January 25, 2012
Add yet another new concern to the growing list of reasons to oppose hyraudlic fracturing, the natural-gas extraction process known as “fracking”: earthquakes.
That’s right, following a New Year’s Eve earthquake in Youngstown, Ohio — the town’s 11th since D&L Energy began injecting drilling waste underground in December 2010 — state leaders put a hold on proposals for new natural-gas extraction wells within a five-mile radius.
With earthquakes previously rare in this northeastern corner of Ohio, seismologists from Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory (LDEO) affirmed the likelihood that fracking activities had caused the quakes. Even with the moratorium, they predicted that the current damage would cause more earthquakes in the region for up to a year.
At issue with the quakes is not the gas-extraction process per se, but rather the management of the extraordinary amount of chemical-tainted wastewater left behind. To release natural gas held in rock formations deep within the earth, fracking requires drilling into those formations and blasting open fissures in the rock with injections of chemically treated water and sand — up to 4 million gallons of water and 60,000 gallons of chemicals per single lateral well, according to Scientific American.
As much as 75 percent of this poisoned water returns to the surface, often mixed with radioactive minerals and salt from underground, and must then be disposed of somehow. In Ohio, D&L Energy chose to get rid of this liquid by blasting it back underground again, essentially lubricating pre-existing fault lines within the earth.