Is Fracking At Fault For Earthquakes In Ohio?

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A city in Ohio went from never having any earthquakes to having them very often and the possibility exists that the quakes are tied to nearby fracking activity.

Salon reports that Youngstown, Ohio, experienced its very first earthquake in January 2011. From then until February 2012, the town experienced 108 more. According to research published in the Journal of Geophysical Research, the sudden wave of quakes, unheard of since Ohio began keeping records in 1776, was likely tied to hydraulic fracturing, or fracking.

The study reportedly points to the December 2011 installation of a wastewater disposal well in neighboring Pennsylvania. According to the researchers, the quakes’ “onset, cessation and even temporary dips in activity” all corresponded to activity at the well. The strongest reached a magnitude of 3.9, meaning it was likely felt, if unlikely to have caused any damage.

"Water does not like to be squeezed," said Scott Ausbrooks of the Arkansas Geological Survey, according to MSN. "Just like a room of people. The more you put in, the more crowded it gets, and at some point, people are going to start being pushed out the doors." Ausbrooks  also says water will squeeze into rock fractures looking for more space and can set off a chain reaction of earthquakes.

A recent story in the U.S. Geological Survey website indicates the number of earthquakes has increased dramatically over the past few years within the central and eastern United States. More than 300 earthquakes above a magnitude 3.0 occurred in the three years from 2010-2012, compared with an average rate of 21 events per year observed from 1967-2000.

Sources: Salon, MSN, USGS