Prof. Maya DeBruyne. Photo by Ian Torres

Did you feel the earthquake?

Residents around Oklahoma woke up to an earthquake on Monday, Feb. 1.

The earthquake originated in Medford, Oklahoma, at around 11 a.m., with a magnitude of 4.5 and 7 km profound.

The cause of the earthquake was the release of energy from the movement of the tectonic plates, which was felt in a large portion of the state.

Oklahoma may be known for the crazy weather, but not for a big earthquake.

However, earthquakes are quite common. They are caused by the movement of the tectonic plates, and these move all the time, releasing pressure.

We don’t tend to feel the movement from the earthquakes because they tend to be very slight.

It is common to feel constant movements in some places, like San Francisco, where the San Andreas fault is located. For this reason, California is more likely to experience a high category earthquake.

But what about Oklahoma?

Maya DeBruyne, professor of physical sciences and engineering at Oklahoma City Community College, told the Pioneer that earthquakes “are actually quite common.”

According to DeBruyne, Oklahoma, like California, has old tectonic plates that run deep underground, causing sudden tremors.

“These fault lines tend to slip and cause a fault rupture. However, it’s accelerated by our deep-water wastewater injection wells” professor DeBruyne said.

Deep well injection is a process in which when drilling for natural resources like oil and natural gas, high-pressure water is used to inject wastewater used in the drilling process and then returned to the earth.

Many scientists believe that this process may be linked with various ecological issues like water contamination, toxic leaks, and non-other than earthquakes.

The Oklahoma Corporation Commission put out a statement noting “Arbuckle oil and gas wastewater disposal wells operating within six miles of the earthquake’s epicenter will be shut down indefinitely” and that operations from Arbuckle oil and gas would be restricted to “30-day reported average volume, or 500 barrels a day, whichever is less” pointing out the possible culprit of this incident.

Fortunately, no considerable damage was reported from this earthquake; one can only think of what could happen if this problem becomes frequent.

“Once that fault slips and the energy is released, then we are much more apt to feel it because we have this clay sand type of earth surface here in Oklahoma,” DeBruyne said.

If the frequency of earthquakes increases in Oklahoma, the structures could become affected, especially buildings made from concrete and brick.

Many of the houses around Oklahoma are slab-on-grade, which is a type of shallow foundation in which a concrete slab rests directly on the ground below it. If we experience a more significant earthquake, it could break a lot of foundations.

Although the need to acquire the natural resources that Oklahoma’s land provides is undoubtedly necessary, there are alternatives to how these corporations or individuals dispose of the water.

“Out in Wyoming, they use (the water) for farming and agriculture and reclaim that wastewater, instead of creating this deep injection wells,” DeBruyne said.

DeBruyne said thinking about what can be done with that water is the key to stopping these earthquakes that could become detrimental to Oklahoma.

Many people felt the earthquake, but many others did not know about the news.

“I think it’s crazy! Because we have snow and like everything but the earthquake, I have no idea about it…so it’s kind of crazy when I heard that it happened yesterday,” business major student Thnh Nguyen told the Pioneer.

Nguyen added that her cat was acting weird and that maybe it was an indication that things were out of the ordinary. Nguyen adds that she has seen videos and knows about the potential damage of a more significant earthquake.

While it is not likely that a bigger earthquake will happen in Oklahoma, one can never stop wondering about the overall possibilities of a bigger one.

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