Less Wastewater Injected Into The Ground Means Less Shaking In Oklahoma

For the past several years, every time a single barrel of oil gets pumped up from deep under the Earth’s surface in Oklahoma, 10-15 barrels of salty, often contaminated wastewater gets pumped up with it. After being separated from the desired oil and gas, the water is injected back into the Earth, far enough down that the oil operators hope the watery byproduct won’t contaminate groundwater supplies in the region. But, much like many toddlers, this part of the country hates injections. A few years ago research decisively linked wastewater injection to increased earthquake activity in the area, where the number of significant earthquakes has been increasing steadily year after year. In 2013, there were 109 earthquakes with a magnitude of three or higher. Earthquakes of magnitude three feature shaking that is strong enough to be felt, but not usually enough to cause major damage. In 2014, that number went up to 585. In 2015 it was up to a whopping 906, the equivalent of 2 or 3 earthquakes per day.

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