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Another Ohio community rocked by quakes



Published: Sun, January 15, 2012 @ 12:10 a.m.

By Karl Henkel

khenkel@vindy.com

MARIETTA

Youngstown has become the poster city for potential injection-well-induced earthquakes.

But the Ohio Department of Natural Resources points to the success of 176 other injection wells throughout the state that have no history of inciting earthquakes.

Cue Washington County.

The Southeast Ohio county — an area that the ODNR has said is less prone to earthquakes than the rest of the state — hadn’t had an earthquake with an epicenter in the county before Oct. 24, 2010.

Since then, there have been four, with magnitudes ranging from 2.6 to 3.1 — large enough to feel, but small enough not to damage homes and infrastructure.

Sound familiar?

Like Mahoning County, Washington County shares another trait — brine-injection wells.

Injection wells are a disposal method for brine, a salty chemical byproduct of natural-gas fracking and oil drilling.

The ODNR has said it does not believe deep injections triggered the small quakes near Marietta, but that has not stopped the state environmental regulators from digging deeper.

The ODNR soon will monitor the area with four new seismographs — much as it did in Youngstown.

“We don’t believe it’s related to injection wells at this point,” Larry Wickstrom, state geologist, told The Vindicator. “We want to dispel any concern as best we can.”

A local geologist at Marietta College, however, maintains there could be a connection.

“Some of the earthquake events have occurred after an injection of water,” said Wendy Bartlett, instructor of geology at Marietta. “Most geoscientists believe that can happen.”

State Rep. Robert F. Hagan of Youngstown, D-60th, was alarmed when told of the ODNR’s additional monitoring near Newport Township, just east of Marietta.

“This is just blowing my mind now,” he said. “They are lying to us and covering it up without giving us all the information.”

Injection wells have been linked to — but not necessarily proved to have caused — earthquakes in Ashtabula County as well as the states of Arkansas, Oklahoma, West Virginia and Colorado.

WASHINGTON COUNTY

There are four active injection wells, owned by two companies, near the township of Newport, just north of the Ohio-West Virginia state line.

More than 1.3 million barrels of brine were injected into those wells during the first nine months of 2011, according to data from the ODNR. That amount is nearly 15 percent of the 8.7 million barrels of injected brine in Ohio during that period.

D&L injected about 352,000 barrels into its Youngstown well during the same period.

One barrel holds 42 gallons.

“Volumes for wells are fairly high for a few of them,” Wickstrom said, adding, “But it’s not that unusual.”

The wells are not as deep as the well in Youngstown. That well, on Ohio Works Drive, is 9,300 feet deep and could inject about 2,000 barrels of brine daily at pressures of up to 2,500 pounds per square inch before it was shut down Dec. 30.

All four Washington County wells pump water into the Clinton or Medina sandstones at depths between 6,900 and 7,300 feet.

Injection pressures reach about 1,900 psi, higher than a majority of pressures allotted at wells statewide.

The Washington County wells, however, inject near something called the Burning Springs Anticline, a well-known geological formation that Bartlett describes as “a fold that resembles an arch.”

Wickstrom said the anticline is a “thin-skinned structure,” different from the solid Precambrian bedrock into which the Youngstown well may have injected.

Ray Beiersdorfer, geology professor at Youngstown State University, said faulting can occur from an anticline and that movement along a fault line needs to occur to trigger an earthquake.

Brine can act as a lubricant along faults and cause geologic shifting.

The ODNR is aware of the anticline.

One Washington County earthquake, on Aug. 31, had an epicenter about 500 feet from one of the injection wells; an aftershock the same day had an epicenter about 20 miles from the same well site.

UNANSWERED QUESTIONS

The earthquake depths, much like the first nine Youngstown quakes, were about 3 miles.

That depth data, Bartlett said, is not precise because it came from only one seismic station, nearly 50 miles away in Athens.

Seismologists, including Michael Hansen of the Ohio Seismic Network, said it requires data from at least three seismic stations to determine precise earthquake depths.

The state plans to send one seismograph to Marietta College to monitor seismic events.

The ODNR this week hopes to implement the use of three portable seismograph stations, courtesy of the U.S. Geological Survey.

At this point, however, the state remains cautious, much as it did after the first handful of Youngstown earthquakes.

The ODNR also has purchased four portable seismographs valued at $10,000 each as part of a new “zero-tolerance policy.” If an injection well or wells are suspected of causing seismic events, the agency immediately will deploy the seismographs.

It maintains that Washington County and Mahoning County have little in common.

The ODNR said the earthquakes were not clustered around a well and the deepest injection formation is nearly a mile above the Precambrian bedrock, where preliminary data pinpointed the quakes.

“The body of evidence is not nearly as large in Marietta,” said E. Mac Swinford, assistant division chief, ODNR Division of Geological Survey.

