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By Bob Downing
Beacon Journal staff writer
Published: January 1, 2012 - 12:00 AM
Barbara Forney’s Christmas tree was flattened on Saturday afternoon in her West Akron house.
“It was like someone pushed it down,” the 79-year-old woman said.
It had been standing by the fireplace in her living room until an earthquake tied to injection wells near Youngstown rumbled across Northeast Ohio.
The 4.0-magnitude quake was centered near Youngstown, reported the U.S. Geological Survey and the Ohio Earthquake Information Center.
The earthquake at 3:05 p.m. was felt as far away as Michigan, Ontario, Pennsylvania and New York, reported Michael C. Hansen, state geologist and coordinator of the Ohio Seismic Network, part of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources’ Division of Geological Survey.
There is “little doubt” that the quake is linked to injection wells that the state and the owner agreed on Friday to shut down, Hansen said.
James Zehringer, director of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, announced the closing of two injection wells in Youngstown Township owned by Northstar Disposal Services LLC and operated by D&L Energy Inc.
The order to close came despite the fact that the state has been unable to prove that the wells, which are 9,000 feet deep, are the cause of the earthquakes.
The wells were used to dispose of salty brine wastes from gas and oil drilling by pumping them under pressure into rock formations deep underground.
The wells are among 177 in Ohio. Drilling wastes from Ohio and Pennsylvania are being pumped in increasing volumes into the wells for permanent disposal.
Geologists have long suspected that injecting liquids into underground rock formations can trigger earthquakes along fault lines. The liquids allow rocks to flow more easily past each other.
Earthquakes have been linked to injection wells in Arkansas, West Virginia, Colorado and Texas.