By now you’ve probably heard about, read about, or even felt the latest in a number of earthquakes to shake the Faulkner County area. When I first heard about this, I started bracing for that long overdue big one that we’re waiting for from the New Madrid Fault Line. However, it turns out the New Madrid Seismic Zone doesn’t extend all the way down to Faulkner County. What’s more disturbing is that geologists are openly entertaining the idea that the fracking process used in natural gas drilling may be the culprit.
A major source of natural gas in Arkansas is the Fayetteville Shale, an organically-rich rock formation in north-central Arkansas. Drillers free up the gas by using hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” – injecting pressurized water to create fractures deep in the ground.
Ausbrooks said geologists don’t believe the production wells are the problem, but rather the injection wells that are used to dispose of “frack” water when it can no longer be re-used. The wastewater is pressurized and injected into the ground.
“We see no correlation between natural gas production wells and earthquakes, but we haven’t ruled out injection wells,” he said, adding that if production wells were the cause, the earthquakes would be scattered all over the region underlain by the Fayetteville Shale formation and not in just one area.
Ausbrooks said the earthquakes are occurring in the vicinity of several injection wells.
Guy Police Chief Dave Martini said the locals continue to blame the gas companies for the quakes.
“We have a disposal well here just outside of the city,” Martini said. “People are suspecting that to be causing it, even though there isn’t any proof of that.”
Martini said the earthquakes started increasing in frequency over the past week and that the disposal well has seen an increase in use recently.
So, a quick recap. It’s not the actual drilling but the injection of the pressurized waste water that might be causing the problem. So, until geologists know for sure what’s going on here, is it too much to ask that we impose a moratorium on the fracking process? Seriously, after all these gas companies have done to tear up our roads and pollute our environment in this state the least we can ask them to do is store their waste somewhere until we know whether it’s causing earthquakes or not.