Fewer Okla., Kan. Residents Face Earthquake Risks From Wastewater

Phillip Butler
March 3, 2017

The risk of damaging manmade earthquakes striking the Dallas-Fort Worth area is substantially lower than it was previous year, according to a new quake hazard map released this week by the U.S. Geological Survey.

The seismic risk maps are used by emergency management officials as well as the country's major engineering and design associations to guide how strong to construct new buildings.

"The United States Geological Survey (USGS) seismicity map for 2017 serves to confirm the validity of the work done in Oklahoma to reduce quake risk, as well as the need for the effort to continue".

The only other part of the continental United States facing similar danger is quake-prone California, where natural fault lines slice through the state.

The USGS past year identified risks from human-caused earthquakes for the first time and has said that overall natural disaster activity is hundreds of times higher than rates seen in around 2008, when the oil and gas drilling boom began.


All in all, 4 million Americans are at risk of experiencing a significant seismic event this year, and 3.5 million of these live in states that engage in fracking. Moreover, the state recorded the highest number of large earthquakes, of magnitude 4 or greater. A decade ago, about one or two earthquakes struck regions that are now getting hit by several thousand earthquakes each year.

This means exactly what it sounds like, earthquakes caused by the effects of human activity rather than a natural occurance, the primary cause of which is wastewater from oil and gas drilling operations being injected deep into the ground. The USGS determines an area's risk of manmade quakes by looking at quakes the previous year and projecting forward.

The USGS research considers a magnitude 2.7 natural disaster to be the level at which ground shaking can be felt, and an quake of magnitude 4.0 or greater is typically required to cause noticeable damage.

"New Madrid is a constant concern for us", Petersen said. "This may be due to a decrease in wastewater injection resulting from regulatory actions and/or from a decrease in oil and gas production due to lower prices", said a release from the USGS.

USGS' Mark Petersen claimed the decline could be due to the introduction of regulations limiting the practice by the energy industry.

Other reports by Ligue1talk

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