Illinois Earthquake? Might Have Been Quarry Blast, Scientists Say

Tuesday, 05 Nov 2013 06:56 PM

By David Ogul

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An "earthquake" that shook a western Chicago suburb in Illinois on Monday may not have been an earthquake after all, according to the U.S. Geological Survey, which says the unusual shaking may have been from a quarry blast.

Harley Benz, a scientist with the U.S. Geological Survey, told the Chicago Tribune that seismic waves from Monday's event don’t measure up to an earthquake, which occurs much deeper beneath the earth’s surface.

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“This is one that’s relatively shallow,” he told the Tribune. “It’s far more indicative of human industrial activity.”

The Survey initially recorded the shaking at a magnitude 3.7 on the Richter scale, but that was later downgraded to a 3.2. While unnoticeable according to California standards, that would be significant for a temblor in the Midwest, though not unheard of.

A series of Missouri earthquakes in 1811 and 1812 measured from 7.0 to 8.1 on the Richter scale. They were centered near the town of New Madrid, south of St. Louis.

Meanwhile, folks at the quarry near Chicago say there were two events, not one, and one of the events was, in fact, an earthquake.

Quarry operator Hansen materials told ABC News in Chicago that the more powerful shaking happened seven seconds after the blast.

“At this time we have no reason to believe there is a connection between our routine blast and the seismic event,” Hansen Materials said in a statement, according to ABC.

“We can argue over what came first, the chicken or the egg, but there’s got to be a reasonable explanation of why those two things occurred at the time they did," Jeff Tobolski, the mayor of McCook, Ill., where the shaking was strongest, told the news station.

The U.S. Geological Survey is not budging in its belief.

“Based on what they’ve looked at, we’re pretty sure it’s from a blast,” physicist Paul Caruso told the Tribune. “It’s not an earthquake.”

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