By Ed Runyan
The Ohio Department of Natural Resources is reviewing seismic data near two Weathersfield Township injection wells to determine whether the wells were responsible for the 2.1-magnitude earthquake that occurred nearby Sunday.
The injection wells just north of Niles are owned and operated by American Water Management Services Inc., a subsidiary of Avalon Holdings Inc. of Howland. The wells, which are on state Route 169 near the North Road intersection, have been operational since late March.
ODNR has access to data from nine seismic-monitoring stations in Trumbull County, including four that were installed by American Water Management Services, said Mark Bruce, ODNR public information officer. The AWMS stations are within a mile or two of the injection wells, Bruce said.
“The review of this data will allow ODNR to determine if any correlation can be made and whether or not any regulatory action is necessary,” Bruce said in an email.
The U.S. Geological Survey, which owns some of the monitors in Trumbull County, reported on its website that the earthquake had a magnitude of 2.1 and was centered on Deforest Townline Road Southeast near Bolin Avenue in Howland — about a mile northwest of the injection well.
The USGS originally estimated the magnitude of the quake to be 1.8 but revised it upward Tuesday.
Bruce said the specific location of the earthquake’s epicenter is subject to change. That is one of the things ODNR scientists are trying to determine, Bruce said.
About six residents of the Brentwood Manor Mobile Home Park on Deforest Road just east of Bolin Avenue interviewed by The Vindicator on Tuesday said they did not feel an earthquake Sunday.
Trumbull County 911 reported that it did not receive any calls regarding an earthquake. Most earthquakes in that range cannot be felt, the USGS says.
John Williams, a Niles activist who has expressed his concerns in recent years regarding brine injection wells and the hydraulic-fracturing process used to mine gas and oil, said he was concerned several weeks ago when he learned that AWMS received permission to increase the injection pressure in one of the Route 169 wells.
According to an ODNR document, the 4,700-foot-deep injection well’s allowable pressure increased from 1,025 pounds per square inch to 1,200 pounds per square inch July 11.
The company’s deeper injection well was allowed to inject brine 9,100 feet deep at 1,680 pounds per square inch when it first opened. Bruce said Tuesday he doesn’t know what the allowable injection pressure is at the AWMS wells.
Stephen Kilper, vice president of American Water Management Services, did not return messages Tuesday seeking comment on its seismic monitoring of Sunday’s earthquake.
Because of the 4.0-magnitude Dec. 31, 2011, earthquake at the Northstar 1 injection well in Youngstown, the AWMS wells were subject to extra seismic monitoring. But the monitoring had shown “nothing out of the ordinary,” Bruce said in May.