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California is a state of drought emergency and there are no signs that this will change any time soon. Residents are being urged to save water in any way they possibly can to protect the state’s highly strained water resources. In the midst of this time where conserving water is crucial, however, it has been discovered that at least nine underground water aquifers have been purposely contaminated by fracking waste water.
A recent investigation found that the California government has allowed oil and gas companies to dump nearly three billion gallons of waste from the fracking process into perfectly potable drinking water reserves. You’ve got to be fracking kidding us, right?
Hydraulic fracturing requires an enormous amount of fresh water resources (putting more strain on dwindling supplies) to carry out gas extraction. This fresh water is mixed with thousands of “trade secret” chemicals (many of which are known carcinogens) and injected into the ground to push out pockets of natural gas. When the water is pumped back up to the surface it is further polluted with heavy metals from the earth. This water is so filled with toxins and contaminants that it can never be recovered, so it is usually pumped back down into the extraction site.
Instead of taking this route, gas companies thought it would be better suited to inject the waste down into the fresh water supply. Don’t worry California, you might not have any clean water to drink … but you’ll be supplied with natural gas for the rest of time!
Some fracking waste water ends up being injected into EPA exempt aquifers that sit close to the surface and are not suitable for use for drinking water or irrigation. However in this case, the wells where the waste water was injected were non-exempt by the EPA, meaning they contained high quality water. To make matters worse, one of the fracking wells that injected waste into a non-exempt fracking water is within a one mile radius of at least 40 different water supply wells, including domestic water supplies.
When state officials tested the water in eight wells near one polluted aquifer, half of the wells had levels of arsenic, nitrate and thallium higher than is allowed. This is of serious concern to people who rely on these water resources. While the reasoning behind how these aquifers were allowed to be polluted remains unclear, officials will continue to test local wells.
In a time when water is scarce, fracking operations should not even be permitted. This process is extremely dangerous to the local community and environment and there is no logical reason why natural gas companies should be given priority to water supplies over California residents.
How many more fraccidents need to happen before we learn?
Image source: Maryland Sierra Club/Flickr