CALL FOR CAUTION

Hagan says the new information about earthquakes makes him even more skeptical than he was after the Youngstown earthquakes.

“It just goes right to the base of what most of the critics have been saying,” Hagan told The Vindicator.

The office of Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who agreed with ODNR Director Jim Zehringer’s Dec. 31 decision to ban injection wells within five miles — now within seven miles — of Youngstown’s D&L well until the compilation of complete geologic data, deferred comment to the ODNR.

Hagan, who on multiple occasions has called for a moratorium on natural-gas fracking, oil drilling and injection wells, says he has greater concerns, not specifically about the industry, but about the overall process.

“Then we had the earthquakes and all of a sudden I am becoming a semi expert — baptism by fire,” he said. “I am concerned about where they are putting these wells. I’m concerned about the earthquakes.

“I’m also concerned about government being honest to people.”


Comments

1Maggie_Pentz(85 comments)posted 2 years, 5 months ago

Good investigative reporting Karl! This is more of what this area needs...the truth, the facts! Thank you, keep it up!

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2bigmoney(3 comments)posted 2 years, 5 months ago

What are you talking about? There's no connection between Fracking and earthquakes. We care about the environment. We would never do anything to hurt it.

After all, we are bigmoney.

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3juanita1944(33 comments)posted 2 years, 5 months ago

do we forget the 4.3 quake in parkwood? do we forget that it rocked my house and cracked other people cellar wall?......lets no forget that we might die if those wells are started up again?come on you can't see? now we are directed to the southern part of the state.....hey people down there say something.......save your lives also.....call the govenor your state rep......get on their nerves....protest.....keep their phones busy...one day your grand children might have to live in these areas .....if we stop saying stop......they won;t be able to when our houses are totaled and they have no future i can't walk to well where wlll i live? who will buy me a house? am i and my family in this? or are the big businesses the rulers...we the people...remember that saying..........we the people rule

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4Attis(855 comments)posted 2 years, 5 months ago

Money talks. In this fracking case, it lies.

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5sue(169 comments)posted 2 years, 5 months ago

Bigmoney:

Injection wells do NOT involve fracking. Fracking is a part of the overall drilling process that is used to break up the rock in the hopes of producing a gas/oil well. An INJECTION well like the one in Youngstown is a well in which contaminated fluids are deposited (i.e. it is not a producing oil/gas well.
Having said that, the evidence thus far does indicate that the INJECTION well (not fracking) probably did cause the earthquake.

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6m8ke_the_call(105 comments)posted 2 years, 5 months ago

Breaking news (sarcasm): Bob Hagan is still an idiot liberal who wants to strangle our families with energy costs because he is against all domestic drilling.

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7RobX(59 comments)posted 2 years, 5 months ago

Looks like too many people slept through science class!

* An injection well is NOT a fracking well. Fracking doesn't cause earthquakes.
* A 3.1 earthquake is NOT going to kill anyone. Small quakes prevent big ones.
* Hagan is not "becoming a semi expert" on anything but bloviating. The man's got no interest in anything but which way the ultra-liberal winds are blowing. I'm a Democrat who wishes he'd stick to driving trains.

Has anyone checked if the anti-fracking hysteria is funded by the coal companies? The more natural gas we get safely out of the shale, the less they make by strip mining!

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8CongressWatcher(153 comments)posted 2 years, 5 months ago

I don't know about the funding of the anti-fracking hysteria. I simply have the following concerns that I believe are reasonable. Don't shake my house and don't frack up my water. Other than that, I hope you create energy, jobs, and wealth.

As for sleeping through science class, if ODNR would listen to the guy who put together the following map like Karl Henkel did, we would avoid alot of issues and still take advantage of the economic boom.

http://www.munimanagement.com/shookup/

go to this map and then zoom out until you see Marietta and Central West Virgina. Note that all of these earthquake clusters have two things in common. Near mountain ranges and injection wells as high pressures and volumes.

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9zorrogirl(12 comments)posted 2 years, 5 months ago

"This is just blowing my mind now,” he said. “They are lying to us and covering it up without giving us all the information.”

Welcome to the ODNR and the Kasich state government, Bob. Hansen is a good guy, but he need more help and equipment. It's ridiculous he has to do his work on a shoestring.

I'm wondering now about that gas pipeline rupture in Wellington this week. Is it possible that earthquake weakened something with that line? That in turn cause the rupture and the leaking of 10,000 gallons of gasoline? They keep saying there was no damage, but how do we know? How do we know nothing underground was damaged? Not to mention there was damage above ground to many people's homes. I smell cover-up all over this.

Love you, Bob Hagan, go get 'em!

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10bigmoney(3 comments)posted 2 years, 5 months ago

What's that you say? Brine injection would not be forced upon us if not for fracking?

Are you saying that brine injection is a part of the fracking process?

Are you saying that one necessarily follows the other?

