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Some California Farmers are Using Oil Wastewater for Food Crops


Last updated 8/14/2015 at 4:44pm

With a drought-doomed California, farmers are turning to oil fracking wastewater to grow food. The wastewater containing toxins like acetone, oil and methylene chloride, which causes cancer, has been used to grow fruit, nuts and other crops.

The waste water is being sold to 90 landowners in Southern California, and the food produced is sold as ‘organic.’ Companies like Halos, Bee Sweet Citrus, Sunview, and the wine makers, Trinchero Family States, are among the growers who use the toxin-infested water.

Oil companies recycle the water from oil production and sell it to farmers. Environmental groups sued the State of California to stop this process at 2,500 sites that are near drinking groundwater wells. Some districts mix oil wastewater with clean water. However, no one knows if this technique is safe, and if carcinogens infect the food grown.

Food & Water Watch, an consumer advocacy group, and Courage Campaign, have started campaigns to stop the use of oil wastewater for growing crops. The latter group says that, “as consumers, we must hit these companies where it counts, their financial bottom line,” and started a petition to not buy food from the companies that use oil wastewater.

The state’s largest oil company, California Resources Corp, announced that it will quadruple the amount of water it sells to farms. Chevron oil wells contain contaminants like benzene at higher levels allowed in drinking water. Chevron produces 70,000 barrels of oil and 760,000 barrels of water every day at the Kern River Oil Field, and has been selling the recycled water for crops for 20 years. The company is fighting claims that the water contains dangerous chemicals saying that, “protection of people and the environment is a core value for Chevron.”

Experts say that farmers can detect the smell of petrochemicals in the water, but they assume the soil filter the toxins before reaching the crops. However, experts say it’s impossible to know wether the toxins are reaching the roots and leafs.

The State Water Resources Control Board ordered tests for oil wastewater, however, these testes may not include all the toxins resulting from fracking, and the state did not halt the use this water for irrigation while tests are underway. The board is also doing minimal monitoring on the oil sites, leaving the major testing to the oil companies. In the past, these companies have failed to disclose and perform constant testing due to concerns and expenses.

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