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A lawsuit filed by 14 families blames “swarms” of earthquakes in central Arkansas on natural gas disposal wells used to get rid of drilling fluids and wastewater under high pressure.

 

The lawsuit was filed Tuesday against Oklahoma City-based Chesapeake Operating and BHP Billiton Petroleum of Australia.

It alleges that the natural gas disposal wells operated by the two companies resulted in thousands of earthquakes in Arkansas in 2010 and 2011.

BHP  bought Chesapeake’s Arkansas assets in March 2011.

The lawsuit filed Tuesday says the earthquakes damaged the families’ homes and caused the market value for the houses to decline.

“From about July 2010 through August 2011, well over [1,000] quakes of a minimum magnitude of 1.0 have occurred in the area,” the lawsuit alleges. “Two earthquakes registered a magnitude of 4.0 and 4.7. Over 30 earthquakes registered a magnitude of 3.0 or above.”

In July 2011, the Arkansas Oil and Gas Commission banned use of injection wells in a 1,150-square-mile area mostly north of Conway because of the earthquakes.

No injuries have been reported because of the quakes.

“But cracked walls were reported in several homes, and one quake caused a wall to fall at a mechanic’s shop in Leslie, in Searcy County,” the AP said.

Separately, seismologists with the Oklahoma Geological Survey said that state recorded 222 earthquakes with magnitudes of 2.5 or greater last year, far more than the 64 recorded in 2012, the report said.

Oklahoma has recorded 63 earthquakes at 2.5 magnitude or greater so far in 2014.