Earthquake near Utah-Colorado border likely caused by human activity, gov’t officials say

This shows an aerial view of the Paradox Paradox Valley Salinity Control Facility. Photo: U.S. Bureau of Reclamation

DOVE CREEK, Colo., March 5, 2019 (Gephardt Daily) — An earthquake Monday in Colorado, near the Utah border, was likely caused by activity by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.

A statement released late Monday by the agency says the quake was felt at 10:22 a.m. near the Bureau’s Paradox Valley Salinity Control Facility near Bedrock, Colo.

“Reclamation maintains a comprehensive network of seismic monitoring instruments in the area, which indicated a preliminary magnitude 4.1 for this earthquake,” the statement says.

“The Paradox Valley Salinity Control Facility injects highly pressurized, concentrated salt water (brine) into a 16,000-foot-deep well, preventing the brine from entering the Dolores River.”

“High-pressure brine injection has been known to trigger small earthquakes in the past, and today’s event was within the range of previously induced earthquakes.”

Reclamation’s seismic network in the area monitors the location, magnitude and frequency around the Paradox Valley Salinity Control Facility. Reclamation will continue using that network to monitor earthquakes in the area, the statement says.

“The well was not operating at the time of the earthquake due to routine maintenance. Operations will not resume until Reclamation completes a thorough assessment of the situation.”

The statement said the Paradox Valley Salinity Control Facility “benefits downstream water quality in the Colorado River Basin, and helps the United States meet treaty obligations with Mexico for allowable salinity levels in the river.

“Historically, the Dolores River picked up an estimated 205,000 tons of salt annually as it passed through the Paradox Valley. Since the mid-1990s much of this salt has been collected by the Paradox Valley Salinity Control Unit in shallow wells along the Dolores River and then injected into deep subsurface geologic formations. The deep well injection program removes about 95,000 tons of salt annually from the Dolores and Colorado rivers.”

Moab Police tweeted Monday that the earthquake was felt by residents.

“An #earthquake centered on Dove Creek, Colorado was just felt in #Moab,” Moab PD tweeted. “We have not received any reports of damage or other issues related to the tremor.”

The U.S. Geological Survey said on its website that earthquakes of magnitudes of 2.5 to 5.4, of which there are around 30,000 per year worldwide, are often felt, but usually cause minor damage, if any.

A yellow star marks the location of an earthquake felt Monday near the Colorado-Utah border. Image: earthquake.usgs.gov

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