EPA: Increased seismicity 'single biggest issue'

Intensity map of the 4.4 magnitude quake that struck south west of Medford early Oct. 10 morning and shows it was felt as far away as MacPherson, Kan., Tulsa and Norman, Okla. (From the USGS)

Read Enid News & Eagle's earthquake series "WHO'S AT FAULT?" HERE.

ENID, Okla. — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency released its 2014 annual report and review of the Oklahoma Corporation Commission's Class II Underground Injection Control program.

Corporation Commission Public Information Officer Matt Skinner said Oklahoma is one of the few states granted the abilities to run its own program under EPA guidance.

The report said increased seismic activity was the "single biggest issue" facing the OCC in 2014.

"EPA remains concerned with the continued upward trend in seismicity and recommends that OCC implement additional regulatory actions to assure protection of Underground Sources of Drinking Water, including further reduction of injection volumes into the Arbuckle disposal formation in seismically active areas," states the report.

The EPA suggest OCC continue to monitor, assess and map the Arbuckle Formation.

A main concern focused on the RBDMS, Risk Based Data Management System, created through the Ground Water Protection Council.

The Ground Water Protection Council is a member of the governor's Coordinating Council on Seismic Activity, which studies the issue of reporting and increased seismic activity.

The EPA suggested OCC invest more resources and support staff to resolve issues with the reporting system.

The first year the system was fully implemented in Oklahoma was 2014. The program is used by several states and part of a national effort, said Skinner.

"It needs to be made clear that the system isn’t a total fiasco but there have been serious issues that have had to be addressed and serious issues are still being addressed," Skinner said. "2014 was the first full year for the system so whenever you do a radical change, you will have those problems. We need those issues fixed quickly, and many of them have but issues still remain."

Skinner said the OCC's former system was no longer supported by anyone or any technology. He said RBDMS was a "viable option" and several issues resulted from changing from the antiquated system to the more high-tech solution.

The EPA report stated the system has "significant issues with operations and data quality."

"For a variety of reasons, this system currently prevents accurate tracking and reporting for Mechanical Integrity Tests (MIT, F1075), Annual Fluid Injection Reports (F1012), and EPA Form 7520," according to the report.

Skinner said more of the reporting issues have been resolved.

"The big issue is the tracking issue," he said. "The ability to see if a particular well had a test to make sure the well's case is sound and that the well is doing the job — if you can't lay your hands on that quickly, or if there's been an entry matter, that is serious. Our people need to know when the last time a well was MIT-ed."

Skinner said the EPA has worked to help resolve the issue and has offered support in the state's Underground Injection Control (UIC) program.

The EPA had other recommendations, including an increase in resources.

"EPA recommends the OCC implement addition a regulatory actions to assure protection of Underground Sources of Drinking Water, including further reduction of injection volumes into the Arbuckle disposal formation in seismically active areas," stated the report.

Skinner said he has not had a chance to discuss those recommendations with the EPA division 6 Water Quality Protection Division director.

"They understand the issues, and we agree with them," Skinner said. "There is a need for resources, absolutely."

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