Earthquake in New Castle credible, reviewed by seismologists

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ROANOKE COUNTY, Va. (WDBJ) - If you heard a loud boom early Tuesday morning, you're not the only one.

USGS Map

"It's frightening to think 'I just heard an earthquake,"' said Kathy Chandler, a Bent Mountain resident.

When she heard a loud noise that woke up a family member, she immediately thought "earthquake." That thought was confirmed a few hours later by the United States Geological Survey, or USGS.

"That's the closest I've ever come to experiencing what an earthquake could mean and meaning for us, that's the blast zone, if there's any impact to us," said Chandler.

Chandler has been concerned about the proposed Mountain Valley Pipeline, but experiencing the earthquake has heightened that concern even more.

"If there is leakage of gas, any friction of the pipe can result in explosion, and I didn't feel that fear as much as I did today knowing that I actually heard that sound," said Chandler.

The sound, according to a seismologist for the USGS is uncommon, and it's even less common to have multiple earthquakes.

"It's unusual to have these two events, whatever they are, within a few hours of each other," said Martin Chapman, a Virginia Tech professor and seismologist.

USGS records events in Universal Standard Time, which means the first earthquake was recorded just before 1:43 AM.

"The smaller one was 2.1, the earlier one was 2.1 and the larger one that most people felt was 2.5," said John Bellini, a geophysicist for the USGS.

But those magnitudes raise eyebrows for areas the pipeline approaches.

"I personally believe that the pipeline adds an extra huge layer of risk for anyone who lives here," said Chandler.

We reached out to MVP for comment on the earthquake and they sent us the following statement:

"The Mountain Valley Pipeline was specifically designed to account for local geologic conditions, including seismic activity, which the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission acknowledged in its Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) for the project in 2017. The FEIS also notes pipelines have performed well in seismically active areas of the U.S., including California.

Several natural gas pipelines currently operate safely in southwest Virginia. These underground pipeline systems are widely recognized as the safest means for transporting the fuel needed for home heating, cooking, business use, transportation, and other daily tasks.

The MVP team is committed to safely and responsibly building this important infrastructure project and bringing it into service in 2020 to meet the natural gas demands of customers in the Roanoke Valley and across the region."

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