Energy and Environment Reporting for Texas

Rocket Scientist And His Wife Blame Disposal Wells For North Texas Earthquakes

From KERA News: 

Gale and Barbara Wood's lakeside home was damaged by minor quakes northwest of Fort Worth.

Doualy Xaykaothao KERA News

Gale and Barbara Wood's lakeside home was damaged by minor quakes northwest of Fort Worth.

Gale Wood worked on the Apollo 12 rocket program and later taught science to middle-school students in Fort Worth. But recently this retired engineer has been devoting his time to learning all about earthquakes.

Gale Wood, who’s 74, wanted to make clear that he wasn’t an environmental activist. Standing next to his back door, he shows proof of his scientific training, pointing to presidential awards and degrees. He says he’s a man of science.

“I have extensive knowledge of the Barnett Shale drilling,” he said. “Here I have some Barnett Shale itself. It’s all in pieces, from the drill bits.”

Along with the drill bits, there’s an Apollo visor, signed by astronaut Alan Bean, and pictures of Wood talking to other scientists about going to the moon. There’s also a yellow magnetic toy — an earthquake detector.

“This has a magnet, in the center of a block of wood, and there’s a stick, and it’s swinging from a little arm up above,” Wood said. “When there’s a vibration, like this, it starts vibrating.”

In November, when a swarm of earthquakes started, he and his wife Barbara were at their lakeside home, only a few miles north of Azle. She remembers when the first one hit.

“Boom,” she said. “And the whole house shakes, and then you have damage.”

Barbara has a voice disorder called spasmotic dysphonia, so she wanted to keep what she had to say short. She says they’re not against the oil and gas drilling industry, but they live within miles of disposal wells.

“I am just for industry taking responsibility for their actions,” she said.

She and her husband believe activity from nearby disposal wells triggered the minor earthquakes.

“It is my idea that disposal wells spawn powerful earthquakes and smaller earthquakes,” she said.

Wood says he’s done his homework, and studied data going back to the 1960s, and his position is the earthquakes northwest of Fort Worth were caused by too much salt water or waste water being injected at too high a pressure into disposal wells.

“I feel that way because of inference,” Wood said. “Inference is a logical conclusion, from given data or premises.”

The Railroad Commission of Texas, the regulators of the oil and gas industry, hired a seismologist to look into what’s causing the North Texas earthquakes, but Wood says that’s a waste of money.

“The research has already been done,” Wood said. “As we say in the country, they’re beating a dead horse.”

She and her husband say the oil and gas industry need to put people first, not royalties.

This is the third of several stories in a series called “What’s Behind the North Texas Quakes?”

Earthquake public forum to be held June 18 in Azle

What’s behind the earthquakes in North Texas? KERA and StateImpact Texas will host a free public event to explore the issues at 7 p.m. June 18 at the Azle High School Auditorium. Learn more about the forum here.


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