PORTLAND, OR (KPTV) – Researchers with Portland State University are using a simulation to figure out what would happen to Oregon’s soil if the 'big one' hits.

Because Oregon is so close to the Columbia and Willamette, we are especially prone to liquefication, researchers say. So scientists wondered – what if we could make the soil a little more sturdy?

PSU brought in a machine they call a T-Rex on loan from University of Texas at Austin for the first field test in the U.S. The machine simulates an earthquake and can measure changes in the soil using above ground sensors.

The machine at PSU tested soil that was injected with bacteria weeks ago to see if the bacteria makes the soil less likely to turn to soup in an earthquake.

“If it is effective, that will be a gamechanger because we can mitigate liquefication with much reduced cost and with potentially a lot more effectiveness with the type of soil we have here,” Arash Khosravifar, an assistant professor at PSU, said.

Of course, a powerful quake could cause extensive damage to bridges and roads, but it could also cause fallout you might not expect, including oil spills. That’s because 90 percent of Oregon’s fuel supply is sitting on unstable soil.

PSU scientists say a spill into the Willamette is likely, causing an environmental disaster and fuel shortages. Oregon’s department of geology says six miles of fuel terminals along the Willamette are of particular concern.

The scientists will continue their work over the next three to five years; if the process is successful here, scientists say they want to try it in other major cities that are prone to earthquakes.

Copyright 2019 KPTV-KPDX Broadcasting Corporation. All rights reserved.


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