(NaturalNews) A series of shocking new reports reveal that 45,000 acres of California crops are being irrigated with recycled fracking water, with some samples showing levels of petrochemicals higher than those found at oil spill sites.
Even more shocking, the practice of using recycled oil water on crops (which has become a lucrative side business for oil companies), has been taking place for 20 years but was seemingly undisclosed until recently.
Headquartered in San Ramon, California, Chevron is responsible for recycling the toxic fracking wastewater, which contains more than 200 chemicals including diesel, biocides and benzene, before selling it to farmers at a fraction of the cost of fresh water.
Fresh water reportedly costs $1,500 per square foot, while recycled oil water costs a mere $33 per square foot, according to Phys.org.
The ability for oil companies to earn a profit off their wastewater, is extremely similar to the way the phosphate fertilizer industry sells their byproduct, hydrofluorosilicic acid, to be added to public drinking water.
While officials are defending the use of recycled water for crops based on the state's current water shortages, as mentioned earlier, the practice has been happening for a long time, and absolutely no research has been conducted to identify any potential dangers.
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“As an environmental health scientist, this is one of the things that keeps me up at night”
Water Defense, a non-profit founded in 2010 by actor Mark Ruffalo, has made it their mission to inform the public about what's in their water, as well as hold water polluters accountable, and that's exactly what they're doing.
Over the last two years, Water Defense's chief scientist Scott Smith collected treated irrigation water samples that were purchased by Cawelo Water District from Chevron. The results are worrisome.
“Laboratory analysis of those samples found compounds that are toxic to humans, including acetone and methylene chloride — powerful industrial solvents — along with oil,” reports the LA Times.
The levels of three chemicals found in untreated oil field water were: 240,000 – 480,000 parts per million of oil; 440 – 530 parts per billion of acetone; and 82 – 89 parts per bill of methylene chloride.
Treated oil water contained: 130 – 1,300 parts per million; 57 – 79 parts per billion; and 25 – 56 parts per billion of methylene chloride.
Methylene chloride, predominantly used in paint strippers, metal cleaners and as a process solvent in the manufacture of pharmaceuticals, is considered a potential occupational carcinogen and can result in death if ingested. View information about acetone here.
Samples were collected from 10 points at various depths along the eight-mile Cawelo canal where water flows from Chevron's oil fields through irrigation canals to farmers' fields.
The samples contained acetone and methylene chloride, “solvents used to degrease equipment or soften thick crude oil,” at levels higher than seen at oil spill disaster sites. Hydrocarbons C20 and C34 found in oil were also in the samples.
Cawelo Water District distributes irrigation water to 45,000 acres in the North-Central portion of Kern County, servicing 15 different crops including almonds, citrus, pistachios and vineyards.
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“When I talk to growers, and they smell the oil field crap in that water, they assume the soil is taking care of this”
Blake Sanden, an agriculture extension agent and irrigation water expert with UC Davis, says farmers believe microorganisms in soils can “consume and process some impurities,” but it's unclear whether fracking wastewater is invading the roots and leaves of irrigated crops.
It's unlikely petrochemicals will make their way into an almond, but other crops like citrus seems much more vulnerable to contamination, noted Sanden.
Because scientists are unsure of the chemicals in fracking mixtures, as the oil companies consider this “proprietary information” and refuse to release it, they are unable to properly test for chemicals that could be dangerous to people.