Third Earthquake in a Week Rumbles in East Texas Town of Timpson


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If you live in the East Texas town of Timpson, or nearby, chances are you’ve had a shaky week. It all started last Friday, very early in the morning, when an earthquake measuring 4.1 on the Richter scale struck just north of town, causing minor damage. Then on Tuesday, again, very early in the morning, a smaller 2.8 quake struck. Then yesterday afternoon another quake occurred, just south of town, with a strength of 2.7. That’s three earthquakes within a week.

So what’s going on? We put that question to Dr. Cliff Frohlich, a seismologist that studies manmade earthquakes at the University of Texas at Austin. Yes, manmade.

Frohlich has looked into a string of quakes in the Dallas-Fort Worth area that began in 2008. Frohlich has linked many of those quakes to deep injection wells used to dispose of wastewater from oil and gas drilling, which has taken off in recent years with the advent of hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling. (You can read more about how disposal wells work here.)

“Those [DFW] earthquakes started only six weeks after [disposal] injection,” Frohlich says. “At the same depth, and within a kilometer of the well.” Frohlich has conducted two peer-reviewed studies of quakes in that area, linking them to injection wells. “Injection-triggered earthquakes are more common than is generally recognized,” he writes in his latest study.

But is that what’s happening in East Texas? The largest earthquake to ever strike the area hit Timpson (in Shelby County) directly last May, with a magnitude of 4.8. “The highest intensities … occurred south of Timpson … where chimneys, fireplaces, and brick veneer siding suffered significant damage,” Frohlich and two others write in a review of that quake recently presented to the American Geophysical Union. (Earthquakes below an intensity of 4.0 generally aren’t known to cause significant damage.)

There have been earthquakes in the surrounding area in the past, but nothing this big. And Timpson has never experienced earthquakes, according to U.S. Geological Survey measurements dating back to 1973. There are 27 active disposal wells in Shelby County, according to the Railroad Commission of Texas’ database, with two of them in Timpson.

So are the Timpson earthquakes connected to disposal wells? It’s certainly possible, Frohlich says.  He’s leading a team studying a potential link, and their research could be ready by the end of the year. But one thing slowing him down? The area keeps shaking, meaning they have to keep adding more data. “If they quit having earthquakes it’d be faster,” he says.

Comments

  • Karen

    I’ll tell you what is going on. Jesus is coming back soon. All these earthquakes were mentioned in the Bible years and years ago. This is just one of the many signs that Jesus gave us before His return.

  • Nabuquduriuzhur

    Doesn’t work. Injection wells are hundreds to a thousand or so feet deep. The earthquakes listed on USGS’ server are more than 2 miles.

    The TWO quakes in Texas were 2.7 and 2.8. respectively.

    Typical activist dishonesty.

    • Vjeffrey

      There is no mention of activists in the article, only a UT Austin scientist doing some research. Also, I have ties to friends and family not far from here and you can bet I’d become what you call an “activist” to protect mine and their rights to clean water and land, to which fracking poses a threat. If the fracking wells leak and contaminate ground water our land is worthless. It’s happening here in Pennsylvania where I farm. Farmers allow fracking on their land for a little money (family farmers arent exactly rolling in the dough you know) to make ends meet. Wells leak and ruin aquifers, ground water, and their farm is ruined, they can’t grow or graze on it.

  • VJeffrey

    Causing earthquakes or not, using an obscene amount of water in the fracking process is just pure foolishness in a state dealing with drought. Born and raised in east Texas, I do remember numerous droughts and water rationing. Living in PA currently, there’s plenty of rainfall and water but fracking well leaks have left farmers in the area with undrinkable water. They now get bottled water delivered for drinking, washing, cooking when they used to have good, clean well water for them, their livestock, and crop irrigation. The companies get big bucks, the farmers get pennies in comparison and undrinkable water for years to come. Where is the wisdom in trading future water and food security for cash now?

  • dyt

    This is just one more reason to be concerned about drilling in Broome co. N.Y. some sites as close as 7 miles from N.Y.C. unlined water tunnels that supply water to millions of people in the metropolitan area. Its funny how the energy department is concerned about drilling for geo thermal energy, because of seismic worries, but fracking , and injection wells are o.k.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100005394339085 Facebook User

    Karen, regardless of your personal belief, we all need to stand for what is right! For generations to come we must do what is right!. At the turn of the century a small church in Truckee, California,believed the Jesus was coming soon. They built a church just 4 walls and a roof. No seats just concrete blocks and 2″ x 12″ planks. Within a short amount of time (5 years) the roof was sagging and the walls were falling and the members moved on to other churches. This happened in 1909. All forty members are since deceased. Yes Jesus is coming but he wants us to be about His business till he returns.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100005394339085 Facebook User

    Nabuquduriuzhur… the fact is most waste injection wells are 5 to 8 thousand feet deep. Many recent studies by professional geologist prove that the earthquakes are a result of injection.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100005394339085 Facebook User

    Karen, regardless of your personal belief, we
    all need to stand for what is right! For generations to come we must do
    what is right!. At the turn of the
    century a small church in Truckee, California, believed that Jesus was
    coming soon. They built a church, just 4 walls and a roof. No seats just
    concrete blocks and 2″ x 12″ planks on a dirt floor. Within a short
    amount of time (5 years) the roof was sagging and the walls were falling
    and the members moved on to other churches. This happened in 1909. All
    forty members are since deceased. Yes Jesus is coming but he wants us to
    be about His business till he returns, even if that means taking care
    of His creation.

  • Leo

    These values are no longer expressed in the Richter scale, but on the Moment Magnitude scale.

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