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Does Hydraulic Fracking Cause Seismic Activity?

Does Hydraulic Fracking Cause Seismic Activity?
 

California, a state with more than 15,000 fault lines, is second only to Alaska when it comes to seismic activity.  California’s geology is complex, with the Pacific Plate and the North American plate meeting at the San Andreas Fault and sliding past each other in opposite directions. The San Andreas Fault is the most well-known fault in North America, however there are many other smaller fault lines, fractures and fissures throughout California.  Stretching for more than 800 miles from the southern end to the northern end of the state, the San Andreas Fault has caused many powerful quakes throughout the continent’s geologic history.  Although seismic activity from this major fault line is usually just a small tremor and probably not even felt, some past earthquakes have registered as much as 7.9 magnitude.

With the start of fracking for oil and gas around the United States, a greater number of earthquakes are occurring; experts believe that the additional seismic activity is a result of human activity.  Hydraulic fracking is one such activity where huge volumes of waste water that comes from the oil and gas extraction process is injected into wells deep into the earth.  Many geologists, along with other experts, believe the injected water increases below ground stress on nearby faults to the point that the energy must be released.  This pressure release causes tremors and earthquakes to occur.

Research to-date has not linked any seismic activity to wastewater disposal wells located in California, however experts have linked earthquakes in other parts of the country to this wastewater disposal process.  Technically, the wastewater disposal process could impact any areas that are close to a fault line.  Data from a variety of environmental organizations shows that there are at least 1,550 wastewater disposal wells that are currently being used in California; more than one half of those wells are located very close to one of the many fault lines in the state.  Just as concerning is the fact that many of these wells are located in the proximity of several highly populated areas.

Current regulations regarding wastewater disposal are mostly concerned with the protection of the water that we drink.  There is very little regulation, at this point, attempting to diminish the potential for seismic activity, especially in populated areas.  In fact, very little seismic monitoring data is available, therefore geologists cannot determine what a safe distance is between fault lines and wastewater disposal wells.  Today in California, there are no specific guidelines or regulations in place that relate to a safe distance between fault lines and the wastewater disposal wells.  Another issue of concern that needs further research is the fact that geologists do not yet have an understanding about the overall impact that smaller earthquakes have on the larger faults.

Residents and commercial property owners in California already understand that there is great potential for a devastating earthquake to happen at any time.  No one knows when a powerful temblor will strike.  The time is now, however, to get prepared – before the “BIG ONE” occurs.

Many buildings in San Bernadino were built more than 25-30 years ago, prior to the latest building code standards that are currently in place.  Older commercial properties that have not been through a strengthening retrofit process are most likely not strong enough to make it through a disasterous earthquake.

With the added possibility of quakes related to hydraulic fracking and the many wastewater disposal wells currently in use, it is time for commercial property owners to get serious about the maintenance needed to ensure their building remains upright during and after a major earthquake.  While it may seem overly expensive to retrofit a building, it will be worth it in the long run, when you consider the potential loss of business, the cost of liability payments and the major repairs that will be necessary after a mighty quake.

If you would like more information about seismic retrofitting or if you are ready to schedule a building inspection, call the expert team at Saunders Seismic Commercial Retrofitting today. Their professionals will thoroughly examine your building from top to bottom and provide you with a detailed maintenance plan to strengthen your building.  Consider Saunders Seismic Commercial Retrofitting to handle the entire retrofitting process!

Southern California Office

(949) 646-0034

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