AZLE (CBS 11 NEWS) – Tia Moen didn’t need Southern Methodist University experts to tell her what shook her two-story brick and stone home in Azle in the fall of 2013. She already knew.
“It was an earthquake. I felt it,” insists Moen. “I was raised with them…I’m from California.” Still, she says friends and family called her “crazy.”
Later, Moen’s husband, Jeremy, spotted a good sized crack on the side of their home in parallel locations—foundation damage, she insists, wouldn’t start at the top. It wasn’t enough that she was certain that the tremors were earthquakes, she wanted to know their source.
“Earthquakes aren’t supposed to happen in the middle of Texas,” Moen stated flatly. “There’s a fault—but, not enough to cause as many earthquakes as we had here in Azle! And suddenly they’re picking up in another area over in Irving? That’s really suspicious.”
Answers for earthquakes that happened in Irving are still in the works. But, Tuesday, there was relief and vindication in Azle after a team of SMU-led seismologists determined that natural gas drilling was the “most likely” cause of the earthquakes that rattled the community starting in late 2013.
“It can’t be denied any more,” says Azle Mayor Alan Brundrett. “The facts are there, the study is there. We can’t say that we don’t agree with that anymore. It’s time to act and shut them down.”
But, Brundrett also acknowledges that with the wells located outside Azle city limits there is little that local authorities can do. Still, he says he plans to petition the Texas Railroad Commission, which overseas natural gas drilling in Texas, to demand action. “I’m not anti-oil and gas. We need it. We use it every day. We have to have it. But, we can do it in a responsible manner. We can look and say there’s a fault here. We probably shouldn’t drill a two mile hole in the middle of this fault! I mean, it’s almost common sense—but, it’s not that common.”
SMU-led researchers spent the past year and a half setting up seismometers to see where the quakes were occurring and also looking for potential causes. They found three: natural quakes due to natural changes in the earth, the water table: lake level changes due to drought, and oil and gas industry activity related to waste-water injection wells.
“Can we say with 100-percent certainty these are caused by oil and gas activities? No,” admitted Matthew Hornbach, Associate Professor of Geophysics at SMU. “But if you look at the breadth of data available we would argue that the most obvious cause, the most likely cause is oil and gas activity.”
Moen was glad to finally get the results of the research. “I’m relieved,” she said. “It’s closure.”
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