Processing Magazine

Scientists seek alternatives to wastewater wells in wake of Greeley earthquake

June 18, 2014
<photocredit>Spencer Platt/Getty Images North America/Thinkstock</photocredit>

A team of scientists from the University of Colorado has been carrying out seismographic research in the area of the recent Greeley earthquake in order to determine if it was connected to nearby gas fracking wastewater wells and, if it was, to try to find ways to fix the problem, the Greeley Tribune reports.

At the end of May a 3.4 magnitude earthquake struck some 4.8 miles outside of the Colorado city of Greeley -- the first such event in the area in more than three decades, according to reports. The epicenter of the quake was about 1.5 miles away from two oil and gas wastewater wells, confirming a pattern observed elsewhere that seismic activity is increased in areas where such wells are found.

Quoted by the publication, Ken Carlson, associate professor of civil and environmental engineering at Colorado State University, explained that there are ways to fix the problem. According to Carlson, the link between wastewater wells and earthquakes doesn't necessarily mean the practice should be shut down, but that water management should be improved by drilling more wells and increasing recycling.

Wastewater injection wells are a means for the fracking industry to dispose of toxin-laden fracking fluid that is the byproduct of gas extraction - by shooting it into such wells miles below the surface. With all the environmental concerns over the practice, however, companies are looking for an alternative way to dispose of or recycle these fluids.