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SMU Launches Study Of Azle Area Earthquakes

DALLAS, Texas (1080 KRLD) - Is there a link between between water injection wells used by the oil and gas industry and the small earthquakes that have been happening near Eagle Mountain Lake? Many people who live in and around Azle believe that there is.

SMU Associate Professor Dr. Heather DeShon says more information is needed to determine if those suspicions are correct.

"My null hypothesis is that they are related to oil and gas activity, but I do not have the evidence to support that hypothesis yet," says DeShon. "That is the point of the study."

SMU investigating Azle earthquakes

Waste water injection wells are used to get rid of, or store, millions of gallons of water that's used and polluted in the natural gas fracturing process. Dr. Deshon says that they are working on an agreement with the oil and gas companies, who have collected detailed information about the fault lines that the very deep wells may be irritating.

SMU's Reno-Azle research team has installed instruments that are reading the seismic activity at thirteen different locations in the area. The temporary seismic network was set up in a little over a month ago. The data streaming in from the instruments show that there is much more activity than has been reported previously.

"Ultimately, we do these studies to help society," says DeShon. "In this case, in my mind, the way we do that is to come up with a predictive model."

If there is a link, Dr. DeShon says they hope to find out how far away injection wells should be from fault lines so quakes can be avoided in the future.

This study is being done with the help of the US Geological Society. Dr. DeShon says that they plan on working with the seismologist that members of the Texas Railroad Commission have said they will be hiring.

The instruments that have been installed in the Azle area are slated to be in place until June. If there is enough funding, Dr. DeShon says, they will leave the seismic network intact through December.

(©2014 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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