Earthquakes caused by gas extraction in Groningen have been leading to serious consequences for residents, not only damaging houses but also triggering mental health issues .
On September 24, two earthquakes of 2.7 and 1.7 on the Richter scale shook the villages of Uithuizermeeden and Uithuizen in the Groningen province, spreading fear and distress among locals.
There have been 335 damage reports to date, according to the Groningen Mining Damage Institute (IMG). Of the reports, 110 came from the area within the epicenter of the quakes – like Warffum, Bedum and Leermens – including 12 potentially acutely unsafe situations.
“This was the first time I experienced an earthquake and it was actually frightening, because we did not know what to expect,” said Anna Vinke, a 63-year-old woman who recently moved to Uithuizermeeden with her husband.
Even though the couple was previously aware of the constant tremors caused by the extraction of natural gas in the region, Vinke mentioned that they were surprised by the strength and she fears that these incidents will get even stronger in the future.
The Groningen gas field, one of the largest in the world, is operated by the Nam joint venture (Shell and Exxon Mobil) in partnership with the Dutch government. The production of gas, however, has been causing constant earthquakes in the area. Since 1986, more than a 1000 tremors have hit the province.
Mental health issues triggered by these earthquakes have been identified among thousands of residents of Groningen, according to the NL Times.
“My wife really struggles to sleep due to the vibrations caused by the gas extractions,” said Gerrit de Vries, a resident in Warffum, a small village located in the north part of the Netherlands. In 2012, he had his house seriously damaged by the heaviest earthquake to date measured in Groningen that had its epicenter in Huizinge.
De Vries stressed that all “the problems caused by the earthquakes and connected damages are a big burden,” adding that his recently discovered heart problem might also be related to this continuous distress.
Since July 2020, IMG has been responsible for handling all damage caused by earthquakes as a result of the extraction of gas from the Groningen field. The institute offers different forms of compensation, depending on the severity of the reported damage. These processes, however, can be exhausting and painful.
“All of my memories are gone,” said Sonja*, who had to leave her property in Loppersum as it was condemned by an earthquake. During the 1,5 year that she lived in a temporary apartment, Sonja, who also has ADHD, told us that it was a very hard moment for her, because she could not focus on anything which triggered her anxiety.
After receiving the keys to her renovated house, Sonja confessed that just the thought of potentially having to go through this process again makes her feel depressed.
In response to frequent earthquakes, the production of gas in the Groningen field will be lowered to its minimum amount for the next coming year, starting on October 1, and is expected to end in 2024, the Dutch government announced on Monday.
*Sonja chose to have her last name anonymous.