ALL SHOOK UP: STUDY NEEDED TO SHOW IF GEYSERS QUAKES ARE DAMAGING HOMES

Published on August 4, 2004

2004- The Press Democrat

PAGE: B4

For most Californians, even minor temblors are an event. Did you feel that quake this morning? For residents of the Lake County community of Anderson Springs, small earthquakes are an everyday occurence, with 574 taking place during a recent seven-month period.

While the area has always been seismically active, residents believe that the number of quakes has increased since Calpine Corp. began injecting wastewater into nearby steam fields at The Geysers.

Calpine and the Northern California Power Agency, which also operates at The Geysers, agree that their activity causes quakes but don't believe the shaking damages homes. Calpine senior geoscientist Mitch Stark points out that the quakes haven't damaged the company's Geysers' facilities -- but comparing Calpine's relatively new plants with homes built in the 1950s is like comparing potatoes and bananas.

At the very least, the companies should conduct an independent analysis of the increased seismic activity on buildings. A study may reveal that cracks and settling would have occured anyway -- or it may find that the quakes are causing damage.

If the answer is the first, residents will sleep easier. If the answer is the second, then Calpine has a responsibility to work with the community to prevent further damage.