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Weekly Environmental Round-Up: Frackquake and “White” Water Rafting

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From Billb1961 on flickr

Frack-Quake

There has been a recent boom in the natural gas industry, and a lot of it is attributed to a controversial practice known as hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”).  To get you up to speed, fracking involves injecting water, sand, chemicals, etc. into the ground to fracture rock, generally marcellus shale, in order to free up natural gas and allow it to be extracted more easily and quickly.

Fracking has been linked to several things including groundwater contamination, drinking water contamination, and more recently…Earthquakes.

Prior to 2011, Youngstown Ohio had never experienced any type of seismic activity that amounted to an earthquake.  However, an injection well that pumped fracking wastewater from projects in Pennsylvania came to the area in December 2010.  Youngstown experienced 109 individual earthquakes in the year that followed, including one that recorded a 3.9 magnitude.

The Ohio Department of Natural Resources was quick to deny the idea that the injection site was the cause of the quakes after the largest one in 2011.

However, a recent study released by the Journal of Geophysical Research has shown otherwise.  Columbia University seismologist Wong-Young Kim conducted the study that places a causal link between the injection sites and earthquakes.

“We conclude that the recent earthquakes in Youngstown, Ohio were induced by the fluid injection at a deep injection well due to increased pore pressure along the preexisting subsurface faults located close to the wellbore,” Kim wrote in the paper.

(Source: Grist.)

It is important to note that the Northstar injection site at the center of the quake controversy was placed over a fault and the study indicates that the pressure from the wastewater injection ruptured the fault.  However, had the injections not been occuring, a rupture would not have occurred.

(The full text of Kim’s journal article can be found here)

West Virginia “White” Water

Whitewater rafting is one of West Virginia’s biggest tourism attractions for the summer, and can be a great way to experience the beauty of the state.  But there is a different kind of whitewater flowing through the streams of Boone County.  Over 2,000 gallons of a dust suppressant called DT-50-D spilled into the stream, turning it a cloudy-white color.

A Patriot Coal subsidiary was responsible for the leak and “vacuums” will be used to suck out the chemical.  Just another way Patriot is giving back to the community….

(Image of stream can be found here)

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