Seismologists from Southern Methodist University estimate it will take an additional month of research to better understand the ancient fault line that is the source of a recent swarm of earthquakes.
“The earthquakes are from those stresses,” said Dr. Brian Stump, the Albritton Chair in Geological Sciences for SMU’s Huffington Department of Earth Sciences. “The question is, ‘Is it just a natural process? Or is there some human activity?’ And so that has to come after we locate the earthquakes and look at their effects.”
By human activity, Stump said he is referring to the efforts of the oil and gas industry, specifically the many processes involved in drilling for natural gas.
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A report prepared by Stump and his team and released at Thursday night’s Irving City Council meeting emphasized it is too soon to understand exactly what is causing the more than earthquakes just since October.
“I do not know whether this specific swarm will die out or whether it will continue,” Stump wrote in the report he delivered Thursday night.
In addition, Stump announced that “we cannot rule out the possibility of larger earthquakes, some possibly damaging.”
Previous research efforts, following similar earthquake swarms near Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport and Cleburne, found a “plausible or possible linkage between waste water disposal and the earthquakes,” according to Stump, who added that “there are other experts who point out that even in these two cases the sequences could be natural.”
The Texas Railroad Commission regulates the oil and gas industry in the Lone Star State, and the agency sent its executive director plus its own seismologist to take part in Thursday’s meeting.
“Right now we don’t have any way of pointing any fingers anywhere,” said Dr. Craig Pearson, seismologist for the Railroad Commission, when asked if he believes an answer to explain the quakes will be found.
Stump told NBC 5 he understands there are many people who have already made up their own minds on the cause of the earthquakes, and that he promises to do his research work without influence from any interested parties.
“I hear you. And sometimes when you get criticized by both sides, maybe you’re trying to move ahead in the middle. But it’s uncomfortable,” Stump said.
Dozens of Irving residents turned out to Thursday’s meeting, many of whom were concerned about the recent activity.
“I don’t like it. It shouldn’t be happening. Somebody should be doing something,” Suzye Marino said. “And I want it done quick because who knows when the big 4.5 or 5.0 might hit? Then what are we gonna do?”