Is Fracking Causing Earthquakes in Arkansas?

Residents in Guy, Arkansas have become aware that the ground around them shake on a regular basis, but the explanation for why is still unknown. The New York Times reported that residents in Guy have started to question their relationship with the oil and gas companies and some believe they may be the cause of the quakes.

Several years ago, the gas companies arrived, part of a sort of rush in Arkansas to drill for gas in a geological formation called the Fayetteville shale.

Local landowners signed leases and royalty agreements with the companies on the promise of a few hundred dollars or more a month. Drilling sites started showing up in the fields, and the trucks began rumbling through day and night. Residents began to wonder whether all of this was such a good idea.

“They took advantage of people’s ignorance,” said Greg Hooten, the superintendent of the local water utility, who now worries about the effect of the drilling on the groundwater.

To access the pockets of gas in the Fayetteville shale, the companies must use a high pressure system that mixes sand, water, and roughly 600 chemicals to fracture the shale, also known as fracking. The excess waterwaste is then placed in disposal wells. While this is effective for breaking up the shale, the waste left behind is very toxic.

Disposal wells are dug, and the wastewater is injected deep into the earth. Last summer a few of these injection wells appeared near the town, including the one across from Big Pop’s fruit stand, just past the school.

Then the ground started shaking.

While the Arkansas Geological Survey researchers cannot say with certainty that this is what is causing the earthquakes, they do believe that there is evidence indicating a “strong temporal and spatial” relationship between the disposal wells and the ground’s seismic activity.


About Stevie Moe

Program Assistant for Plains Justice
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