Oil companies are dumping WHAT in our water?

Feb 24, 2015
By Jena Price

This is one of the most outrageous things we’ve heard in a long time.

As California faces one of the worst droughts in recorded history, reports surfacing now show that the State of California has for decades allowed the injection of vast quantities of oil and gas wastewater and other contaminated fluids, into aquifers that are suitable for drinking water.

Oil and gas wastewater is nasty stuff, high in salinity, toxic chemicals and sometimes containing radioactive material. New data just revealed that the wastewater from fracking in California contains cancer-causing benzene and other toxic chemicals hundreds of times the legal limit for drinking water.

The state agency in charge of overseeing these operations, the Division of Oil Gas and Geothermal Resources or “DOGGR,” has continued to allow these waste injection activities, despite identifying more than 2,000 wells that are actively injecting into federally protected sources of drinking water.

Responding to a February 6 deadline imposed by the US Environmental Protection Agency to come up with a plan to deal with major problems in its underground injection control program, DOGGR reported that nearly 2,500 wells have been permitted to inject oil and gas waste into protected aquifers -- a clear violation of the Safe Drinking Water Act. More than 2,000 of the wells are currently active.

About 450 of the active wells are to dispose of oil and gas wastewater. Another 1,600 are used for enhanced oil recovery (EOR), where oil companies inject water (often the contaminated wastewater) or steam to facilitate more oil production. For any type of injection project, an oil company needs a permit to inject, and the state is only supposed to give permits to inject into aquifers that the federal government has determined will not and cannot be used for drinking water.

For some reason DOGGR forget to make sure of that important requirement THOUSANDS OF TIMES. (Oops.)

Back in 2011, the EPA put DOGGR on notice for numerous shortcomings in their implementation of the Safe Drinking Water Act, Underground Injection Control (UIC) Class II program. That’s the regulatory program that oversees oil and gas injection projects. DOGGR took over primacy of that program in 1983 and has been running it ever since.

The 2011 critique cited inadequate geologic review, bad record keeping, and not enough expert staff to carry out inspections. For the last three and a half years, DOGGR has not done anything to address EPA’s concerns, until now. Meanwhile, EPA has been under their own fire for failing to hold state agencies accountable for proper implementation of these programs.

There’s plenty of blame to go around, but the last thing we want is for these chemicals to end up in our drinking water.

As of now, polluters are continuing to dump even more waste into the aquifers. They must be stopped. We're asking our members to take action now to help shut this down and protect California’s water supply.

As Californians, we understand the value and growing scarcity of our groundwater, and extreme drought has bound us together in our struggle to conserve. When our public officials fail to protect our sources of water that would be suitable for drinking, they betray our efforts and risk our vital resources.

Allowing oil companies to use California’s aquifers as their dumping ground – especially during a drought – is not only irresponsible; it’s downright dangerous and puts all of our families and communities at risk.

Fight for clean water: Click here to help us shut this down right now!

Thanks for your help responding to this urgent crisis. With your help, we will stop Big Polluters from contaminating our water.

Jena Price & Andrew Grinberg

Jena Price is the Legislative Affairs Manager at the California League of Conservation Voters (CLCV). Andrew Grinberg is the Oil and Gas Program Manager at Clean Water Action (CWA). CLCV and CWA are partners in this campaign to protect California's water sources from contamination by Big Polluters. Join our campaign for clean water: Add your voice. >>



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