Environment: Fracking & Earthquakes
Opinion by Hal Goodtree. Photo by Brett Coulstock.
Cary, NC – Forget about water pollution. How about earthquakes? Business-friendly Ohio is moving to stop the use of fracking wastewater disposal wells, suspected of causing eleven earthquakes in the state, including a magnitude 4.0 quake last weekend.
Earthquakes and Fracking
Fracking produces a lot of very briny wastewater, sometimes laced with toxic chemicals or radioactivity from underground. What to do with the waste?
Pennsylvania, a hotbed of fracking, has had concerns about above-ground facilities to treat wastewater from fracking. So resource extractors have been shipping their waste to Ohio.
Special deep wells are drilled and the wastewater injected under high pressure.
The problem: wastewater injection wells may causes earthquakes – 11 of them in the recent past near Youngstown, Ohio, an area not known for tremblors.
On Saturday, Youngsville and the Mahoning Valley were hit with a magnitude 4.0 quake.
Governor John Kasich, a fiery proponent of the free market, shut down the waste disposal site and others nearby.
No to Disposal Wells
As the NC General Assembly, counties and municipalities look at the opportunities and costs of fracking, they should consider a ban on disposal wells.
Lawmakers should also ban out-of-state shipment of waste generated in NC – that’s just exporting the problem.
Fracking is Coming. Here.
Fracking is coming. It has the potential to unlock vast energy resources in the United States. North Dakota is set to produce more energy this year than Prudhoe Bay, Alaska. Ten of thousands could be employed and our foreign balance of payments headed back in the right direction.
The Deep River Basin running from Durham to Sanford, through western Cary and under Jordan Lake, is an area of intense interest. Cities, counties and the state need to come to uniform, progressive poilicies that promote business while protect the population.
Because, as alluring as a new cheap energy source may be, it may not be worth the price of earthquakes in the Triangle.
Editor’s Note: Creedmoor has recently adopted an ordinance against fracking within the city and ETJ.
Some progress towards understanding where we are:
“Owners of land sitting atop rich natural gas deposits in central North Carolina will be among the first in the country to receive help that could detect drinking water contamination from drilling and energy exploration.
The U.S. Geological Survey and Duke University will test about 75 private and public wells in northern Lee and southern Chatham counties, the areas most likely to be explored if natural gas drilling is permitted in this state.
The free testing program – which would identify levels of methane, chemicals and compounds present in the water – is designed to determine once and for all whether hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” can be linked to contamination of drinking water supplies.”
Here is the link:
Is your backyard a superfund site? I don’t know about you, but I don’t want that poison coming up in my neighborhood EVER AGAIN! With fracking, the whole state will be polluted, as if we don’t have enough superfund sites already. The birth defects and cancers are increased when people live near superfund sites with toxic chemicals and old ordnance plants contaminated with nuclear waste. Remember everyone dumped in our water way back when….
In the reporting above: “… Youngstown, Ohio, an area not known for tremblors.”
The USGS Earthquake History for Ohio lists at least 10 significant earthquakes between 1875 and 1976
The Ohio DNR Catalog and Maps of Ohio Earthquakes shows earthquakes of greater than 2.0 magnitude. There are years with many earthquakes and years with few earthquakes listed going back to 1776.
Earthquakes are not new to Ohio. What would be interesting is if someone would do an analysis to see if there is any correlation between the frequency of earthquakes and drilling operations.
Hal, since we do not know everything about the situation yet, and the Deep River area may be quite unique, it is worth asking all questions and looking into all sides of the issue and not to succumb to group think. Methane is vented from landfills to make them safer…
The Deep River Coal field has a >200 year history of failed attempts at mining due to explosions in the mines (1850, 1895, 1900 and 1925). For reference, it is estimated that the area contains 100 million tons of coal, only 1 million of which had been extracted as of 1987. The Deep River area is reported to be difficult to mine due to extensive natural gas and faulting of the land. Given this, it seems that natural gas leakage into ground water could currently be a problem in the area, so if it is, would extraction of the natural gas remove this potential poison from our water supply?
Try to do some research before you post Ian ;) jk
Are you suggesting fracking as a way to make the area safer?
Thanks for this article, Hal. I appreciate your continued coverage of this important issue.
100% opposed to fracking in NC. I don’t want to drink contaminated tap water (or be able to light it on fire for that matter. Besides, we certainly do not need to increase the likelihood of earthquakes with a nuclear power plant facility so close by.
In my opinion fracking is unnecessary and also dangerous. Unnecessary because natural gas is plentiful and prices are low. We have enough. Dangerous because it seems there are effects on the planet and that it may cause instabilities that lead to earthquakes. Bottom line: Don’t mess with Mother Nature!