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California government allows fracking companies to inject 3 billion gallons of wastewater into aquifer despite worst drought ever

Fracking wastewater

(NaturalNews) At a time when California is facing droughts of historic proportions and its residents are in desperate need of water, government officials have admitted that errors have been made in which billions of gallons of wastewater has been re-injected into underground aquifers where high-quality drinking water resides.

"It's inexcusable," said Hollin Kretzmann, an attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity in San Francisco. "At (a) time when California is experiencing one of the worst droughts in history, we're allowing oil companies to contaminate what could otherwise be very useful ground water resources for irrigation and for drinking. It's possible these aquifers are now contaminated irreparably." He went on to explain in a video that at least nine cases of well operations have injected a whopping "3 billion gallons of toxic oil industry wastewater into aquifers that were clean and supposed to be protected under federal and state law."(1)

A press release from the Center for Biological Diversity states that the "current extent of contamination is cause for grave concern" and that "the long-term threat posed by the unlawful wastewater disposal may be even more devastating."(2)

Arsenic, thallium found in well water samples within a mile of residential areas

In fact, in state testing of eight water supply wells, half of them were found to be beyond the acceptable levels of nitrate, arsenic and thallium. The list goes on. Sadly, 40 supply wells, including domestic drinking wells within one mile of a Bakersfield, CA, well that is used to re-inject wastewater, are also thought to contain high levels of these harmful substances.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), infants under six months of age who consume water with nitrates that exceed maximum-allowed amounts can die if they are untreated. They may also experience blue baby syndrome and shortness of breath. As for thallium, a metal, the EPA says that those drinking water contaminated with it may, in time, experience blood changes or hair loss, or develop problems with their liver, intestines and kidneys.(3,4)

The blame game goes on as officials admit errors have been made

Still, while the health of residents is in question, organizations such as the California Department of Conservation and the Western States Petroleum Association are engaging in a classic case of playing blame and lack-of-evidence games.

For example, Jason Marshall, chief deputy director of the CA Department of Conservation, admits that there have been errors, saying that "there have been past issues where permits were issued to operators that they shouldn't be injecting" into certain zones. Yet Marshall maintains that such work was likely done in the 1980s or even the 1990s where permitting engineers may have engaged in improper methods, and because many of them are now deceased, they can't be questioned. He says more testing needs to be done to fully determine the cause of any migration and its potential to harm the community.(1)

The Western States Petroleum Association blames paperwork issues and misinterpretation of decades old federal regulations. Its spokesman, Tupper Hull, says "there has never been a bona vide claim or evidence presented that the paperwork confusion resulted in any contamination of drinking supplies near the disputed injection wells."(1)

So it goes.

Blame it on deceased planning engineers from back in the day. Blame it on lacking information, confusing paperwork and outdated regulations. Yes, it would appear that watching out for one's own interests in a series of "I'll scratch your back if you scratch mine" political and financial hobnobbing just may be more important than the lives of California residents.

"It is a clear worry," said Juan Flores, a Kern County community organizer for the Center on Race, Poverty & the Environment. "We're in a drought. The worst drought we've seen in decades. Probably the worst in the history of agriculture in California. No one from this community will drink from the water from out of their well. The people are worried. They're scared."(1)

Timothy Krantz, a professor of environmental studies at the University of Redlands takes the matter very seriously. "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."(2)

Sources for this article include:

(1) http://www.zerohedge.com

(2) http://www.biologicaldiversity.org

(3) http://water.epa.gov

(4) http://water.epa.gov

(5) http://science.naturalnews.com

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