Oil Companies Raking in the Dough Selling Recycled Fracking Wastewater for Cali Farmland Irrigation
While the drought emergency imposes greater restrictions on California’s population, many of its struggling farmers are turning to a cheaper, but questionable and concerning, source of water to irrigate their crops.
Apparently big oil companies are making a killing off a side business, that is selling off the huge volumes of waste water “produced” through fracking to California’s drought-threatened agriculture sector. That means crops are grown in water with known and suspected carcinogens, along with hundreds of concerning chemicals. Via WhoWhatWhy:
The drought in California is bad news for residents, farmers and authorities—but not for Chevron, which is making a killing by selling treated oil-field wastewater to the state.
The Chevron water is being sold for irrigation purposes, not personal consumption. That’s because it would likely not be safe to drink the millions of gallons that the oil giant recycles daily. But irrigation water is, of course, intimately involved with agricultural products, Which raises the question: can it be dangerous to consumers, even if it’s not consumed directly?
Officially, California authorities are praising the Chevron arrangement as a win for a state suffering a years-long drought. At the same time, government officials are stepping up efforts to find out exactly which chemicals are being used in oil production—chemicals that might already be finding their way into the fields and orchards of California’s agricultural heartland.
Are they absorbed into food and transmitted into you? With an astonishing record for avoiding tests of water, conducting long term studies and a failure to ask the right questions, that answer is hard to know.
The “experts” are not exactly going out of their way to check, either:
No one knows whether nuts, citrus or other crops grown with the recycled oil field water have been contaminated. Farmers may test crops for pests or disease, but they don’t check for water-borne chemicals. Instead, they rely on oversight by state and local water authorities.
But this authority – asserting that everything is OK – doesn’t even seem to know who is supposed to be testing the water, while the farmers are reported as “trusting the soil” to clean it up, while everyone else can apparently smell it:
“As long as they’re treating the water to the point where it’s allowed by whatever agency governs the quality of water, I think it would be OK,” said Glenn Fankhauser, assistant director of the Kern County Department of Agriculture and Measurement Standards.
Blake Sanden, an agriculture extension agent and irrigation water expert with UC Davis, said “everyone smells the petrochemicals in the irrigation water” in the Cawelo district. But he said local farmers trust that organisms in the soil remove toxins or impurities in water.
A letter to the editor of the L.A. Times summed up this appalling failure to investigate and pass the buck:
Oil companies sell their “recycled” wastewater to farmers for crop irrigation; state authorities test the water only for naturally occurring toxins; the oil companies won’t reveal all the chemicals they use; the State Water Resources Control Board largely leaves the responsibility for testing and disclosure to the oil companies; potentially carcinogenic toxins have been found in irrigation ditches in higher concentrations than in some oil spill disaster sites; and the farmers are trusting organisms in the soil to remove the toxins?
This sounds like a disaster in slow motion to me. […] The bottom line? Oil companies get big money for their toxic waste, farmers get cheap (polluted) water, and consumers are probably getting cheated. (Cher Gilmore, Newhall)