This is unforgivable! And yes, that is 3 billion, with a “B”, gallons of toxic fracking waste was injected into California’s already drought depleted underground water aquifers near Bakersfield, California. These aquifers (11 wells) contained irrigation and high quality drinking water in some of the most fertile farmland in the world. See written and video report.
Waste Water from Oil Fracking Injected into Clean Aquifers
California Dept. of Conservation Deputy Director admits that errors were made
Published Friday, Nov 14, 2014
State officials allowed oil and gas companies to pump nearly three billion gallons of waste water into underground aquifers that could have been used for drinking water or irrigation.
Those aquifers are supposed to be off-limits to that kind of activity, protected by the EPA.
“It’s inexcusable,” said Hollin Kretzmann, at the Center for Biological Diversity in San Francisco. “At (a) time when California is experiencing one of the worst droughts in history, we’re allowing oil companies to contaminate what could otherwise be very useful ground water resources for irrigation and for drinking. It’s possible these aquifers are now contaminated irreparably.”
…The department ended up shutting down 11 wells: the nine that were known to be injecting into non-exempt aquifers, and another two in an abundance of caution.
In its reply letter to the EPA, California’s Water Resources Control Board said its “staff identified 108 water supply wells located within a one-mile radius of seven…injection wells” and that The Central Valley Water Board conducted sampling of “eight water supply wells in the vicinity of some of these… wells.”
“This is something that is going to slowly contaminate everything we know around here,” said fourth- generation Kern County almond grower Tom Frantz, who lives down the road from several of the injection wells in question.
According to state records, as many as 40 water supply wells, including domestic drinking wells, are located within one mile of a single well that’s been injecting into non-exempt aquifers.
That well is located in an area with several homes nearby, right in the middle of a citrus grove southeast of Bakersfield.
The article has an excellent map showing the 9 disposal wells and details of the companies that injected the fracking wastewater.
The 60 minutes’ Nov. 16, 2014 report by Leslie Stahl completely ignored the fracking wastewater story that was first released on October 6, 2014 by The Center of Biological Diversity. And yet the central theme of the 60 minutes’s story is that aquifer water is being depleted at an alarming rate which satellites have been able to measure.
[Excerpts from 60 Minutes Report]
…Water experts say groundwater is like a savings account -- something you draw on in times of need. But savings accounts need to be replenished, and there is new evidence that so much water is being taken out, much of the world is in danger of a groundwater overdraft.
California is entering its fourth year of a record-breaking drought. Last year was the driest since the state started keeping records more than a hundred years ago.
…So there's something of a groundwater rush going on here. Arthur's seven rigs are in constant use and his waiting list is well over a year. And because some wells here are running dry, he's having to drill twice as deep as he did just a year or two ago. This well will cost the farmer a quarter of a million dollars, and go down 1,200 feet -- about the height of the Empire State Building.
Lesley Stahl: Are you and are the farmers worried that by going that deep you are depleting the ground water?
Steve Arthur: Well, yes, we are depleting it. But on the other hand, what choice do you have? This is the most fertile valley in the world. You can grow anything you want here. If we don't have water to grow something, it's going to be a desert.
Scientists have been able to measure the amount of groundwater by using two satellites which track each other’s speed.
Gathering data from holes in the ground like this has been the only way to get a handle on groundwater depletion. That is, until 2002, and the launch of an experimental NASA satellite called GRACE.
Lesley Stahl: What does GRACE stand for?
Mike Watkins: So GRACE stands for gravity recovery and climate experiment.
Mike Watkins is head of the Science Division at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena. He was the mission manager for the latest Mars rover mission and he is the project scientist for GRACE.
Mike Watkins: So the way GRACE works is it's two satellites.
Lesley Stahl: Two?
Mike Watkins: They're actually measuring each other's orbit very, very accurately.
What affects that orbit is gravity.
Mike Watkins: As the first one comes up on some extra mass, an area of higher gravity, it gets pulled away...
Lesley Stahl: It goes faster.
Mike Watkins: ...from the second spacecraft.
And that's where water comes in. Since water has mass, it affects the pull of gravity, so after the first GRACE satellite approaches an area that's had lots of heavy rain for example, and is pulled ahead, the second one gets there, feels the pull and catches up. The instruments are constantly measuring the distance between the two.
Mike Watkins: Their changes in separation, their changes in their orbit are a little different this month than last month because water moved around and it changed the gravity field just enough.
So GRACE can tell whether an area has gained water weight or lost it.
Lesley Stahl: So GRACE is like a big scale in the sky?
Mike Watkins: Absolutely.
One would think that a story about depleted aquifers would mention the fact that frackers are injecting billions of gallons of toxic waste into the same high quality drinking water aquifers. Not a word was said about fracking in Stahl’s report. And even though the draught is a major story in California, fracking toxic disposal and the dwindling Central Valley aquifers were not even mentioned in the last 2014 election.