One of America’s greatest assets are the abundant natural resources that helped elevate a new country into a world-class nation, and over the past century a world leader. Of all this nation’s resources, fossil fuels are far and away the single-most valuable in driving the industrial revolution and enriching one industry above all others except maybe banking and agriculture. Obviously, America’s abundant water supply should be considered as precious a natural resource as petroleum, but that is not a consideration the fossil fuel industry shares regardless that not only is water crucial to agriculture, it is a fundamental necessity of human life. Water is also a fundamental necessity for the oil industry that could not care less how their extraction processes contaminate water used for agriculture, or human consumption. This week, yet another report reveals that fracking in California has contaminated aquifers during a historical drought.
In July, California state regulators, Department of Gas and Geothermal Resources (DOGGR), shut down eleven fracking wastewater injection wells over concerns that what precious water the severely drought-stricken state has left is being contaminated with toxins and carcinogens; particularly in highly productive agricultural areas. According to its due diligence, the agency the oil industry and Republicans hate above all others, the Environment Protection Agency (EPA), promptly ordered a report within 60 days to determine if the oil industry did indeed poison what little water California has left and what extent, if any, the damage might have on the agriculture industry and drinking water supply.
This past week, with little to no mention in the conservative media, the California State water Resources Board issued a report to the EPA confirming that yes, at least nine of the eleven fracking sites were deliberately dumping poisoned waste water directly into central California aquifers. The waste water is laden with extremely hazardous toxins and carcinogenic chemicals used in fracking and the aquifers the industry destroyed are protected by both state laws as well as the federal Safe Drinking Water Act. Of course, both Republicans and the oil industry (read Koch brothers) can not countenance either California’s environmental protections or the Safe Drinking Water Act as evidenced by a campaign pledge by an incumbent Republican representative, Jeff Denham, promising an all-out federal drive to abolish California’s water regulations permanently.
According to the damning report, over 3 billion gallons of poisoned waste-water was illegally injected directly into central California aquifers, and that water samples collected at water supply wells tested in the proximity of the fracking injection sites all had extremely high levels of known carcinogenic chemicals such as arsenic. Arsenic, besides being a cancer-causing agent, also weakens the human immune system. The arsenic is combined with a toxin used in rat poison, thallium, that was found in water supplies in and around the fracking injection sites. The water wells are useless as a safe drinking-water resource as well as worthless for the state’s very substantial agricultural industry.
A professor of environmental studies at the University of Redlands, Timothy Krantz, warned that these toxic chemicals and carcinogens pose a very serious threat to public health. He said, “The fact that high concentrations are showing up in multiple water wells close to waste-water injection sites raises major concerns about the health and safety of nearby residents.” Unfortunately, it is likely that the full extent of poisoned water is still not, and may not, be known for some time because the Central Valley Water Board has only tested 8 out of 100 nearby water wells. The State Water Resources Board is concerned that at least 19 other fracking injection sites are still currently contaminating protected aquifers in the agriculture-rich Central Valley region which already has some of the state’s worst air and water pollution. Pollution directly attributable to the highly dangerous impact of oil companies’ increasing and careless use of the controversial oil extraction technique; that does not include dumping the poisoned water into the aquifer after the extraction process is finished.
Besides poisoning water needed by the agriculture industry and California citizens, the oil industry’s wanton fracking is, without question, exacerbating the historically severe drought throughout the state and not just the agriculture-rich Central Valley. In fact, over 80% of California is experiencing the beginning of a decade-long (at least) “extreme” drought conditions a handy little map gives a clue to how devastating the drought is for the state. For any intelligent human being, reports that billions upon billions of toxic fracking waste water is being pumped directly into “protected aquifers” Central Valley residents rely on for basic survival just does not make sense; except to Republicans dependent on oil industry donations.
While the citizens of California are conserving every drop of water, the oil industry is using at least 140,000 to 150,000 gallons “per fracking site” every day of the year; permanently deleting it from the water cycle, mixing in poison and cancer-causing chemicals, and putting it into whatever water their fracking process has not yet robbed and poisoned. Still, Central Valley Republican congressman Jeff Denham is openly campaigning on permanently eliminating water regulations and lying that the EPA’s American Waters Act will seize Californians’ property if they have a man-made pond in their backyard.
An attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity, Hollin Kretzmann, said these new revelations prove state regulators have failed to protect Californians’ health, dwindling water supply, as well as the environment from fracking. He, and many Californians are demanding that Governor Jerry Brown take immediate action to prevent an even bigger water emergency in drought-stricken California. He said, “Much more testing is needed to gauge the full extent of water pollution and the threat to public health, but Governor Brown should move quickly to halt fracking to ward off a surge in oil industry wastewater that California simply isn’t prepared to dispose of safely.” It is not just that California is ill-prepared to safely get rid of the poisoned water, the state can hardly afford to lose even one more gallon of the precious necessity, and not just for agriculture use either.
One of the biggest misconceptions driven by corporate agriculture regarding preserving what little water is left is that it is crucial to save California billions of dollars in lost profits. A great deal of the water shortage is due to the past few years of irresponsible over-planting by huge corporate farms, up and down the state, of water intensive crops; particularly almonds. Almonds, like most nut crops, are a luxury commodity for export that not only fail to generate many jobs other than low-wage farm labor, exports are not taxed. The state, counties, and local communities are not profiting from corporate agriculture that is draining wells the oil industry has poisoned and permanently collapsed aquifers that will never, never ever, be replenished.
The real travesty, and it is a travesty, is that both California and the federal government have adequate regulations in place to protect the state’s water supply for human and agricultural use. However, like every regulation affecting the fossil fuel industry, they do not apply according to the persistent industry practice of disregarding both the law and health of Americans. That the industry is wasting what precious little water resources Californian’s depend on for survival is, although beyond the pale, a typical oil industry practice with typical Republican support.