Small earthquakes rattle North Texans



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Posted on June 26, 2012 at 6:24 PM

Updated Tuesday, Jun 26 at 10:02 PM

JOSHUA, Texas — "This is what got jarred loose right here," Camille Dearing said, pointing at the back of her home in Joshua.

She admits it's not much damage — a separated downspout, maybe a hairline mortar crack and loosened vent.

But Sunday's earthquake in Johnson County was strong enough to knock Dearing out of a deep sleep.

"As I jumped up, then I felt the whole house feel like it shifted sideways," she said. "That was the scary part. Sound first, then movement.

It scared her granddaughter, too. "Kaboom!" exclaimed four-year-old Audrey

The rumbling lit up 911 lines across Johnson County. It was the third mild quake in four days, including a 2.6 magnitude jolt just after 11 p.m. Monday

"Shook the windows really bad," said Lisa Hansen, who lives near Alvarado. "I almost thought they were going to break.

She said Sunday's 3.6 magnitude tremor felt like a wave that rolled beneath her house, causing furniture to shift.

Many residents believe gas drilling operations may be responsible for the unstable earth.

There is a gas well right outside Camille Dearing's neighborhood, but so far, scientists say they've found no link between gas well fracking and earthquakes. But they do suspect waste water injection wells could be a factor.

"Johnson County has over 200 of them," said TCU drilling expert Ken Morgan. "Two-hundred and fifty some odd injection wells, and if you get a little too aggressive, you could... you could activate something."

Morgan is among a growing number of geologists who suspect that injecting drilling waste fluids underground can stress fault lines if it is done with enough volume and pressure.

"Don't mix this with fracking. We've had no tie to fracking," he emphasizes. But he said Texas is likely to take another look at injection wells to see if something needs to change.

This is not a new technique. Morgan said there are thousands of injection wells across the state that have caused no problems.

On Facebook, some Johnson County residents make fun of their scare (one posted a photo of a plastic lawn furniture set with one chair on its side), but they do wonder what's coming next.