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Excerpt: "Almost 3 billion gallons of oil industry wastewater have been illegally dumped into central California aquifers that supply drinking water and farming irrigation."

Protestors stage a demonstration against fracking in California outside of the Hiram W. Johnson State Office Building in San Francisco, California. (photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
Protestors stage a demonstration against fracking in California outside of the Hiram W. Johnson State Office Building in San Francisco, California. (photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Confirmed: Billions of Gallons of Fracking Waste Contaminate Drought-Ravaged California's Aquifers

By Center for Biological Diversity

09 October 14


lmost 3 billion gallons of oil industry wastewater have been illegally dumped into central California aquifers that supply drinking water and farming irrigation, according to state documents obtained by the Center for Biological Diversity. The wastewater entered the aquifers through at least nine injection disposal wells used by the oil industry to dispose of waste contaminated with fracking fluids and other pollutants.

The documents also reveal that Central Valley Water Board testing found high levels of arsenic, thallium and nitrates — contaminants sometimes found in oil industry wastewater — in water-supply wells near these waste-disposal operations.

“Clean water is one of California’s most crucial resources, and these documents make it clear that state regulators have utterly failed to protect our water from oil industry pollution,” said Hollin Kretzmann, a Center attorney. “Much more testing is needed to gauge the full extent of water pollution and the threat to public health. But Governor Brown should move quickly to halt fracking to ward off a surge in oil industry wastewater that California simply isn’t prepared to dispose of safely.”

The state’s Water Board confirmed beyond doubt that at least nine wastewater disposal wells have been injecting waste into aquifers that contain high-quality water that is supposed to be protected under federal and state law.

Thallium is an extremely toxic chemical commonly used in rat poison. Arsenic is a toxic chemical that can cause cancer. Some studies show that even low-level exposure to arsenic in drinking water can compromise the immune system’s ability to fight illness. “Arsenic and thallium are extremely dangerous chemicals,” said Timothy Krantz, a professor of environmental studies at the University of Redlands. “The fact that high concentrations are showing up in multiple water wells close to wastewater injection sites raises major concerns about the health and safety of nearby residents.”

The Center obtained a letter from the State Water Resources Control Board to the Environmental Protection Agency. The letter says that the Central Valley Regional Water Board has confirmed that injection wells have been dumping oil industry waste into aquifers that are legally protected under the federal Safe Drinking Water Act. The state Water Board also concedes that another 19 wells may also have contaminated protected aquifers, and dozens more have been injecting waste into aquifers of unknown quality.

The Central Valley Water Board tested eight water-supply wells out of more than 100 in the vicinity of these injection wells. Arsenic, nitrate and thallium exceeded the maximum contaminant level in half the water samples.

While the current extent of contamination is cause for grave concern, the long-term threat posed by the unlawful wastewater disposal may be even more devastating. Benzene, toluene and other harmful chemicals used in fracking fluid are routinely found in flowback water coming out of oil wells in California, often at levels hundreds of times higher than what is considered safe, and this flowback fluid is sent to wastewater disposal wells. Underground migration of chemicals like benzene can take years.

In July the state’s Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources shut down 11 Kern County oil field injection wells and began scrutinizing almost 100 others that were potentially contaminating protected groundwater. The Environmental Protection Agency, which has ultimate legal authority over underground injection, ordered state officials to provide an assessment of the water-contamination risk within 60 days, and the letter from the state Water Board confirms that illegal contamination has occurred at multiple sites.

California’s oil and gas fields produce billions of gallons of contaminated wastewater each year, and much of this contaminated fluid is injected underground. California has an estimated 2,583 wastewater injections wells, of which 1,552 are currently active. Wastewater injection wells are located throughout the state, from the Chico area in Northern California to Los Angeles in the south, and even include offshore wells near Santa Barbara. your social media marketing partner


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+42 # jwb110 2014-10-09 10:05
Speaking of the Kern River, for those who saw the movie China Town, the backlash in CA when the Kern River was diverted to Los Angeles and the San Fernando Valley was sizable. There were shootings and bombings of the pipeline as it was being built. Not pretty. The town of Bishop, once called the Switzerland of the Americas, was known for its produce and their fruit was shipped all over the world. Not happy still up in Bishop.
The Central Valley in CA produces enormous foodstuffs that are used around the world. About 80% of tomato products for world consumption come from that valley. My family had an orange orchard near Fresno so I speak from experience when I say that the last person I would want to piss off is a farmer in the Central Valley when you screw with their water. Woe betide the State and the Oil Industry if they don't stop the madness.
+74 # REDPILLED 2014-10-09 10:06
The human species is intent on committing slow suicide by corporate greed, with the help of corrupt politicians.
-1 # healthnpeace 2014-11-07 18:07
Seems apparent. However, there are people, like us, who believe in the powerful beauty of nature. With God, all things are possible.
+62 # Archie1954 2014-10-09 10:10
Someone should be facing many years in prison for this attack on the welfare of all Californians!
+62 # Working Class 2014-10-09 10:14
We are the only animal dumb enough to shit in its own nest. Unfortunately we are taking down other species with us.
+42 # indian weaver 2014-10-09 10:19
Actually we are taking down the entire planet, all living and inanimate structures on Earth. Would that we only destroyed the evil humans and leave innocent others to enjoy the planet as it "was". Such is the overweening greed and arrogance of you and me in technology land - suicidal, cruel and homicidal.
+5 # cymricmorty 2014-10-10 10:39
Working Class: Our big brains have only made us really fvcking stupid.
+29 # angelfish 2014-10-09 10:24
We, the willing and least powerful, led by the Big Money interests are continually forced to make something out of NOTHING, which is THEN, lessened by the greed and corruption of people who are SUPPOSED to be looking after the welfare of ALL of us! This is a CRIMINAL act and, if allowed to go unpunished, will go down in the annals of what USED to be a fairly decent Country, as the beginning of the END for humanity. I agree with Working Class's statement that "we are the only animal dumb enough to sh*t in it's own nest". Pitiful, sad and disgustingly TRUE.
+53 # Majikman 2014-10-09 10:37
If any of those chemicals were dumped into our water supply by a foreign entity, it would be called terrorism and WMD
+4 # Dust 2014-10-09 10:51
+30 # Dust 2014-10-09 10:55
So where is Midwest Tom telling us how safe fracking is and how there is no evidence whatsoever that fracking can contaminate drinking aquifers?
+14 # HowardMH 2014-10-09 12:41
He is hiding in the bushes and hoarding bottled water.
+5 # cymricmorty 2014-10-10 10:37
Along with Roland.
+9 # omatranter 2014-10-09 12:41
"So where is Midwest Tom"

Waiting for a money shot from a pair of Kocks?
+25 # James Klimaski 2014-10-09 12:59
Think this is bad wait until you see what the corporate controlled politicians do after the November elections.
+10 # ericlane 2014-10-10 03:04
Absolute insanity. The oil and gas industry the most profitable business in history, is taking humanity to extinction.
+14 # bcwik 2014-10-10 09:43
Didn’t all of this start with those secret meetings between the energy industry and Dick Cheney?
I think that was week two of the Bush administration.
+6 # V Appalachia 2014-10-10 16:51
Wastewater injection wells are permitted in California despite the known earthquake risks?

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