Hundreds Listen As Scientists Discuss Possible Causes Of OK Quakes

Wednesday, September 7th 2016, 11:12 pm
By: News On 6

Danger and damage are on the mind of many Oklahomans when they think about earthquakes in the state.

Wednesday, hundreds of people listened to experts talk about the correlation between wastewater injection wells and earthquakes.

The event was held by the American Chemical Society at the University of Tulsa. People heard from scientists and the Oklahoma Corporation Commission, which oversees pipelines, gas companies, and wells here in Oklahoma.

After Saturday's record 5.8 earthquake north of Pawnee, even some who have been skeptical, like Bill Salwaechter, are starting to think wastewater from wells injected back into the earth could be the cause of the recent earthquakes.

9/7/2016 Related Story: USGS Upgrades Pawnee County Earthquake To 5.8 Magnitude

Salwaechter: "I'm beginning to become convinced."
Marty: "Initially, though, you thought probably not?"
Salwaechter: "Probably not. I just couldn't believe that we could put something on the surface and pump it in the ground with the force to cause the earthquakes."

Wednesday night, scientists said they believe fracking, drilling and wastewater injection are all factors that can contribute to the earthquakes in Oklahoma.

Matt Skinner with the Oklahoma Corporation Commission said, "There is a link between wastewater disposal into the Arbuckle formation, which is the state's deepest, and the earthquakes."

Since 2014, the Oklahoma Corporation Commission says the state has seen one billion barrels of wastewater injected into the ground - some of which comes from outside the state.

"For us, this is a personal issue. Many of us live in the early earthquake areas, the ones that were the hottest areas in 2013 and 2014," Skinner said.

While scientists continue to understand how directly related waste water injection is to earthquakes, many who came to the event want leaders to be cautious for both people who live here and the businesses that manufacture energy and employ so many.

Lori Decter attended the meeting and said, "Oil and gas is one of our greatest revenue generators here in the state, but I think we need to do a little bit more investigation, make sure we're not compromising health and safety or our communities."

Following Saturday's quake, the Oklahoma Corporation Commission has used emergency power to temporarily shut down 54 wells near the quake's epicenter - concerned wells could have been damaged and that aftershocks could cause more problems for those wells.