Frac’d Food: Could using toxic oilfield waste to irrigate crops be the end of food as we know it?

On a 2012 speaking tour in Michigan, citizens asked Ernst what was going to happen to all the toxic waste.

Ernst replied, “We’ll be made to eat and drink it.”

Could using oilfield water to irrigate crops be the future of farming? by Ellen Knickmeyer, The Associated Press, January 14, 2016, Global News

RANCHO CORDOVA, Calif. – More farmers in drought-stricken California are using oilfield wastewater to irrigate, and a new panel this week began taking one of the state’s deepest looks yet at the safety of using the [mystery] chemical-laced water on food crops.

In the fourth year of California’s drought, at least five oilfields in the state are now passing along their leftover production fluid to water districts for irrigation, for recharging underground water supplies [Is that how they’re getting around illegally injecting waste into protected drinking water aquifers (refer below)?], and other uses, experts said.

Chevron and the California offshoot of Occidental Petroleum are among the oil companies supplying oilfield wastewater for irrigating tens of thousands of acres in California. Almond, pistachio and citrus growers are the main farmers already using such water.

California’s aging oilfields require intensive drilling methods [aka, fracing and or acidizing] and generate lots of wastewater. In Central California’s San Joaquin Valley, a centre of the state’s agriculture and oil businesses, oil companies in 2013 produced 150 million barrels of oil — and nearly 2 billion barrels of wastewater.

Central California leads the country in food production. It’s also the main oil-producing base in California, the country’s No. 3 oil-and-gas producing state.

For farmers in California’s drought, the question is “where’s the water going to come from if you want to maintain agriculture,” said Gabriele Ludwig, a representative of Almond Board of California and one of the members of the new panel.

The state officials, academic experts and industry representatives on the panel are charged with studying the safety of irrigating food crops with oilfield wastewater that may contain chemicals and other material from hydraulic fracturing, other intensive drilling methods and oilfield maintenance. 

The effect of oilfield chemicals on food is “largely unstudied and unknown,” says the non-profit Pacific Institute, which studies water issues.

Researchers, for example, don’t know the long-term toxicity of up to 80 per cent of the hundreds of materials used in oilfield production, Pacific Institute researcher Matthew Heberger told panel members.

Testing so far has found only negligible amounts of chemicals in the recycled oilfield water, [with companies and regulators refusing to disclose the chemicals injected, how can the board know what to test for?] said Clay Rodgers, a manager at the Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board, which assembled the panel. At least one local water district also has begun growing test crops with the oilfield water to study how much of the chemicals wind up in the produce.

As of now, with so many unknowns about the hundreds of chemicals involved and their possible impact on crops, “We’re not able to answer the public definitely and say there’s no problem,” said William Stringfellow, a panel member and environmental engineer at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in Berkeley.

The regional water board will use the panel’s findings to guide its oversight of the recycling of oilfield wastewater, Rodgers said.

[Refer also to:

2012 11 10: Fracking our Food Supply

2013: Arsenic Uptake in Homegrown Vegetables from Mining-Affected Soils

2013 12 10: What to do with all the oil field dregs, some of it radioactive, some of it toxic, and there’s more and more of it

2014 02 19: As Fracking Booms, Growing Concerns About Toxic, Radioactive Wastewater

2014 07 13: Germany EPA Frac Report Released: Risks Associated with Fracing are Too High; “So far, no company has been able to present a sustainable waste management concept”

2015 02 10: How regulators “regulate” to make fracing safe: Let industry inject toxic frac waste into federally protected drinking water aquifers; “Levels of benzene up to 700 times federal standard have been found in waste water from fracking” (Benzene flavoured almonds?)

2015 03 03: California now says 2,500 wells dumping frac waste into protected aquifers, up from 532 in February. Regulators order oil drillers including Chevron Corp. and Linn Energy LLC to halt operations at 12 injection wells (two were issued cease and desist orders) because they may taint groundwater suitable for drinking and irrigation (Now what? How to get rid of the massive amounts of waste? Oh, let’s sell it to desperate, drought-stricken farmers!)

2015 03 28: Over 500,000 views in 3 days! Nebraska Man Asks Oil and Gas Conservation Commission Just One Question: ‘Would You Drink It?’ (10 months later, over 2,000,000 views)

2015 04 19: California farmers rely on Chevron’s wastewater to irrigate. Some refuse: “I would rather let my trees die” than use Chevron’s water. Compare to the Chevron Tapes that allegedly show the company covering up contamination in Ecuador

2015 07 16 Hell Called … They want their ‘Salad Dressing’ Back: California farmers use oil firms’ waste to irrigate food. “There has been a gentleman’s agreement to promote deregulation”

EnCana dumping heavy facing west towards 05-14 the Encana gas well that repeatedly fractured directly into Rosebud drinking water aquifers in 2004

Encana’s waste on foodland at Rosebud

2016 01 06: And yet another published frac study showing harm: Toxins found in fracking fluids and wastewater (different study from the one below)

2016 01 05: Yet another study: Fracking plays active role in generating toxic metal wastewater ]

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