Energy and Environment Reporting for Texas

A Labor Day of Earthquakes For Timpson, Texas

timspon quakes

Screen capture from USGS website.

Click image to see the location of the two quakes that hit this Monday. They are represented by yellow dots. Find more info here: http://earthquake.usgs.gov/earthquakes/map/

If you visit this site often, chances are you’ve read about Timpson. It’s an East Texas community home to just over 1,100 people that seems to get more than its fair share of earthquakes.

Last year a magnitude 4.8 struck the area. In January of this year two more quakes hit, one of them causing damage. In February, a third quake hit measuring 4.1. And just this Monday two more earthquakes, one measuring 4.1, and another measuring 4.3, shook the town.

Up until the recent spate of quakes, Timpson had never felt an earthquake before, at least not since the USGS started keeping records.

Timpson now has somewhat frequent earthquakes, but it also has a lot of something else: injection wells for storing waste water produced by hydraulic fracturing, or fracking.  By our last count, Shelby County where Timpson is located, is home to 27 active injection wells.

Science has proven the link between injection wells and seismic activity (which is the same thing as earthquakes). And researchers are studying that link in Timpson.

According to UT’s Dr. Cliff Frolich, who is leading that research, the work is being complicated by the frequency of earthquakes.

“If they quit having earthquakes it’d be faster,” he told StateImpact Texas last February.

Despite evidence that disposal wells, and in some cases fracking itself, cause earthquakes, policymakers in Texas have been slow to respond.

But if quakes like the one in Timpson continue, inaction may be difficult to explain. While most quakes with possible links to injection wells cause no damage, the tremors in Timpson have. They’ve reportedly toppled chimneys, broken windows and, in the case of this Monday, even shaken the insulation from the ceiling of a convenience store in nearby Nacogdoces.



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