Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking—recently hailed as the solution to Youngstown's economic woes—now appears to have left the Ohio city with a big problem. Wastewater from oil and gas drilling is almost certainly behind a series of 11 quakes that have occurred in the area since last spring, including a 4.0-magnitude quake that hit on New Year's Eve, a seismologist investigating the quakes tells AP. The epicenters were clustered around an injection well that lay near a fault line. That well has now been closed, and Ohio has banned the drilling of new wells in a five-mile radius.
Injection wells have been proliferating in Ohio, and are used to dispose of the wastewater from fracking, which involves blasting water and chemicals into rock to free up trapped oil and gas, the Wall Street Journal notes. The Youngstown well disposed of water from hundreds of fracking operations, some of them from out of state; thousands of gallons of brine were injected daily. Despite the well's closure, "the earthquakes will trickle on as a kind of a cascading process once you've caused them to occur," warns the seismologist investigating the quakes. The last year of pumping there "is a pulse that has been pushed into the ground, and it's going to be spreading out for at least a year."