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Being vigilant about earthquakes

Published: Fri, February 1, 2013 @ 12:00 a.m.

Today I was reminded of the nine months I spent trying to convince anyone who would listen that earthquakes were being caused by the combination of a brine-injection well off Salt Springs Road in Youngstown on top of a forgotten series of faults that run roughly parallel to the base of the Appalachian Mountains.

One can depict this series of faults as close to the Ohio border with Pennsylvania and then farther south into north-central West Virginia.

I was reminded of this time because a fellow Girardite and longtime friend asked me a few weeks ago if I had felt an earthquake.

He claimed to have felt one at 11:19 a.m. Jan. 22. It reportedly shook his house in southwestern Girard off U.S. Route 422 with a loud bang.

This is one of several recent tremors he has told me about, but he claimed the one on the Jan. 22 was bigger.

Back when the Youngstown brine- injection well was shuttered shortly before the 2011 New Year’s Eve Grand Finale of Mahoning Valley Earthquakes, Dr. Ray Beiersdorfer appeared on Louie Free’s “Brainfood for the Heartland” radio show on WYCL AM 1540 just days after.

Beiersdorfer stated that the earthquakes may not immediately subside and that there may be aftershocks from time to time as the fault settles back into place. Is it possible the aftershocks are very minor and may be going undetected and unreported?

The fault running through the Mahoning Valley is relatively obscure. The state recently has permitted a new injection well in Brookfield. Are we sure the fault does not extend in that direction? Time will tell.

Ohio recently has enacted stricter guidelines for placement of injection wells. They have placed a radial ban on injection wells within 7 miles of the Youngstown well.

Ohio Department of Natural Resources recently applied these new standardsSFlbto the permitting process and assigned a permit for the injection well in Brookfield. Even with these additional safeguards in place, such as seismic testing, I remember that it took many months for the pressure to build up enough to ignite small earthquakes.

It is important to note that our nation is undertaking an entirely new energy policy that is centered on domestic production. Eastern Ohio is one of a dozen or more locations that will be the supply center of this new policy.

Although economic activity will be good, it causes the responsibility of super vigilance to be on all of us, including the public officials hired to protect us.

Super vigilance is how I define the decision by Todd Franko, editor of The Vindicator, to assign a young and talented reporter named Karl Henkel to follow up on my hair-brained theory about earthquakes back in the third quarter of 2011.

Henkel, “the Frackmaster,” went above and beyond the call of duty to investigate and report the facts and potential cause of the last five earthquakes in the 2011 series.

One must remember that ODNR repeatedly denied the possibility of a correlation between the injection wells and the earthquakes. State Sen. Capri Cafaro of Liberty then jumped on our bandwagon and participated in a phone conference with Henkel, myself and the deputy chief of oil and natural gas for ODNR along with his associates who repeatedly confirmed that no correlation existed.

A few days later, another earthquake occurred. And you can find the rest of the story on major national news sources such as CNN and NBC.

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