California Drought Update: Oil Companies Injecting Toxic Waste Into Drinkable Aquifers

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The water situation in California is dire. As the drought heads into its fourth year, wells in some towns are drying up, and farmers are forced to uproot orchards or let their field lie fallow. How on earth could oil companies even consider injected oil-field wastewater into drinkable aquifers?

Pumpjacks

The State of California has recently shut down twelve oil wells that were injecting water laced with oil and trace chemicals into aquifers that could be used for drinking or irrigation in the valley’s fields and orchards. How could this happen?

California is the third biggest oil producing state in the nation. But its petroleum reservoirs contain more salty water than crude oil. The water gets separated from the oil, and most of the water is pumped back underground, hopefully into the same formation it came from, but sometimes it gets pumped any old place — including usable aquifers.

A San Francisco Chronicle investigation discovered 171 cases in which California’s Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources allowed oil companies to inject the waste water into federally protected high-quality aquifers. Another 253 injection wells went into aquifers whose water could have been used with more extensive treatment.

The state is now under orders from the EPA to come up with a better solution.

 

Via: San Francisco Chronicle

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