Who’s At Fault?


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by Mike Costarella   | 17 entries

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In a report issued last week, state officials would have you think that no fault lines had been previously mapped in the Youngstown area.  Really?

On Friday, March 9th, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources released a report entitled, “Preliminary report on the NorthStar 1 Class II Injection Well and the Seismic Events in the Youngstown, Ohio, Area”.  This report detailed a very interesting and different opinion that the department had previously stated, prior to the December 31st, 4.0 earthquake in the valley. 

The report states:

To induce an earthquake a number of circumstances must be met:
• A fault must already exist within the crystalline basement rock;
• That fault must already be in a near-failure state of stress;
• An injection well must be drilled deep enough and near enough to the fault and have a path of communication to the fault; and
• The injection well must inject a sufficient quantity of fluids at a high enough pressure and for an adequate period of time to cause failure, or movement, along that fault (or system of faults).

Another quote in the executive summary portion of ODNR’s preliminary report is the following: “Before 2011, OhioSeis had not recorded earthquake activity with epicenters located in the Youngstown area.   Also, no fault line had been previously mapped within the boundaries of Youngstown or Mahoning County.”

Also, another point that needs to be remembered comes from the public meeting held by the City of Youngstown at the Covelli center shortly after the New Year’s Eve quake.  Dr. Dick from YSU and a number of ODNR officials stated that there is currently no way of determining if a fault exists prior to drilling a deep injection well.  They also stated there is most likely more faults in Eastern Ohio yet to be found.  This leads one to wonder what the percentages are for drilling these deep wells in Eastern Ohio and them causing seismic activity.

Some simple research on the internet yielded an article by now retired YSU geologist, Ann Harris. The article was found in the Vindicator in 1986.  The following passage from the Harris article is cause for caution and possibly alarm: “In the 1980’s, new studies of Ohio revealed that the structure of Precambrian bedrock is very complicated.  These studies have revealed that there is a series of faults in Northeastern Ohio:

The Highlandtown Fault in Columbiana County, the Smith Township Fault in Mahoning County, the Suffield Fault in Portage County, the Akron Fault in Summit County, and the Middleburg Fault in Cuyahoga County.  …..  There are undoubtedly other faults in Northeastern Ohio and Western Pennsylvania that have not been discovered.  These faults are the result of compression and shallow thrusting from continental collision when the Grenville Province collided with North America and created the Grenville Mountains more than 800 million years ago during the Precambrian Period.  This section of Ohio is known as the Eastern Disturbed Zone. ”

Further research yields the fact that this information was obtained in a 1982 study by John D. Gray of the ODNR Ohio Geological Survey.

So let’s fast forward to ODNR’s most recent preliminary report on the seismic activity in the valley during 2011.  How is it possible “no fault line had been previously mapped within the boundaries of Youngstown or Mahoning County”?  When the fault documented by Gray in 1982 was found to be in Smith Township of Mahoning County?

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