Oil and gas wastewater disposal has been tied to a series of earthquakes in California for the first time, in a peer-reviewed study published last Thursday.
A string of quakes ending on Sept. 22, 2005 struck in Kern County near the southern end of California's Central Valley – and the new study, published in Geophysical Research Letters, concluded that the odds that those quakes might have occurred by chance were just 3 percent.
Instead, the researchers honed in on a very specific set of culprits: three wastewater injection wells in the Tejon Oil Field. Between 2001 and 2010, the rate of wastewater injection at that oil field quintupled, and up to 95 percent of that wastewater was sent to just that trio of closely-spaced wells, the scientists noted.
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