Injection connection: Geologists consider causes of ETX quakes - WDAM - TV 7 - News, Weather and Sports

Injection connection: Geologists consider potential causes of ETX quakes

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TIMPSON, TX (KSLA) -

East Texas geologists are looking into what could be behind the recent cluster of earthquakes in the area, after two more hit the near Timpson on Monday.

They're trying to determine whether or not the quakes in Timpson back in May of last year are related to these more recent ones. Stephen F. Austin State University geology professors say the two earthquakes reported yesterday could be considered aftershocks.

KSLA News 12's Stormtracker Steve found some evidence showing these quakes may not be happening from natural causes. As part of his investigation, Stormtracker Steve discovered a report by the University of Texas from last August that looked into the outbreak of earthquakes in Barnett Shale in North Texas. It stated that people may have been contributing to all of the shaking.

The concept is that trucks full of waste water dump the fluid into a hydraulic injection well. It is then pumped nearly a mile down into the bedrock. From there, the fluid seeps out and lubricates existing fault lines making it easier for earthquakes to occur. The UT study states there are two important factors in whether a quake happens or not. First, the well must be situated over a fault. Second, it has to pump in a lot of waste water-at least 150,000 barrels per month.

The U.S. Geological Survey shows the epicenter of both quakes that hit Timpson were 4.1 and 4.3. The spot just across the street from both epicenters is a hydraulic injection well. It is authorized by the State of Texas to pump in 450,000 barrels of waste water per month. That's three times the amount the UT study says could contribute to a quake.

Geologists studying this say it has been difficult, if not impossible to prove any single earthquake was caused directly by a specific injection well. The well in Timpson is not the only one in Shelby County. KSLA News 12 is staying in contact with the Texas Railroad Commission asking them if they plan to take any action to try to protect private property from the possibility of man-made earthquakes.

The Texas Railroad Commission states, "If faults stratigraphy, or any other geologic phenomena are identified as a concern, they are evaluated. In addition, commission staff could suspend or terminate a permit if science and data indicated a problem."

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