Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Help Support EcoWatch

Oklahoma Earthquake Officially Largest in State's History

Popular

The 5.6 magnitude earthquake that rattled Pawnee, Oklahoma Saturday morning has been classified as largest in state history, according to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS).

The September 3, 2016 Oklahoma earthquake occurred as the result of shallow strike-slip faulting about 15 kilometers northwest of the town of Pawnee.USGS

Earlier reports had matched the Labor day weekend temblor with the November 2011 Prague quake. However, USGS geophysicist Daniel McNamara confirmed to KOCO on Monday that the Pawnee earthquake was about 10 percent larger, even though it fell within the same 5.6 magnitude range.

The Midwestern state is not previously known for seismic activity, however the disposal of wastewater produced from fracking has led to the region's alarming increase in magnitude-3 or larger earthquakes in recent years. Scientists have dubbed this phenomenon as "induced earthquakes" as they are triggered by human activities as opposed to "natural" seismicity.

The USGS is currently investigating whether or not Saturday's earthquake—which occurred 25 miles north of the world's largest oil-storage complex in Cushing, Oklahoma—was triggered by wastewater fluid injection from oil and gas production in the area.

If the Sept. 3 quake was indeed triggered by wastewater injection, Oklahoma will set the record for the largest manmade earthquake in history. This dubious record is currently held by British Columbia, Canada, which felt a 4.6-magnitude last year due to fluid injection from the fracking process.

Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin declared a state of emergency for Pawnee County following the quake that was felt from Nebraska to Texas. The Oklahoma Corporation Commission (OCC), the state agency tasked with regulating the oil and gas industry, also immediately shut down all disposal wells within a 725-square mile in the Arbuckle shale formation. Commission spokesman Matt Skinner told Bloomberg that this is the first time the regulator issued the mandatory measure.

According to KOCO, the Oklahoma Geological Survey said on Monday that the Pawnee quake could have been years in the making, adding that earthquakes can happen years after wastewater is disposed into the ground. Ominously, this implies that wastewater that has already been pumped into the ground could trigger future quakes.

It's important to note that the OCC did not shut down every well in the state. Oklahoma is currently home to 3,200 active disposal wells, according to data from the OCC.

In March, the USGS released a startling report showing that approximately 7 million people live and work in areas of the central and eastern U.S. with potential for damaging shaking from induced seismicity. There are roughly 40,000 disposal wells nationwide, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says.

Environmentalists have called on a ban on fracking due to the recent spate of Oklahoma earthquakes.

"The 5.6 magnitude earthquake that occurred in Oklahoma and was felt throughout the Midwest this morning threatened countless homes and businesses, and put lives at risk," Wenonah Hauter, the executive director of Food & Water Watch, said.

"But it could have been prevented. This earthquake, and hundreds of others like it over the last few years, are the direct result of the underground disposal of fracking wastewater. There can't be fracking without disposing of fracking waste, and there is no safe way to do so. This is just one of many reasons why fracking is inherently dangerous and must be banned."

Earlier this year, the Sierra Club and Public Justice filed suit against four of the primary culprits for wastewater disposal, citing that it causes an "imminent and substantial endangerment" to public health and the environment in violation of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act.

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

The Yersinia pestis bacteria causes bubonic plague in animals and humans. Illustration based on light microscope image At 1000x. BSIP / UIG Via Getty Images

A herdsman in the Chinese autonomous region of Inner Mongolia was diagnosed with the bubonic plague Sunday, The New York Times reported.

Read More Show Less
Plant pathologist Carolee Bull works in her home garden in State College, Pennsylvania. Carolee Bull, CC BY-ND

By Matt Kasson, Brian Lovett and Carolee Bull

Home gardening is having a boom year across the U.S. Whether they're growing their own food in response to pandemic shortages or just looking for a diversion, numerous aspiring gardeners have constructed their first raised beds, and seeds are flying off suppliers' shelves. Now that gardens are largely planted, much of the work for the next several months revolves around keeping them healthy.

Read More Show Less
Hotter temperatures have been linked to a rise in energy poverty, with more people struggling to meet their energy bills from their household income. Flickr / CC by 2.0

By Emma Charlton

The effects of climate change may more far-reaching than you think.

Hotter temperatures have been linked to a rise in energy poverty, with more people struggling to meet their energy bills from their household income, according to a new study published on ScienceDirect by researchers from Italy's Ca' Foscari University.

Read More Show Less
Naegleria fowleri (commonly referred to as the "brain-eating amoeba") is a free-living microscopic amoeba (single-celled living organism). Centers for Disease Control

As if the surging cases of coronavirus weren't enough for Floridians to handle, now the state's Department of Health (DOH) has confirmed that a person in the Tampa area tested positive for a rare brain-eating amoeba, according to CBS News. The Florida DOH posted a warning to residents to remind them of the dangers of the rare single-celled amoeba that attacks brain tissue.

Read More Show Less

Scientists are urging the WHO to revisit their coronavirus guidance to focus more on airborne transmission and less on hand sanitizer and hygiene. John Lund / Photodisc / Getty Images

The World Health Organization (WHO) is holding the line on its stance that the respiratory droplets of the coronavirus fall quickly to the floor and are not infectious. Now, a group of 239 scientists is challenging that assertion, arguing that the virus is lingering in the air of indoor environments, infecting people nearby, as The New York Times reported.

Read More Show Less
Along the northern shores of the Gulf of Mexico, oysters live in coastal estuaries where saltwater and freshwater meet and mix. Flickr / CC by 2.0

Along the northern shores of the Gulf of Mexico, oysters live in coastal estuaries where saltwater and freshwater meet and mix.

Read More Show Less

Trending

Japan Self-Defense Forces and police officers join rescue operations at a nursing home following heavy rain in Kuma village, Kumamoto prefecture on July 5, 2020. STR / JIJI PRESS / AFP / Getty Images

Scores of people remained stranded in southern Japan on Sunday after heavy rain the day before caused deep flooding and mudslides that left at least 34 people confirmed or presumed dead.

Read More Show Less