WHAT’S BEING CLAIMED:
- A bubbling mud pool has been slowly moving through California but no evidence that it is a sign of an impending earthquake.
- The biggest worry is how it can potentially damage a lot of infrastructure along its course.
- The Niland geyser has so far jumped to 240 feet from its old location.
A puzzling mud pool dubbed as the “Slow One” has become the focus of immense interest due to its latest movement coursing through Southern California. The mud is threatening man-made infrastructures along its path.
Despite its movement nearing the location of the so-called “Big One”, US geophysicist Ken Hudnut says there is no evidence that the mud pot is an immediate predecessor to a giant earthquake.
Hudnut emphasized that the movements are not seismic in nature. Rather, it is caused by a historic earthquake activity that creates cracks to allow underground gases to reach the earth’s surface and cause bubbling mud pools.
The biggest concern though is how the slow-moving mystery could cause destruction to infrastructure along its way.
According to LA Times, these include: Union Pacific freight railroad tracks connecting Inland Empire to Yuma, Arizona; a petroleum pipeline owned by Kinder Morgan; Verizon’s long stretch of fiber optic telecommunication lines, and a part of Highway 111 which connects Interstate 10 to the California-Mexico border.
Located in Imperial County, the muddy spring also called Niland Geyser has been documented since 1953 and hasn’t moved for decades. Although slight movements have been detected over the years by geophysicist David Lynch, it was only in the past 6 months when movements became more noticeable. Imperial County officials report that the geyser picked up enough speed from moving 60 feet over a few months to a giant 60 feet in one day.
Described as a “slow-moving disaster” by Imperial County’s fire chief Alfredo Estrada, the gurgling rotten-egg smelling mud pool has so far moved more than 240 feet from its original location.
This summer, an emergency was declared by Imperial County to enable officials to prepare and address the impending disaster and possibly stop the movements from getting closer to the railroad tracks. Efforts undertaken by officials included draining water from the moving spring.
To protect the railroad, Union Pacific built a 100-feet long wall of large boulders and more than 75 feet deep of steel in the earth. It also added temporary tracks and reduced the speed limits for trains in the area. If the mud pot gets too close to the roadway, Caltrans plans to close down a section of the highway. So far, they haven’t worked.
Meanwhile, the public has been advised to stay away from the spring. Lynch said that if victims fall in, they will be suffocated in minutes due to the toxic air and lack of oxygen. But the carbon dioxide dissolves within a few feet of the moving ‘sinkhole’.
Source: Live Science