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STUDY: 'humans are to blame' for earthquakes

Evidence is growing about a link between fracking and earthquakes, according to the US Geological Survey


Friday, September 19, 2014, 1:50 PM -

When a 5.3 magnitude earthquake rattled Southern Colorado three years ago near Trinidad, scientists wondered what could have caused it. 

Today, they have an answer. The U.S. Geological Survey says "humans are to blame". More specifically: waste-water injections done by the Oil and Gas industry.

"The earthquakes coincided pretty much with the time and history of the waste water injection in some fairly high volume wells," USGS researcher Arthur McGarr said in an interview with tells the 9NEWS

McGarr worked on the USGS study. 

He says two things lead scientists to the waste water injection conclusion: "The proximity of the earthquakes to these very high volume injection wells were quite a substantial tip off".


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They also noticed a remarkable increase in the rate of detected earthquakes in the same area, compared to what had been reported decades before. 

"There was approximately a one year time delay when injections started and when the earthquakes began to be noticed," said McGarr. 

Scientists say there is a difference between the injection of waste water and fracking

Experts say injection wells are designed to hold the wastewater from drilling several different wells. And because of that, a higher volume of water goes into deep injection wells than fracked oil or gas wells. 

"I think the main message is it's important to monitor the waste water disposal wells and find out early on what the seismic response is likely to be," added McGarr. 


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On the state side of things, the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission told 9NEWS it is, "closely reviewing the USGS report and is in communication with its authors". It also says "If necessary, measures related to altering injection rates, pressures and frequencies – then studying the effects, if any – could be employed to manage seismicity risks".

The USGS's report will be published in October. To read it now, click here.

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