Does this sound familiar? An earthquake occurs in 2011 in an area of the country where earthquakes are rare events. Investigation shows that the earthquake had been preceded by a number of minor seismic events. Subsequent investigation determines that a deep injection well for the disposal of oil and gas drilling wastewaters is located at the very center of the quake site. That same investigation determines that a geologic fault line is located directly beneath the injection well. Of course, that rings a bell! It was the earthquake in Youngstown, Ohio.
But you’re wrong. This earthquake occurred in Prague, Oklahoma. While the Youngstown quake took place on December 31, 2011, the Prague quake occurred on November 6, 2011. The Youngstown quake registered 4.0 on the Richter Scale while the Prague quake was measured at a magnitude of 5.7 and felt as far away as Milwaukee, Wisconsin. There were no damages or injuries in the Youngstown quake, but in the Prague quake, two people were injured and fourteen houses were damaged. An investigation of the Youngstown quake by Columbia University and the Ohio Department of Natural Resources concluded that the Youngstown quake was caused by the deep injection well located on the fault line. An investigation recently released by geophysicists at the University of Oklahoma, Columbia University, and the United States Geological Service, determined that increased well pressure at the deep injection well at the Prague site coupled with the well’s location directly above a fault line make a strong case that the injections caused the earthquake. After the Youngstown quake, the suspect well was shut down by its owner, and the Ohio Department of Natural Resources placed a moratorium on the processing of applications for the siting and installation of deep injection wells until protective policies and regulations were put in place to insure that the circumstances that created the Youngstown quake would not be repeated. Despite the findings of the University of Oklahoma, Columbia University and the USGS, Oklahoma’s state seismologists maintained that the Prague quake could have just as easily been the result of natural causes. The deep injection well over the Wilzetta fault line in Prague continued to operate.