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The Texas Tribune: Surprise quakes stir up Tarrant County residents

After a contentious town hall meeting concerning the possible links between wastewater injection and a spate of North Texas earthquakes, locals say they cannot afford to wait for state regulators to address the issue.

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Journalist Jim Malewitz with The Texas Tribune tapped the expertise of SMU geophysicist Brian Stump, whose research has looked at the operation of saltwater injection disposal wells and small earthquakes that have occurred in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

Stump is Albritton Professor of Earth Sciences in SMU’s Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences. His primary research interests include seismic wave propagation, seismic source theory and shallow geophysical site characterization. Recent work has focused on characterization of explosions as sources of seismic waves. Studies have included the quantification of single-fired nuclear and chemical explosions as well as millisecond-delay-fired explosions typical of those used in the mining industry. The spatial and temporal effects of mining explosions and their signature in regional waveforms have been of particular interest. This research has application to the monitoring of a Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty where even small explosions will have to be identified using their seismic signatures.

Stump received his Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkeley. Immediately following his graduate education he spent four years on active duty with the US Air Force as a staff seismologist and ultimately as Chief of the Geological Siting and Seismology Section. He joined the SMU faculty in 1983.

The Texas Tribunes’s coverage, “After Surprise Quakes, North Texans Speak of Impact,” was published online Jan. 3.

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By Jim Malewitz
The Texas Tribune

Melanie Williams does not want to abandon her home. She has been there, done that. That’s why she’s here now.

After Hurricane Katrina forced her to leave New Orleans eight years ago, the 47-year-old took refuge in this small town near Fort Worth — about 300 miles from the Gulf Coast waters that engulfed her former life.

But, once again, Williams is living on shaky ground — this time, literally. She says a recently cracked foundation and busted water pipe have made her decade-old house unlivable, leaving her struggling to pay rent for an apartment on top of her mortgage as she awaits the fixes.

Williams blames a recent string of earthquakes, whose rumblings she never expected to feel when she settled here.

“I’ve had it up to here with the disasters,” she said in an interview. “It’s like they’ve been following me.” [ … ]

[ … ] In 2008 and 2009, folks in the Dallas-Fort Worth area were shaken by three series of earthquakes, with magnitudes as high as 3.3. In a study prompted by those concerns, researchers at Southern Methodist University and the University of Texas at Austin concluded that local disposal wells were a “plausible” cause, though they found it “puzzling” that the tremors were concentrated in just one or two locations in a region that had more than 200 disposal wells.

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