I am big money and I will create confusion if I can.

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11Silence_Dogood(1305 comments)posted 2 years, 5 months ago

“Then we had the earthquakes and all of a sudden I am becoming a semi expert — baptism by fire,”

Bob Hagan you really are a blowhard. I have just one question for you , you blowhard in chief. Why did you not take the time to go and listen to the REAL EXPERTS. Is it because you think you know more about this science then the real experts, or is it because you thought that there was not going to be any CAMERA'S there.

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12bigmoney(3 comments)posted 2 years, 5 months ago

bigmoney no like Bob Hagan.

Bob Hagan trying to stop bigmoney.

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13najjjj(106 comments)posted 2 years, 5 months ago

RobX: Just for your science class info: small quakes DO NOT necessarily prevent larger quakes. In most cases they do not relieve pressure. Some are simply quakes, some are after shocks of early quakes, and some are actually fore-schocks. To make it simple it is the opposite of an aftershock. Fore-shocks can occur days or even months before a larger event. How do I know.......the USGS told me so.

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14Attis(855 comments)posted 2 years, 5 months ago

zorrogirl, you may be onto something suggesting that the gasoline rupture in Wellington is related to the Youngstown earthquake caused by D&L. But the damage is much worse than you state. Some 116,760 gallons of gasoline leaked into the environment causing scores of poor folks in a trailer park to be evacuated; 70 of them are still forced to stay away from their trailer homes. There's a public meeting about this at the Wellington HS on 1/16 at 6pm. Someone needs to ask directly about a connection to the earthquake.

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15southbelle22(16 comments)posted 2 years, 5 months ago

GREAT REPORTING!!!! it helps us to sleep at night knowing that SOMEONE besides, of course, the brilliant Bob Hagan, is really working on uncovering the TRUTH and protecting the health and safety of the residents of this valley and beyond.

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16southsidedave(4777 comments)posted 2 years, 5 months ago

Where will this all end...

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17CongressWatcher(153 comments)posted 2 years, 5 months ago

It amazes me that I would sit through a whole two hour public meeting with ODNR officials as they presented all their possible theories about the earthquakes and not once would one of them mentioned that a similar situation occurring in Marietta during the same time frame as our earthquakes.

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18hellokitty(161 comments)posted 2 years, 5 months ago

...in Hell, SSD :(

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19JoeFromHubbard(960 comments)posted 2 years, 5 months ago

> > >Youngstown has become the poster city for potential injection-well-induced earthquakes. - - -

Says who?

I'm impressed that the word "potential" was used with "earthquake." At this point, only circumstantial evidence relates injection wells and earthquakes in Youngstown. It will take months, if not years, to correlate the two events to the point that legal liability may be assigned.

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20gwscience1(7 comments)posted 2 years, 5 months ago

The at-least-coincidental connections between deep well injection and these unusual earthquakes are finally getting the attention they deserves. That said, Bob Hagan's comments and attitude toward the ODNR people meet my standard for "bloviating" and he needs to apologize for implying that they are dishonest. He is certainly no "semi-expert". I'm a hydrogeologist not involved in oil and gas and I have known/watched the work of these guys for years. They aren't "bought." Any geologist is reluctant to make an outright cause-effect declaration based on the level of information they have now. Their hedging is typical caution. People are right to be concerned, but let them work it out - in the glaring light of informed public scrutiny.

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21fattynskinny(195 comments)posted 2 years, 5 months ago

isn't our area "way overdue" for a major earthquake...these certainly could be the pre-mother quakes happening... truth is we don't have the ability to predict so we'll not know for sure if it's natural or manmade

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22JoeFromHubbard(960 comments)posted 2 years, 5 months ago

It's certainly freshening to see some enlightened comments on the subject instead of the hysteria of too many recent posts.

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23Bigben(1996 comments)posted 2 years, 5 months ago

najjjj--You beat me to it with post 13. Well said.

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24Bigben(1996 comments)posted 2 years, 5 months ago

". . .so we'll not know for sure if it's natural or man made." - -- Epicenter never before recorded in the area then since injecting we have had how many in less than one year? Things that make you go hmmm.

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25commoncitizen(959 comments)posted 2 years, 5 months ago

All these "expert" opinions and they don't know the difference between an jection well and oil/gas well ---Maybe Hagan the self professed expert needs to explain it to these people.

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26AnotherAverageCitizen(1174 comments)posted 2 years, 5 months ago

common,

Hagan has not professed to be an expert. You are the only one calling him that. Hagan only wants to have investigations and gather true facts about fracking and injection wells. It only makes sense to have a moratorium on drilling, fracking and wells while we can find out the TRUTH.

If fracking/oil drilling/putting brine in the ground is safe and will create the 200,000 jobs kasich told us it would create, then stopping and investigating and learning the TRUTH, then continue, is well worth the wait.

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