Fracking uses chemicals that are pumped below ground to try and release hidden pockets of natural gas hidden beneath. For many the increased popularity of fracking to find gas has led to jobs and many see it has a possible savior for the depressed area of Ohio. However, for many, the chemicals and the possible chemical waste and other unknown effects make fracking potentially dangerous.
The article appeared in the Scientific American. The Youngstown area experienced 11 small earthquakes throughout 2011. There had been another 2.7-level earthquake in the region around Christmas. Scientists were able to triangulate the epicenter of the two earthquakes and discovered that it was within 100 meters of each other.
The well that scientists believe caused the accident on New Years Eve is technically not a well for fracking. The well in question is one where the waste chemicals used in the process are deposited once they have been used. Scientists and environmental experts are theorizing that pumping the waste chemicals into the ground are destabilizing the ground and causing the earthquakes.
Nine earthquakes had hit the area between March and November. All of them had occurred within an eight-kilometer radius of a waste chemical injection well operated by Northstar Disposal Services.
Just prior to the earthquake on New Years Eve politicians in the Youngstown area had requested that the well be shut down. The company had just agreed to shut down the well when the 4.0 earthquake happened. The company and local politicians had agreed to study the phenomenon further to try and determine if the earthquake was caused by the well.
The scientists say that they are not directly linking the waste well as the cause of the earthquakes. However, they have pointed to other areas that have been the sites of injection wells that have experienced similar events. They say that they believe the chemicals act like a lubricant between slabs of rock, or plates, and cause them to move more freely.
The Youngstown, Ohio, area has been in an economically depressed state for many years since the steel mills in the are closed down. For many the fracking process has been a source of new jobs and a new industry in the region. However, the moves to increase the number of wells and fracking sites has been very controversial.