Between 2012 and 2016, the state of Kansas experienced six earthquakes with a magnitude of 4 or greater, very much out of the ordinary for the state which does not often experience such seismic activity. Now, after a new study, researchers have found that this recent uptick in earthquake activity can likely be traced to an increased number of wastewater injections deep underground starting in 2012, according to Justin Rubinstein of the U.S. Geological Survey.
The state saw only 15 earthquakes wielding magnitudes of 3 or more from 1974 to 2012, none exceeding a magnitude of 4. The state has seemingly been wise to these wastewater injections being the potential cause of this activity since 2015 when they began drawing back said injections in reaction to the increased seismic activity.
Another interesting find from the study has to do with the injection sites. One specific area which saw 40% of the total injected wastewater produced no earthquakes throughout the time period of increased activity. This suggests that the geographical construction of these different injection areas may determine whether or not earthquakes may occur as a result of the injections.
With this in mind, researchers now turn their attention to understanding how to avoid such incidents when injecting wastewater underground, which will come through a more robust understanding of interactions between seismic layers and wastewater, allowing them to pinpoint the lowest risk areas in order to drastically reduce earthquakes moving forward.