It’s no secret that smaller earthquakes have been popping up more in the middle of the country – which is an area that’s usually pretty geologically quiet. Many scientists suspect that these earthquakes are being brought upon by wastewater wellsA vertical pipe in the ground into which water, other liquids, or gases are pumped or allowed to flow. . Last year in Youngstown, OH, there were significant earthquakes associated with a possible waste well in that location.
New technologies have given scientists a much better feel for when the earth shakes. “We’ve been watching the seismicity across most of the country very carefully for a number of years now and one thing we had begun to notice was there was an unusual number of earthquakes occurring in the middle of the country,” said Bill Ellsworth, a seismologist at the U.S. Geological Survey. In fact, the earthquake rates jumped up to more than 6 times of what they normally are.
When scientists took a closer look at where the earthquakes were taking place, they noticed that all were near wastewater wellsA vertical pipe in the ground into which water, other liquids, or gases are pumped or allowed to flow. .
It doesn’t take much to trigger an earthquake and small disturbances can tip the scales, allowing an earthquake to occur. In fact, the biggest hit of earthquake struck in Youngstown the day after the well stopped injecting water.
John Armbruster, a seismologist from Columbia University’s Earth Observatory states that the local injection wellsDeep wells used worldwide to dump contaminants, often suspended in water. They are used by many industries and regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency. are “almost certainly” the cause of the earthquakes.
The data provided by scientists on the earthquake in Youngstown was no fluke, and the state of Ohio is taking action. They are currently tightening rules for where industries can drill waste wells to avoid earthquakes.
Also, the federal Environmental Protection AgencyFederal agency that regulates industrial impacts on the environment. is working with the U.S. Geological Survey and other scientists to draft guidelines for waste wells in the rest of the country.