Sun. Mar 26th, 2023
Epicenter and shaking intensity (outlines) for Sunday night's earthquake.
Enlarge / Epicenter and shaking intensity (outlines) for Sunday night’s earthquake.

A small town in Oklahoma was rocked again by another earthquake Sunday evening — part of the Sooner State’s new seismic reality. The state’s normal geological tranquility has been interrupted by the injection of sewage into deep disposal wells. Most of that water comes from conventional (rather than fracked) oil and gas extraction, because polluted water comes with the oil. Injecting the wastewater back into deep, saline aquifers is a cheap way to deal with it, but the practice has caused earthquakes on ancient fault lines that underlie north-central Oklahoma.

A magnitude 5.0 earthquake — one of the largest the state has ever seen — struck near the small town of Cushing at about 7:45 p.m. Sunday night. It caused significant damage to more than 40 downtown buildings. Bricks fell from the outside walls of buildings, ceilings and roofs were damaged and many windows were shattered, but luckily no one was seriously injured. Schools were closed yesterday, while downtown remains closed due to building inspections.

To aid recovery efforts, Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin declared a state of emergency for the county. The state’s Corporation Commission, which oversees the drains, also ordered all wells within a 6-mile radius of Cushing to phase out injections over the next week. Wells within a 15-mile radius were ordered to reduce their injections. (Gradually stopping injections is safer than causing an instantaneous change in water pressure.)

The Oklahoma Corporation Commission has been working this year to gradually restrict injections. The damage in Cushing is likely to add to calls for more to be done.

By akfire1

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