Earth News Journal 8: Fracking & Ohio Earthquakes

Fracking has become a major issue across the United States, specifically in the Mid-West portion of the country. In Ohio, much of the naturally-mountainous regions to the south and south-east are being confiscated for the use of fracking drills.

One of these injection wells used for depositing fracking waste water may have caused a number of low-magnitude earthquakes in Youngstown, Ohio, according to Bill Chameides of Duke University.

From March to November 2011, nine small earthquakes were recorded in Youngstown, a location never to have experienced any seismic, or earthquake, activity prior to the well implementations. Granted, all of the earthquakes were measured to be less than 2.7 Mw, but the people of Youngstown were skeptical that the uneven footing was caused by more than just natural shifts in the Earth’s crust.

The Ohio Department of Natural Resources noted that the Northstar 1, a Class II disposal well, was located within a one-mile radius of all the recorded earthquakes. After extensive investigation, Won-Young Kim of the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory uncovered an even more detailed seismic report of the Youngstown, Ohio vicinity.

In his analysis, Kim recorded a total of 109 earthquakes (magnitude 0.4-3.9) from the region of the well between March 2011 and January 2013. Talk about unstable ground!

Nevertheless, advocates for both the fracking and ODNR affiliations have discouraged the public from pin-pointing this so-called link between drilling and earthquakes. According to the director of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, “Our research doesn’t point to a clear and direct correlation to drilling at this site and seismic activity.”

Still, since Northstar 1’s shutdown in early January 2012, only one quake larger than magnitude 2 has been recorded. In order to prevent such instability in the future, Ohio has modified its permit process for all fracking injection wells. Unfortunately, these new implementations only affect one state out of an entire nation seeking fracking energy benefits and employment opportunities.


I have not enjoyed watching the development of fracking drills in Ohio. My grandmother’s and parents’ hometown is located along the southeastern portion of the Ohio River. Naturally, as we travel to my grandparents for holidays and summer visits, I have seen the lands along the highway evolve from a serene environment to one with bulldozers and plowed fields and forests. As an environmentalist, this change has greatly upset me! I am dismayed that all of this pristine land, left untouched from the glacier movements long ago, is being excavated and defiled by mankind’s earnest search for energy sources. And by energy sources, I mean the non-renewable ones – like oil and natural gas – which we all know will someday run out. So, why strip the land if we know what we’re looking for won’t last us through the century? Fracking is a temporary fix for a problem that will not cease. We need new energy sources, ideally renewable, dependable resources, such as sunlight (a perpetual resource), wind, and water energy. If we as a collective, international body can harvest and use to our advantage the resources of everlasting supply, why are we not? Let’s use these naturally recycled sources to our benefit! We can still depend on the Earth without compromising on the environment. 

Chameides, Bill. “Fracking Waste Wells Linked to Ohio Earthquakes.” National Geographic. N.p., 28 Aug. 2013. Web. 4 Sept. 2013.

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