Atlantic Cities
Postcard

See What 1,000 Tiny, Fracking-Caused Earthquakes Can Do to a Home

In 2010 and 2011, there were as many as 1,000 minor earthquakes in Arkansas. And scientists believe they were caused by fracking.

Seismologists at the U.S. Geological Survey say the disposal of millions of gallons of wastewater flowback as part of the fracking process can create "micro earthquakes," which are rarely felt, and also the rare larger seismic disruption. Scientists say that's what happened in Greenbrier, Arkansas, where the quakes damaged homes.

Yesterday, five local residents settled for an undisclosed sum of money after suing two oil companies. Those five residents aren't the only ones suing Chesapeake Energy and BHP Billiton. Twenty other residents are expecting to file lawsuits in Arkansas state court, according to Reuters.

Some 40 fracking-related civil lawsuits in eight different states have been filed since 2009, with claims varying from groundwater contamination to air pollution to excessive noise. None have gone to trial so far, and nearly half have been either dismissed or settled. Similar suits are still pending against the two oil companies, but lawyers on those cases tell Reuters those are also expected to reach settlements.

These lawsuits are some of the first in the country seeking to connect earthquakes to wastewater wells created by disposal drilling. Arkansas has had a permanent moratorium on the injection of fracking waste into underground disposal wells since 2011.


The treatment tanks at the SRE salt water disposal well are seen in Guy, Arkansas, August 6, 2013. Picture taken August 6, 2013. (REUTERS/Jim Young) 
 


Mary Mahan points to a crack in the floor tile of her home that was a result of an earthquake in Wooster, Arkansas, August 5, 2013. The Mahan's home sustained damage after an earthquake in February 2011. (REUTERS/Jim Young)


Tony Davis stands at the doorway which leads under his home in Greenbrier, Arkansas, August 6, 2013. Davis says the addition he built on to his main home became unsafe to live in after an earthquake in February 2011. (REUTERS/Jim Young) 


A billboard is seen on the side of the road set up by the law firm representing plaintiffs in a lawsuit against two oil companies near Greenbrier, Arkansas, August 6, 2013. (REUTERS/Jim Young) 


Arkansas Geological Society Geohazards Supervisor Scott Ausbrooks stands over a vault which houses a seismometer in Woolly Hollow State Park in Greenbrier, Arkansas, August 6, 2013. (REUTERS/Jim Young) 


A sign in Quitman, Arkansas, August 5, 2013.(REUTERS/Jim Young) 

Keywords: Arkansas, Fracking

Mark Byrnes is an associate editor at The Atlantic Cities. All posts »

Join the Discussion