California Farmers Are Using Oil Waste Water To Water Our Vegetables
by WENDY GITTLESON –
For the last four years, it’s barely rained in California. As a result, the state is in perhaps the worst drought in its history. Despite the fact that the majority of the nation’s produce is grown in California, food prices have remained relatively stable and the reason why could be poison.
While it’s not the largest user of California water, oil and gas companies are using about 70 million gallons a year for fracking, which is the process of extracting natural gas from the earth. Even more wasteful are oil companies. They use 1 – 2.5 gallons of water for every gallon of petroleum products produced.
California farmers are now using oil processing waste water to irrigate their crops and we have no idea how poisonous it might be. While the practice is getting more common place with the 25 percent mandatory watering restrictions put in place by California’s governor, Jerry Brown, it’s actually been happening for the last 20 years.
It’s a great deal for both farmers and the oil companies. The water comes out of the ground with the oil and the oil companies have to chemically extract it. The oil companies benefit because they can sell the water, after going through filtration, to farmers and the farmers benefit because the water is very inexpensive compared to fresh water: $33 per acre-foot compared to up to $1,500 per acre-foot for fresh water.
“We’re in compliance with all the testing requirements,” said (Chevron spokeswoman Abby) Auffant.
“There’s a petrochemical content in our… permit and we have always met and been under it.”
Not everyone agrees and the process is still experimental. According to Madeline Stano of the Center on Race, Poverty and the Environment, Chevron’s own reporting has found benzine and acetone, which are both carcinogenic. Many agricultural products are only tested for pesticides so these chemicals slip right through.
Both oil and fracking water are making its way into California wells and aquifers and the regulations in California are almost non-existent.
California doesn’t have statewide regulations for recycling wastewater for agriculture. Instead, nine regional water boards issue permits to local water districts. Once a year, the Cawelo Water District is required to send data about the salt and boron content to the Central Valley Water Board, according to Clay Rodgers, the board’s assistant executive officer. But the district isn’t obligated to test for other components, like heavy metals, arsenic, radioactive materials and chemicals that might be used in the drilling process. Ansolabehere says Cawelo has tested for radioactive elements “a couple of times” over the past 20 years, since “it’s very expensive” to test for, and it isn’t required by the board. Those tests have not turned up any positive results.
Avner Vengosh, a Duke University geochemist, is serving on an expert panel for the U.S. Geological Survey while it begins to look into the quality of produced oil-field water from Kern County. His data are “only preliminary,” but he has found “high levels of vanadium, chromium and selenium” in the samples of wastewater he has tested (although he was unable to say if the water was produced from Chevron’s operations or another of the many operators in the area). Those levels are consistent with data from oil- and gas-produced water from other basins in the U.S., according to Vengosh.
So, potentially, people who live in the agricultural areas of California are drinking contaminated water and to top it off, there is no testing of crops before they reach our tables, so we could all be eating contaminated food.
Reprinted with permission from Addicting Info