Geologists in Wichita to talk about increased earthquake activity

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Wichita, Kan. -- Geologists were in Wichita Wednesday at Newman University to talk about the cause or causes of increased earthquake activity in Kansas and Oklahoma.

Kansas Governor Sam Brownback recently established a task force to study and develop a State Action Plan for potential induced seismic activity or in other words possible man-made earthquakes.

The task force is led by the Kansas Geological Survey (KGS), the Kansas Corporation Commission and Kansas Department of Health and Environment.

Kansas Geological Survey's Interim Director Rex Buchanan says there's no disputing we've experienced more earthquakes.

"I don't think there's any question we've seen more events, particularly in south central Kansas within the last six months, even the last three months than we have up to then."

What people want to know is why? Is human activity, such as, increased oil and gas exploration connected?

Buchanan says, "Certainly the jury in Kansas is still out on it."

But, he says, there's evidence of a connection with human activity with the dramatic increase of earthquakes in Oklahoma which are often felt by Kansans.

"And there are some situations in Oklahoma where I think folks are fairly confident where there might be human activities that relate to those earthquakes."

Buchanan says the geological experts at the conference say it's very difficult to discern the difference between natural occurring earthquakes and human induced earthquakes.

"Teasing apart those causes, natural versus man-made is very difficult. And in Kansas, where we've had even a smaller number of events, and we have less information available in terms of seismic stations and everything else, that task is even more difficult."

Buchanan says, "I'm not aware that anybody has suggested that any of the seismic activity in Kansas is related to hydraulic fracturing."

"In terms of other kinds of activities, one of the areas people are looking at is salt water disposal, the disposal of fluid that's produced along with oil."

That waste water is re-injected deep into the earth, he says, which could be a cause for increased seismic activity.

He says more study is needed. In the meantime a plan will be formulated on when and how state agencies should respond to earthquakes.

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