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Fracking runoff often leaves wastewater too toxic to be reused for drinking... so it's being dumped on our farmland instead


(NaturalNews) The runoff from fracking results in wastewater that is considered too toxic for anyone to drink, so why is it being dumped on farmland instead?

Fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, entails injecting water, sand and various chemicals underneath the ground to stimulate the flow of gas so that it can be extracted and sold. The injected water subsequently rises back up to the surface, only this time it brings with it a few unwelcome souvenirs from its time under the ground – namely radioactive isotopates and heavy metals. No one is lining up to drink water laced with any of these chemicals, so the wastewater is normally pumped into underground "wastewater wells" for storage.

In 2014 alone, fracking created 15 billion gallons of wastewater, which is typically laden with benzene, formaldehyde and hydrochloric acid. Re-injecting it back into the ground doesn't exactly solve the problem, however, as it can and does seep out into drinking water sources.

A study out of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and the University of the Pacific raised serious concerns about a number of the components used in the fracking process. According to the report, "very little is known" about the effects of the chemicals used in the process, which number somewhere around 200. Lead researcher William Stringfellow, Ph.D., said that eight of these chemicals are known to be toxic to mammals, while almost nothing is known about as many as a third of the compounds.

While the industry has claimed that fracking drills at levels that are a lot deeper than groundwater used for drinking, another study showed that some energy companies are fracking at dangerously shallow depths that sometimes go right through underground drinking water sources. If you are concerned about the heavy metals in your tap water, you can send a sample to EPAWatch.org for free testing.

If it's so toxic, why is it being used on farmland?

Even more alarmingly, this wastewater is being used on fields and farms, and there are no real regulations in place that expressly outlaw this practice. A number of nature groups recently filed a lawsuit against the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), demanding that they stop using wastewater from fracking on fields and on roads as antifreeze, and they want strict deadlines to be set for the adoption of new rules.

In Kern County, California, leftover oil field water bought from Chevron is mixed with walnut shells, which they say extracts any excess oil, before flowing into treatment ponds and into the Cawelo Water District. This water supplies 90 farmers in Kern County with about half of their annual irrigation water. The water district and Chevron claim this water is safe, but advocacy group Water Defense's Scott Smith took water samples from ten points as it moved from the oil fields to the farms, and found solvents used for degreasing equipment and softening crude oil, such as methylene chloride and acetone, at concentrations higher than those seen at oil spill sites. Methylene chloride has been classified as potentially carcinogenic.

UC Davis irrigation water expert Blake Sanden noted that people can actually smell the petrochemicals that are present in the water, but farmers assume the soil will remove any impurities. Moreover, there are not enough studies to show whether or not these chemicals will make their way into fruit that grows there, and uncertainty about exactly which chemicals are in the water, makes this difficult to test.

Organic farms at risk of contamination from fracking

Fracking also adversely affects farms even when its wastewater is not dumped directly onto them. Analysis by FracTracker Alliance discovered that 11 percent of organic farms in North America are situated in areas that are affected by fracking.

Among the 19,515 farms that are certified by the USDA National Organics Program, 183 farms are located within a mile of fracking wells, 455 are found within three miles of fracking wells, and 752 are situated within five miles. These numbers are expected to rise, and contamination from fracking could have a dramatic impact on the organics industry.

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