working on this project, perhaps on things other than bare necessities (e.g., what they can afford when they are laid off for eight months at a time normally)? This is also not to mention the money being infused into hotels, restaurants, grocery stores, and many services that almost never get out-of-town business by those workers coming from out of town because the area normally cannot support the needed skilled people?

I tend to be very liberal on social issues, but the V&M-bashing is NUTS!

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27webad(156 comments)posted 4 years, 5 months ago

I wish I could be at that council meeting. Don't let those suits put anything over on you. Remember the basics: Others are out to screw the uniformed in any way they can. They will let you die. Everyone has his price. Even you. You need to watchdog your city (and nation) ALL THE TIME about everything ... even if you manage to get rid of this current scourge. People have been too busy praying for football victories and not enough being ACTIVE on their own behalves for their children's safety. Get up, stand up for your health and safety. And, when you get pissed off enough to get ACTIVE in a way that makes the powerful pay attention to you, remember who owns the cops. CYA.

We need a new system. 'Unrestrained unregulated' capitalism is a recipe for hideous activity that will harm us big time. I've been called a commie by some on here for expressing that opinion. I am definitely not a communist. And, predictably, I now see no sign of the fracking defenders since the quake. Come on out of your hiding places, Stan, Walt, and the rest of you.

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28webad(156 comments)posted 4 years, 5 months ago

That's right Compman, you freak. Censor the population. Shut others' mouths. People like you are the cause of all kinds of problems.

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29webad(156 comments)posted 4 years, 5 months ago

Speaking as one who has experienced many earthquakes as high as 7.2 and their aftershocks, the Valley quake is probably the least of Youngstown's fracking worries at this time. The long term effects of poisoned water is the stealth insidious killer. Because there was an event that everyone actually experienced in real time, all are worried. The earthquakes are very important but also a convenient distraction from the drinking water. Makes one wonder.

For those who don't already know:
Fracking of "natural" gas is the most concise example of corruption in politics by the oil and gas industry. That fracking is immune to clean water and air acts is unbelievable and directly attributable to the Bush/Cheney cabal. All must act to counter these abuses.

Who lobbied for and helped get this exemption from federal regulation passed ? You guessed it ... the natural gas drilling industry with reported help from their friend Dick Cheney, former CEO of Halliburton This regulatory loophole is now called the "Halliburton Loophole".

The natural gas drilling and exploration firms are allowed to keep secret the list of toxic chemicals they are using to inject into the ground. Many of these chemicals have seeped into wells and ground water formations near fracking operations and poisoned people, caused gas explosions, and poisoned/killed livestock.

So, through all of the legitimate earthquake panic, don't forget about the water.

How fracking might have led to an Ohio earthquake

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30CongressWatcher(225 comments)posted 4 years, 5 months ago

I know a camera happy democrat lawyer who would be perfect for the job of filing a class action lawsuit against the ones who caused these quakes. Anyone with damage from the quakes that can be documented by photo should contact him.

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31Bigben(1996 comments)posted 4 years, 5 months ago

All the talk about the difference between fracking and injection sites. Duly noted they are not the same but it must also be noted that you can't have one without the other as it stands presently.

Until a safer and potentially more expensive extraction method and recycle/ disposal method is implemented I think it should be stopped.

The potential harm to life , property , water and possibly air are too great. No amount of money is worth degrading these.

A real meeting where people's concerns are heard and considered and make no mistake about it the citizens opinions are most valuable in this republic would be useful.

However, a meeting that has a preconceived agenda where decisions are made long before the meeting is held is of no use.These types of meetings have been used where so called independent experts who are hired by the wealthy corporations to ignore the concerns and demands of citizens who disagree with the agenda while the others are encouraged or steered towards the desired outcomes. This kind of meeting is of little use.

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32najjjj(106 comments)posted 4 years, 5 months ago

msweetwood, You are correct when you say there is confusion over the difference between fracking and the infusion wells in the valley......or as I like to call them garbage cans. We are the lucky recipients of the waste water from fracking. This isn't just any plain old water.....it's magic water laced with wonderful things like ash and chemicals that contain known carcinogens. Big energy will tell you it's safe. Just like the oil rigs in the Gulf were safe. The fact is infusion wells cause earthquakes, the one in question is in proximity of a known fault line (yes, sobchack, there are fault lines in Ohio......the area wasn't picked because it's fault line free....it was chosen because dollar blinded desperate politicians let them, when other municipalities wouldn't). In the end it doesn't really matter if you have the processes exactly right, damage is damage. This is new to many people and we do need to educate ourselves. You seem to be coming from a place that denies these wells cause problems just because people have the processes confused. Scientist are telling us the quakes and infusion wells are connected, and if continued so will the earthquakes along with the high risk of polluted water tables.

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33southsidedave(5189 comments)posted 4 years, 5 months ago

Unfortunately, the appeal of big money is too great to ignore...profits before people...loss of health, safety, and quite possibly life will occur...stay tuned.

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34gwscience1(7 comments)posted 4 years, 5 months ago

Tomcat - that was probably natural tectonic shifting. While rare in that setting, the Atlantic sea floor is still spreading and stresses have to be relieved. That's the world we live on. The New Madrid, Missouri earthquakes in the early 1820s were among the worst in North American history. It was a good thing that population and development was low at that time. Western Ohio is the 2nd most seismically active area in the eastern USA (all natural). Go look at any rock outcrop - it's fractured. I'm a hydrogeologist (no economic dog in this fight) and not against resource drilling. I grew up with gas wells all around as have many of you. Fresh water impacts were rare, even in the old Wild West days. If (as seems likely) injection caused these alarming earthquakes, it needs to stop or be modified. By all means, document your damages and seek compensation. Risk should not be transferred to the public. The state people are technically correct that the other 177 Class II (brine) injection wells have not caused similar earthquakes (Ashtabula was Class I wells) but that's splitting hairs. There is a lot of hubris in the oil patch. A lot more analysis needs to go into injection well siting. Better yet, a) a big push is made to employ treatment methods that allow recycling and other productive use of this fluid, and b) more use of gas hydrofracturing methods. All people in affected areas should have wells and surface water tested. Above all, lead with the front of your brain, not the brain stem. I'm used to newspapers totally mangling anything having to do with water and the underground. The Vindy is doing a really credible job of covering this. Also, the ODNR professionals have been exactly that and don't deserve anyone's scorn and venom. They do need to hear what you think and feel.

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