By Linda Smith
Undiscovered causes have brought 27 earthquakes to Irving in the past month according to earthquaketracker.com. 12 of those earthquakes struck over the course of two days in the first week of January. This drastic increase in seismic activity has prompted University of Dallas officials to develop safety procedures for the UD community.
Dore Madere, director of student life, referred to a mass email sent out to students regarding earthquake safety, and students living in residence halls received information at their hall meetings.
“The Office of Student Life has been in contact with the City of Irving and instructed on best practices in earthquake safety,” Madere said in an email.
The websites of Campus Safety and the Office of Student Life, as well as the Facebook pages of OSL and Parents, have been updated with earthquake facts and safety tips.
Communications Specialist Heather Tutuska said that UD staff have been diligently monitoring the campus for any signs of earthquake damage.
“The University of Dallas takes the safety of its students, faculty and staff very seriously,” Tutuska said. “At the present time, we are not aware of any damage to structures based on previous earthquakes. Our facilities crew is monitoring the gas lines and checking for leaks regularly. According to Charlie Steadman, CSO captain, ‘The officers on duty felt the earthquakes and checked for damage. They found nothing, so everything was logged as appearing normal.’”
Madere said that beyond UD, the city of Irving has been working in conjunction with the city of Dallas and Southern Methodist University to study the earthquakes in the area. Scientists studying the earthquakes conceded in an Irving city council meeting on Jan. 15 that the city has been struck by an “earthquake swarm,” according to a Dallas Observer article. The article further quotes the scientists as saying that more than 120 earthquakes have rattled the North Texas area since 2008 and that there were no recordings of any before that. 22 seismographs have been installed to identify the more precise location of these earthquakes.
Much has gone into the speculation of the causes of the earthquakes. The increase in hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, has been the principal scapegoat for many. Fracking “refers to the procedure of creating fractures in rocks and rock formations by injecting fluid into cracks to force them further open” to allow for a better flowing of oil and gas, according to investopedia.com. Construction near the old Cowboys stadium, along State Highway 183, and the DART have also been blamed for the activity. At the January 15 council meeting, Texas Railroad Commission seismologist Craig Pearson said that he doubted fracking was to blame because there are no wells currently operating in Irving or Dallas county. Citing information on cityofirving.org, Madere said in an emailed statement that “Irving’s two gas wells were hydraulically fractured in 2010,” and “there has not been any fracking in Irving since then.”
“There are not – and have never been – any wastewater drilling or injection wells in Irving,” Madere continued. “By city ordinance, any wastewater produced from drilling in Irving was trucked out of the city. There are currently no active drilling sites in all of Dallas County.”
However, Dallas Observer writer Stephen Young links to an article that explains that “pressure differences created by wells can last years after the wells go out of service.” The North Texas Earthquake Information Sheet from the city of Irving says that “experts currently do not know the cause of these earthquakes and are hesitant to speculate.” Scientists will study the data from 22 newly-installed seismographs to understand the actual cause of the earthquakes.
Irving is the fourth North Texas area to experience an earthquake swarm, with the Azle area experiencing 27 quakes over three months and Cleburne being hit by two clusters, in 2009 and 2012, according to a Dallas Morning News article published on Jan.10.
Madere invites students with questions or who are approached for commentary on the earthquakes to refer to OSL or Campus Safety. For the UD community, it seems that the most important step going forward is becoming educated about earthquakes and what to do in the event that more occur.