They say "California feeds the nation" — and that means it probably feeds you, too. California farmers produce almost half of the fruits, nuts and vegetables grown in the U.S., including the vast majority of olives, grapes, avocados, broccoli, spinach, lettuce, tangerines, almonds, pistachios and many, many more.1
But shockingly, some of these crops are being grown and irrigated with wastewater from oil drilling and fracking — and the state of California is letting it happen.
As California’s drought has continued, Big Oil has taken advantage of our farmers’ desperate need for water and is selling them oil wastewater — the water that’s been used and produced by oil operations — at a cheap rate for irrigation.2
This practice is being allowed despite the fact that no comprehensive, independent testing has been performed to insure that our food is safe from the hundreds of toxic chemicals known to be used in oil extraction and fracking.
Hundreds of chemicals are used in oil extraction, and some of these are known to cause cancer, kidney failure and liver damage — yet we don’t understand the levels of these chemicals in the water, or if they might be accumulating in our food. Nor have any actions been taken to protect the farmworkers who are potentially exposed to these toxins on a daily basis.
While this wastewater is treated, only recently has the state begun to update water testing standards beyond decades-old rules that pre-date modern oil extraction and fracking. The wastewater smells like oil, and independent testing has confirmed the presence of oil, and toxic substances including acetone and methylene chloride.3
Two California water districts currently allow for the use of oil wastewater from drilling operations for crop irrigation, and plans for the expansion of this practice are currently underway.
The reason more oil companies are trying to get into the game is alarming: Because of the risk of groundwater contamination, the state of California has been tightening the rules for disposing of wastewater by injecting it underground. So since they can’t inject this wastewater underground, oil companies want to give it to our farmers instead!4
This entire situation is the definition of adding insult to injury. The fossil fuel industry — whose product is driving California’s drought in the first place — is allowed not only to continue oil extraction that worsens climate change AND pollutes precious water, it is allowed to sell that polluted water back to farmers to be used to grow the food that “feeds the nation”.
We all eat food grown in California, so Gov. Brown needs to hear from people in California and across the nation that it is time for him to put a stop to this vicious cycle, and take a stand for the safety of our food.
Tell California Gov. Jerry Brown: Protect our food! Prohibit the use of oil wastewater to grow crops in California.
- "The C-Free Diet: If we didn’t have California, what would we eat?," Slate, 7/10/13
- "Some Central Valley Orchards Irrigated With Oilfield Waste Water," KCBS, 4/28/16
- "Central Valley's growing concern: Crops raised with oil field water," LA Times, 5/2/15
- "These Popular Fruit and Veggie Brands May be Grown With Oil Wastewater," Mother Jones, 4/24/15