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The sudden swarm of earthquakes in Arkansas -- including the largest quake to hit the state in 35 years -- is very possibly an after effect of natural-gas drilling, experts warn.
At issue is a practice called hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking," in which water is injected into the ground at high pressure to fracture rock and release natural gas trapped within it.
Geologists don't believe the fracking itself is a problem. But Steve Horton, an earthquake specialist at the University of Memphis and hydrologic technician with the U.S. Geological Survey, is worried by a correlation between the Arkansas earthquake swarm and a side effect of the drilling: the disposal of wastewater in injection wells.
"Ninety percent of these earthquakes that have happened since 2009 have been within 6 kilometers of these salt water disposal wells," he told FoxNews.com. The timing is too coincidental to ignore, Horton said.
Salt water is a common by-product of the fracking process, and the simplest solution is to inject the toxic wastewater back into the ground. But that can lubricate the surrounding rock, experts warn, possibly leading to quakes.
"They started doing these injection wells in the area that we're talking about in April of 2009. Since that time, there has been an increase in the rate of seismicity," Horton told FoxNews.com. "The increase in the rate of activity we've seen is temporally associated with the use of these wells to dispose of fluids in the subsurface."
Hanan Mahdi, a seismologist at the University of Arkansas, noted a similar connection in an interview with the International Business Times. She speculated that there could be two kinds of seismic activity in the area -- one natural, the other caused by pumping salt water into the ground.