Wastewater wells in Oklahoma ordered to shut down

Courtesy photo

PAWNEE, Okla. – The Oklahoma Corporation Commission has directed dozens of wastewater disposal wells within an approximate 500-square-mile radius of the epicenter of the Oklahoma earthquake Saturday to shut down.

The commission says about 35 wells are included in the directive, which was issued following the 5.6 magnitude earthquake that struck Saturday morning about nine miles northwest of Pawnee in north-central Oklahoma.

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The number of magnitude 3.0 or greater earthquakes has skyrocketed in Oklahoma, from a few dozen in 2012 to more than 900 last year.

Commission spokesman Matt Skinner says the wells were directed to shut down due to scientific links that the increase to the underground disposal of wastewater from oil and gas production induces earthquakes. The commission has previously asked producers to reduce wastewater disposal volumes.

The earthquake ties the record for the strongest earthquake in recorded Oklahoma history. No major damage was reported, and there was one minor injury.

Here are updates as events unfolded Saturday:


11:45 a.m.

One minor injury has been reported as the result of a 5.6 magnitude earthquake in north-central Oklahoma.

Pawnee County Emergency Management Director Mark Randell says a man protecting his child suffered a head injury when part of a fireplace fell on him.

Randell says the man was treated at a hospital and released.

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The U.S. Geological Survey reports the quake struck at 7:02 a.m. about nine miles northwest of Pawnee, a town of about 2,200 about 70 miles northwest of Oklahoma City.

The USGS also reports about a half-dozen aftershocks in the same area, including one that was a 3.6 magnitude at 7:58 a.m.


11 a.m.

Staffers at the Wolf Creek nuclear power plant in southeast Kansas found no damage to the plant after an earthquake rattled a large swath of the Midwest.

Spokeswoman Jenny Hageman says Saturday’s 5.6 magnitude earthquake centered in north-central Oklahoma did not shake the plant near Burlington, Kansas, enough to set off a seismic alarm but staff checked it as a precaution.

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KVOE reports ( ) the plant was shut down Friday by a water leak. Hageman says the source of the leak in the reactor cooling system inside the plant’s containment area has been identified and that there was never of threat of a radiation leak.

It’s unclear when Wolf Creek will return to operation.


10 a.m.

A Pawnee business owner says the 5.6 magnitude earthquake shook his house “like a rubber band” and knocked items off cabinets and broke glass.

Furniture store owner Lee Wills told The Associated Press he was awake when the quake struck at 7:02 a.m. Saturday and first thought it was a thunderstorm.

But then his home, which is about 2 1 / 2 miles outside of town, started shaking.

Wills said buildings in the downtown area are cracked and sandstone facing on some buildings fell and described the scene as “a mess.”

The quake was felt as far away as Nebraska.


9:10 a.m.

The Pawnee County emergency management director says no injuries have been reported and no buildings have collapsed following a magnitude 5.6 earthquake that ties a 2011 temblor for the strongest in Oklahoma history.

Mark Randell said the Saturday morning quake did cause cracks and damages to city buildings, some of which date to the early 1900s.

The U.S. Geological Survey reports the quake struck at 7:02 a.m. about nine miles northwest of Pawnee, a town of about 2,200 about 70 miles northwest of Oklahoma City.

The U.S.G.S. also reports a 3.6 magnitude aftershock in the same area at 7:58 a.m.


8:55 a.m.

Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin says that crews are checking bridges and structures for damage after the 5.6 magnitude earthquake, which ties a 2011 temblor for the biggest on record in the state.

Fallin tweeted Saturday morning that the Oklahoma Department of Transportation is checking bridges in the Pawnee area for damage. The quake was centered about 9 miles northwest of the town of about 2,200 people.

Fallin also tweeted that state officials want structural engineers to look at building safety in the wake of the quake, which the U.S. Geological Society happened at 7:02 a.m.

No major damage was immediately reported. The quake was felt as far away as Nebraska.


7:20 a.m.

An earthquake has rattled a swath of the Great Plains, from Kansas City, Missouri, to central Oklahoma.

The United States Geological Survey didn’t immediately post data on its website about the size of the earthquake or where it was centered.

People in Kansas City, Missouri, Fayetteville, Arkansas, and Norman, Oklahoma, all reported feeling the earthquake at about 7:05 a.m. Saturday.