Early last August, the Oklahoma Corporation Commission established an official “cutback zone”. The Commission created this zone in response to our area’s seismic swarms.
The zone commences in the northern part of Edmond, proceeds north, north-east through southern Logan County and Guthrie and towards the Payne County line. The wastewater injection site owners residing within this zone were directed to cut back on their injection activity.
This was the first such area established in Oklahoma and as such it would be a closely followed experiment. The idea mimicked those policies in other states, specifically Kansas, where similar cutback policies resulted in a decline of earthquake activity.
For the next three months the experiment seemed successful. The seismic swarms subsided and peace returned.
That changed in November when the seismic swarms returned and culminated in the New Year’s Day quakes that inflicted significant damage, knocked out the power to area residences, and placed lives at risk.
During November to January, as the quakes returned, I had noticed that one of the four sites lying within the southern portion of the cutback zone had once again commenced its injection activities.
Known as “The Harvey”, the site exists at the northern end of Midwest Blvd. at Seward Rd. In August, as the cutback area took effect, the operator of The Harvey had voluntarily suspended operations. However, as peace and quiet returned to the region, The Harvey again commenced operations – and the quakes soon returned.
Even though their daily injection volumes were extremely small and this is one of the most responsive operators who are normally to be commended for their overall handling of the seismic issue, I felt this decision to be in particularly questionable judgement. The low volume of disposal could easily have been trucked out of the area. By choosing to inject, this site risked becoming a “variable” in any subsequent return of the seismic swarms.
And that is exactly what happened.
Additionally, I would later learn of another of the four area sites, also a small volume site, commencing with new wastewater injections as well.
The New Year’s Day earthquake swarm occurred in an area where these two sites were the only injection site variables.
Particularly interesting is the fact that the large quake followed a period when it appears that the only ongoing injection activity close by was from these two small volume sites.
These sites have both stopped injection activities. And the area’s seismic swarms have again mostly subsided. It should be a comfort to local residents, at least for the present, to know that the New Year’s Day swarms’ closest injection site variables have now been removed from our area.
In my view, due to the repeated occurrence of our seismic activity, the example of these two sites demonstrates it is in very bad judgement for any operator to commence with injection activity in our area, regardless of volume.
Finally, the Oklahoma Department of Transportation will hold a public hearing to discuss their plans to mitigate what may the the second most safety risk to local residents: the unsafe conditions on the Waterloo Road exit ramp which force traffic to pull over on the side of I-35. You are encouraged to attend this town hall-style public hearing starting at 6pm on the night of the 28th of January, at Waterloo Road Baptist Church.
Thank you for reading this article. Your interest and input are much appreciated. Please do not hesitate to email Jason.Murphey@hd31.org with your thoughts and suggestions.