Is it safe to use treated oilfield wastewater to irrigate almond, pistachio and citrus groves? William Stringfellow, environmental engineer in Earth and Environmental Sciences (Energy Geosciences Division), says, “We’re not able to answer the public definitely, and say there’s no problem.” Dr. Stringfellow joins a new panel, “Regional Water Quality Control Board Food Safety Expert Panel,” that has been charged to study the safety of irrigating food crops with oilfield wastewater from hydraulic fracturing, other drilling methods, and oilfield maintenance that contain chemicals, not only those naturally occurring in underground formations, but proprietary additives used to maximize oil extraction.
California’s oilfields generate lots of wastewater—nearly two billion barrels in 2013. With the extended California drought, the recycled wastewater is already irrigating tens of thousands of acres in California. In the Cawelo Water District, which has used treated water from Chevron and Valley Water Management since 1995, the water accounts for roughly 30% of the district’s supply.
The Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board has assembled this panel to study the safety of produce irrigated with this recycled water which may contain hundreds of chemicals, many unidentified or of known toxicity. The panel’s first public meeting was held on January 12 in Sacramento, California.
- ABC News: Experts to Study Food Safety of Oilfield Wastewater
- American Energy News: Oilfield wastewater used to water California crops: Experts to take examine process
- KQED: Farms Using Oilfield Wastewater Under Review for Food Safety
- Capitol Public Radio: Experts To Study Food Safety Of Oilfield Wastewater
- New York Times: Experts to Study Food Safety of Oilfield Wastewater
- Sacramento Bee: Experts to study food safety of oilfield wastewater
- San Francisco Chronicle: Experts to study food safety of oilfield wastewater