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From Staff Reports

OKLAHOMA CITY—A 5.1 magnitude earthquake shook northwestern Oklahoma recently, an event the U.S. Geological Survey said should trouble wastewater injection companies.

The USGS said the earthquake could have been caused by wastewater injection, which can involve taking water used in fracking and injecting it into underground wells, ostensibly to not contaminate more drinking water.

If the quake is confirmed to be related to fracking, it would be one of the largest earthquakes caused by hydraulic fracturing to date, and may speak to even larger earthquakes ahead throughout the Midwest.

The earthquake started at 12:07 p.m. with the epicenter about 20 miles northwest of Fairview, Okla. The epicenter was relatively shallow, just 4.5 miles below the surface. Little damage was reported.

Earthquakes typically take place between the surface and about 500 miles beneath the surface. A small fault line runs through Oklahoma.

On Twitter, USGS said the specific cause of the earthquake was not immediately known. "But many quakes in area have been triggered by wastewater fluid injection," the agency noted.

Hydraulic fracking involves shooting water or corrosive chemicals, under extreme pressure, into the Earth's crust to force the release of oil or natural gas trapped for millions of years between layers of rock.

The Saturday Noon earthquake is the largest in Oklahoma in five years. A 5.6 magnitude quake shook the state in 2011. Scientists determined that quake may have resulted from a human-caused 5.0 magnitude earthquake days before.

Larger quakes could affect the entire region causing widespread damage and potential injuries putting at risk a profitable arrangement that energy companies have with state politicians.


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