Thursday, March 16, 2006

When Mt. St. Helens moves her bowels ...

brown water flows out of faucets in Arkansas.

A simple little earthquake on March 7th, 2006, and 22 hours later, there were calls about brown water in the Feliciana Parish.

“People don’t want to believe me when I say an earthquake caused their brown water, but it’s true,” John Hashagen said.
Hashagen said he began looking into the possible effects of seismic waves on the Laurel Hill wells after reading an article in WaterWorld, a magazine for the municipal water industry, on the effects the March 1964 Alaskan earthquake had on water systems across the country.
Not only did the utilities chief uncover a possible connection between west coast earthquakes and discolored water, he found a way to use that information.

Apparently there are only two wells in the area that are sensitive to seismic activity.
Hashagen said he and water district employees can prevent the wells from pumping the discolored water if they learn about an earthquake hundreds or thousands of miles away in time to temporarily shut down the wells.
So, he signed up for earthquake alerts, via e-mail, from the U.S. Geological Survey. Whenever a quake occurs that measures over 5.0 on the Richter scale, he gets the message and shuts down the wells.

The brown water happened on March 8th because the March 7th earthquake was too small to trigger the e-mail alert (only 3.1 on the Richter scale).

I think if Dave Barry were a science teacher, this is the kind of stuff he would love.

Thanks are due to the WSTA for sharing the fun!


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3/39/2006 Update: It should be noted that the geological jury is not convinced that Mr. Hashagen is correct. He might be right, Mt. St. Helen's movements might truly be connected with the funny colored water, but a bit more science needs to be done before geologists will believe that the connection is real.

How would you test this? What sorts of data do you think need to be collected and analyzed in order to test Mr. Hashagen's hypothesis?


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