Woman Injured in 2011 Earthquake Suing Disposal Well Operators

  • Joe Wertz
Seismologists say oil and natural gas disposal wells, like this one near Sparks, Okla., are likely triggering earthquakes in Oklahoma.

Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

A disposal well near Prague, Okla.

The 5.7-magnitude earthquake that struck near Prague, Okla., in November 2011 toppled Sandra Ladra’s chimney, raining rocks “on her lap and legs.”

Ladra on Aug. 4 filed a lawsuit against energy companies that operate disposal wells she claims caused the quake. She is seeking $75,000 in actual damages plus punitive damages, the Journal Record‘s D. Ray Tuttle reports.

Ladra alleges that injection wells operated by Cleveland-based Spess Oil Co., Tulsa-based New Dominion LLC and 25 other companies not yet named led to the earthquakes that damaged her home and injured her.

“She will likely have to have knee replacement surgery,” Poynter said.

Ladra claims that the companies, referred to as John Does 1-25, operate high-pressure injection wells that led to the swarm of tremors that caused widespread damage in November 2011. The company names will be filled in later, Poynter said on Wednesday.

Several peer-reviewed scientific papers have linked the Prague earthquake — the state’s largest ever recorded — with injection wells the oil and gas industry pumps toxic drilling fluid into. One other person was injured in the Prague quake, which damaged more than a dozen homes. The temblor is likely the largest linked to drilling activity.

In July, a study published in the journal Science suggested that four other wells operated by Tulsa-based New Dominion could be a large factor in earthquakes recorded near the town of Jones, where much of Oklahoma’s earthquake activity has been concentrated.

Ladra’s lawsuit appears to be the first one related to the Prague quake, The International Business Times reports. Steve Spess of Spess Oil was surprised by the lawsuit, the Record‘s Tuttle reports.

“They are hanging their hat on something that is just a theory,” Spess said.

“We do not think we’ve done anything wrong,” Spess said. “What little water we inject goes back into the same zone.”

“We inject the water at low pressure, so we do not believe that is causing these earthquakes,” Steve Spess said. “But they have to blame someone.”