New Study Raises Concern About Palos Verdes Earthquake Fault

The LA Times reported on a new study from Harvard University that unveiled a new interpretation of the previously known Palos Verdes Fault System.  The study concluded that what was previously thought to be a network of small segmented faults is actually a system of interconnected fractures.  When triggered, the result would potentially be a more widespread earthquake than previously thought, capable of unleashing energy comparable to that which would be released by a rupture on the famed San Andreas fault with magnitude up to 7.8. 

Like the San Andreas Fault, which cuts through Northern California’s densely populated Bay Area, the Palos Verdes Fault passes underneath the densely populated regions of Long Beach, Torrance, and the Beach Cities, and within four miles of the Torrance Refinery and three miles of the Wilmington Valero Refinery.  

Regardless of design mitigation steps taken by the refineries, the experience at Fukushima Nuclear Power station in 2011 demonstrated that natural disasters in excess of design limits can occur, and can have catastrophic results.  

While scientists estimate the Palos Verdes Fault to be relatively inactive and slow moving, they also estimate damage and death from a rupture without considering the implications of potential release of HF.  The high cost of such a release must be considered.