ODNR: Information indicates five Monday quakes not related to oil production

LOWELLVILLE, Ohio (WKBN) – The U.S. Geological Survey reported five earthquakes Monday morning centered in Lowellville, with the final one coming around 3 p.m.

The last tremor registered a magnitude of 2.1.

According to the U.S. Geological Survey, a 3.0 magnitude earthquake hit just before 2:30 a.m. Monday. The center was located about one mile south of Lowellville. A 2.4-magnitude earthquake followed at 2:42 a.m. The third quake registered at a magnitude of 2.2 and hit at 11:03 a.m. The fourth quake, a 2.6, hit at 11:44 a.m.

The first quake was felt all over the area, with a majority of the reports to the USGS coming from Youngstown, Boardman, Lowellville and New Middletown. The second quake was about four times weaker, with the majority of the reports from Lowellville.

A seismograph at Youngstown State University registered this morning's earthquake activity. (Photo: U.S. Geological Survey)
A seismograph at Youngstown State University registered this morning’s earthquake activity. (Photo courtesy of U.S. Geological Survey)

Dispatchers in Poland and Boardman were flooded with calls from residents saying they felt their homes shake.

WKBN TV director John Korhely lives nearby and felt the second quake.

“I was actually getting ready to watch the noon news because I heard reports of other earthquakes. I felt mild shaking. If I didn’t know there were others, I wouldn’t have thought it was an earthquake,” Korhely said. “The house shook, but no pictures fell off the walls or anything, nothing to that extent.”

Youngstown State University geology professor Dr. Ray Beiersdorfer said Monday’s quakes are weak earthquakes. He also said he feels the quakes could have been human induced.

“Now these quakes are happening in an area that hasn’t had any quakes and it’s in close proximity to where they are fracking, so it’s a valid hypothesis that there is a connection between them,” Beiersdorfer said.

However, the well operator, Hilcorp Energy, said in a statement it has no disposal wells in the area and its operations at the Carbon Limestone site are Utica production wells. There are currently seven wells on two pads at that site on various stages of development, and only one well is currently producing oil and gas.

The Ohio Department of Natural Resources said Monday afternoon it has confirmed seismic activity in the area and is in the process of analyzing the data. A statement from ODNR public information officer Mark Bruce states “all available information indicates the events are not connected to Class II injection activities.”

However, the agency has ordered Hilcorp Energy, the oil and gas operator in that area, to halt all operations until further notice, citing “an abundance of caution.” The company said it agrees with that decision.

Bruce said the ODNR is using all available resources to determine the exact circumstances surrounding the event and will “take the appropriate actions necessary to protect public health and safety.”

Hilcorp Energy released a statement late Monday afternoon stating it is working with ODNR to investigate the seismic activity, noting early indications are the epicenter of one of the events was near Hilcorp wells in the Carbon Limestone Landfill in Poland.

“It is far too early in the process to know exactly what happened and we are not aware of any evidence to connect our operations to these events. We would also like to remind the community that a number of Utica wells have been drilled in Ohio in recent years without incident. Nevertheless, we do acknowledge that public safety is of paramount importance to our company. Accordingly, Hilcorp agrees with the ODNR that all activity at the site will be suspended immediately until we determine it is safe to continue our operations,” the statement said.

“Hilcorp always strives to be a good neighbor and responsible corporate citizen in the communities we operate in. We welcome the inquiry into exactly what happened in Poland and encourage state inspectors to provide the community with as information as possible,” the statement said.

The last significant earthquake in the area was New Year’s Eve 2011, when a 4.0 earthquake was recorded.

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