THIRTEEN YEARS AGO: NINTH MINOR EARTHQUAKE HITS BRAXTON COUNTY - WV Officials Say No Link To Drilling Operations, Ohio, Arkansas Officials Differ

By Bob Weaver 2012

The U.S. Geological Survey reported a small 2.8 magnitude earthquake Tuesday about 10 miles west of Gassaway.

Eight earthquakes with magnitudes between 2.2 and 3.4 were reported in Braxton County in 2010.

Tuesday's quake was felt at Granny's Kitchen in Frametown, although there was no noticeable damage.

"I was back here working at the grill and I just heard a boom that sounded like a truck backfiring. It was kind of scary knowing the past with the earthquakes and stuff, and then we got a phone call saying it was an earthquake," said Kathy Barker.

A major Virginia quake shook the east coast last summer, shaking and rattling houses in Calhoun County. Following the quake, cracks were discovered in the Calhoun courthouse, but evaluators said they had nothing to do with the earthquake.

West Virginia officials said in 2011 they've found no link between eight minor earthquakes that rattled central West Virginia in 2010 and natural gas drilling, after local residents expressed concern the quakes were related to drilling.

Braxton Citizens' News publisher Ed Given said he suspected that the source of the quakes was an underground injection well near Gassaway being used to dispose of brine and hydraulic fracturing fluids recovered from Marcellus Shale gas drilling.

The injection well was used to dispose of more than 10.6 million gallons of brine and fracking fluids between March 2009 and June 2010.

Michael Hohn with the West Virginia Geological and Economic Survey said the earthquakes were probably more of a coincidence, an "act of god' explanation.

A northeast Ohio well used to dispose of wastewater from oil and gas drilling almost certainly caused a series of 11 minor quakes in the Youngstown area since last spring, said seismologist John Armbruster of Columbia University's Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory in Palisades, N.Y.

The latest and largest Ohio quake was 4.0 magnitude, with state officials announcing their beliefs that injecting fracking wastewater near a fault line had created enough pressure to cause seismic activity.

Arkansas officials said a swarm of 800 quakes in that state appear to be linked to drilling operations.

Steve Horton, an earthquake specialist at the University of Memphis and hydrologic technician with the U.S. Geological Survey, is warning there could be a correlation between the Arkansas earthquakes swarm as a side effect of drilling.

At issue is a practice called hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking," in which water is injected into the ground at high pressure to fracture rock and release natural gas trapped within it.

"Ninety percent of these earthquakes that have happened since 2009 have been within 6 kilometers of these salt water disposal wells," Horton told FoxNews. He says the timing is too coincidental to ignore.

"They started doing these injection wells in the area that we're talking about in April of 2009. Since that time, there has been an increase in the rate of seismicity," he said.

Horton also pointed to quakes in West Virginia, noting the same pattern of unusual seismic activity where previously there had been none.

"That isn't a place where you usually have earthquakes," he said.

When the West Virginia Oil and Gas Commission forced the disposal companies to cut back on their injection rate and pressure, the professor said, the earthquakes there seem to have dissipated.

The injection of fluids in Braxton have since been reinstated to previous levels, according to media reports.