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Earthquakes and Wastewater Disposal

Earthquakes and Wastewater Disposal

There have been a number of studies in recent years, by both the United States Geological Survey (USGS) and various environmental groups, looking to determine the impact of fracking on the environment across the United States.  To date, it seems that the many studies show that the disposal of wastewater from fracking has a definite impact in the rising seismic activity seen in recent years.

The hydraulic fracturing (fracking) process uses vast amounts of water to break or split apart underground rock, which frees the natural gas, pushing it to the Earth’s surface for future energy use.  As the water is initially pumped into the ground, it collects brine from the underground rock along the way.  The injected water returns to the surface unusable and certainly needs to be disposed; currently, this liquid waste is returned to underground wastewater disposal wells.

While there are several options available to pump the wastewater underground, the current method used is the least expensive method.  The current research available has determined that the process of injecting wastewater back into the disposal wells underground creates substantially increased pressure to build-up on any fault line in close proximity.  When enough pressure accumulates, an earthquake is bound to occur.  In addition, research has linked the currently used fracking process to other seismic activity, however these are not as strong as those related to the disposal process.

There have been a number of earthquakes on the Midwest in recent years that have been attributed to hydraulic fracturing and the wastewater disposal process.  A number of different environmental groups have expressed concern that this an issue that has the potential to impact the residents and businesses located throughout California.   There are many active fault lines located throughout the state and unfortunately, the oil industry has placed many injection/disposal wells dangerously close to those faults.  Those wells could very well cause seismic activity in the future, causing significant damage to homes and commercial properties.

Most California residents and business owners understand that the live and work in an area where seismic activity could happen at any moment, with no warning at all.  Commercial property owners need to be aware, as well, that older buildings are most likely not strong enough to survive the rocking and shaking that happens when the earth moves and releases stress.

Current building codes requirements ensure that structures can handle a localized failure without total collapse and destruction.  Buildings that were built more than 25-30 years ago were not designed with seismic activity in mind, therefore most are in need of a retrofit to properly anchor and reinforce the building. Retrofitting buildings in California becomes even more important with so many wastewater disposal wells being created near highly populated areas in California, including Los Angeles.

If you own commercial property that is more than 25 years old, now is the time to seriously consider getting a thorough building inspection.  If your building is in need of maintenance, including a  seismic retrofit, do it now – before it is too late.  Safety is always an important issue; a seismic retrofit can remove known building hazards now, keeping your clients, employees, and tenants/residents safe when an earthquake does occur.  If you are ready to schedule a seismic retrofit inspection or if you would like additional information regarding seismic retrofitting, be sure to call Saunders Seismic Commercial Retrofit Los Angeles today!

Southern California Office

(949) 646-0034

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