[48 Hills] Chevron and Big Ag are Irrigating Crops with Oil Wastewater


Oil company says the “recycled” waste is perfectly safe.
When have we heard that before?

48 HILLS [1]
February 3, 2015


The _San Francisco Chronicle_ ran a major investigative story [2] on Sunday
outlining how nasty waste from the oil industry winds up in Central Valley

The story by David R. Baker detailed how state regulators have allowed oil
companies in California, particularly in Kern County, to pump wastewater
containing “a blend of bring water, hydrocarbons and trace chemicals” into
underground water supplies, potentially contaminating water that could be
used for drinking and irrigation.

But if people in the Bay Area think that this is an issue only for farmers
and residents in the hinterlands where oil production takes place, they
need to think again.

The toxic effects of the disposal of oil production wastewater may be as
near to you as the supermarket or your corner grocery.

Here’s why: It’s an open secret that the big corporate agriculture
landlords in Kern County are irrigating their crops with wastewater from
oil production supplied to them by Chevron.

Do you eat potatoes, tomatoes, carrots, onions or bell peppers? Do you like
almonds or pistachios? How about oranges, grapes or pomegranates? Put a
little honey in your tea?

Eat any wheat products?

These are all crops that are grown in Kern County, in the southern part of
the San Joaquin Valley.

Do you eat beef? Eggs? Got milk? These are also big Kern County
agricultural products.

There is a lot of cotton grown in Kern County. Do you wear any cotton

And they grow roses. Makes a nice gift for your sweetie, don’t you think?

In total, Kern County produces over $3.5 billion worth of agricultural
products every year, much of it irrigated by wastewater from Chevron’s oil

Chevron insists that recycled water is safe, and in fact brags about how
wastewater from oil development helps agriculture.

But farmers who live and work in the area aren’t so sure. And given the
history of the oil and chemical industry’s environmental safety claims,
there’s reason for at least concern.


I went on a tour of Kern County on Saturday, December 13. The tour was
MOVEMENT GENERATION [4] organized the event. We left from Oakland, right by
Oscar Grant Plaza, at 7 am, riding in three vans, heading for Delano of
Cesar Chavez and the United Farm Workers fame.

Our first stop was the CRPE headquarters in Delano, a modest building near
the center of town. There we were introduced to community organizer Juan
Flores, and to Gustavo Aguirre, the CRPE’s Director of Organizing. Aguirre
spent more than 15 years working in the fields, and 10 years working with
the UFW.

Soon afterward, we hit the road. One of the first sites we visited was a
place where Chevron’s oil operations wastewater is mixed with water
destined for the fields.

You can go there, too. It’s right off Highway 99. Take the Highway 99 exit
towards Wasco and Paso Robles. Go just a few yards, where you run into an
unmarked canal. Drive or hike a little way south on the dirt road there.

Here is Chevron’s wastewater, which runs out of a facility run by Chevron
off to the east, where many of the company’s oil operations are

Chevron’s wastewater next flows under a small dirt dam, where it is mixed
with clean water flowing in from the south. Here is where the wastewater
flows out from under the dam:

The clean water and the wastewater then flows under another dirt dam:

…comes out the other side here:

…and then flows off towards the fields in Kern County:

Here is a Google map of the area:

The canal coming in from the east carries the wastewater. This wastewater
flows under the small dirt dam, where it mixes with the clean (we hope)
water flowing in from the south. The combined stream of water then flows
off to the north under the larger dirt dam, and is used to irrigate Kern
County agricultural fields.

Juan, who took us to this site, asked if anybody was willing to take a swim
in the water flowing off towards the fields. There were no takers.

About then a white pickup truck pulled up alongside us, and we decided that
it was time to leave.


The recent _Chronicle_ article included a quote from Rock Zierman, the
chief executive officer of the California Independent Petroleum
Association. “If we’re not able to put the water back [by injecting oil
production wastewater into the ground], there’s no other viable thing to do
with it.”

But it is an open secret that Chevron has found another “thing to do with
it,” viable of not.

An ad run by Chevron in the 2013 _Bakersfield Californian_, shown above,
reads, in part:

“For years, Chevron has been recycling the water that’s produced during our
oil recovery process to provide area farmers with a reliable source of
clean, local water. Every day we deliver around 20 million gallons to Kern
County’s farms, which helps them grow produce that’s exported all around
the globe.”

Chevron even refers readers to a video [5] you can watch about the
company’s “recycling” operations. The video ends with the statement that
“Chevron has stepped up to the plate.”

Very true. Your plate, your meal.

Tom Frantz, a Kern County farmer who is featured in the _Chronicle_
article, told _48 Hills_ that the water Chevron is providing “is still hot
and oily when they start mixing or diluting it. We don’t know what toxic or
hazardous chemicals are naturally in that water. The salt content is not
too high and that is why they think it is ok to use it in a diluted form.

“Poisoning the soil on the surface is the same as poisoning the groundwater
in my opinion. The two atrocities cannot be separated.”

Chevron, of course, admits to no “atrocities” at all. Cameron Van Ast, a
Media Advisor for Chevron, told us that this water “is treated and/or
blended to meet the regulatory standards required by the Central Valley
Regional Water Quality Control Board and is also subject to mandatory
testing and reporting requirements.”

Apparently, oil companies and regulators think that the toxic mix pumped
into injection wells is perfectly safe, too.

Next: Who is overseeing Chevron’s “recycling” operations? Is it the same
state agencies that have allowed the oil companies to inject wastewater
into clean, underground water supplies?

Marc Norton’s website is http://www.MarcNorton.us [6].

[1] http://48hillsonline.org/2015/02/02/chevron-big-ag-irrigating-crops-oil-wastewater
[2] http://www.sfgate.com/business/article/State-let-oil-companies-taint-drinkable-water-in-6054242.php
[3] http://www.crpe-ej.org/crpe
[4] http://movementgeneration.org
[5] http://www.chevron.com/stories/#/allstories/energyandoranges
[6] http://www.marcnorton.us/


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