Tracking earthquakes and their effect on North Texas

North Texas Residents Take Recent Quakes in Stride

Tuesday, Jan 21, 2014  |  Updated 10:30 AM CDT
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North Texas Residents Take Recent Quakes in Stride

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Earlene Clouse reaches for her notebook and keeps a running tab every time the earth shakes under her North Texas home -- seven times just in the past month.

Yet like many others in the area who have seen a swarm of earthquakes in recent weeks, Clouse is not overly concerned.

"It's not like California, where they have big ones," Clouse told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

Even an earthquake on Nov. 9 that Clouse says "sounded like a sonic boom" registered a magnitude of only 3.0, according to the U.S. Geological Survey, and that was the strongest of the bunch.

Scientists believe many of the small earthquakes that have occurred in recent years in areas that are not generally prone to such activity may be due to large amounts of wastewater being injected into underground wells.

Much of the wastewater is from the oil and gas industry, and many injection wells are in areas where hydraulic fracturing has boomed in recent years. After a University of Texas study linked two injection wells near Dallas/Fort Worth Airport to a series of small tremors, Chesapeake Energy, the company that operated the underground landfills, closed the wells but insisted the connection had not been scientifically proven.

Similar links, though, have been made between injection wells and earthquakes in Ohio, Arkansas and other areas that have seen a drilling boom.

The Texas Railroad Commission says no injection wells have been closed due to earthquakes, but it limits the amount of wastewater that can be injected daily, tailoring the volumes to the depth of a formation.

"Being big enough to be felt, that's a public relations problem," for energy companies, said Art McGarr, head of the U.S. Geological Survey's induced seismic activity unit. "But so far, the problems in Texas have been relatively small."

And so, residents sitting at Howell's Cafe in Springtown laughed while swapping stories about the earthquakes as they munched on meatloaf, mashed potatoes and black-eyed peas.

Barry Bobo said he was more worried about the trouble he got into at home after he told a local TV station, "I don't know if it was an earthquake or my wife's snoring," than he was about the tremors.

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