Cawelo, CA – National advocacy organizations Food & Water Watch and Water Defense are calling on California Governor Jerry Brown to protect Americans who consume California produce by ending the practice of using toxic oil field wastewater for irrigation. Earlier this month, the Los Angeles Times revealed that testing by Water Defense had found toxic industrial chemicals present in the recycled oil field wastewater used to irrigate crops in California’s Central Valley.
Scott Smith, Chief Scientist of Water Defense, collected the samples from treated wastewater sold by the oil and gas industry to the Cawelo Water District in Kern County. A video released today shows Smith, who has tested water across the country, encountering tar balls and oil slicks, conditions he compared to those he witnessed during the Gulf oil spill in 2010.
“I always viewed California as a leader in protecting the environment,” said Smith. “I was absolutely shocked when I found myself surrounded by food crops with the smell of oil coming off the irrigation water. It was worse than what I smelled during the BP Gulf oil spill.”
But the trouble doesn’t end with the smell. “When the test results came back we found dangerous and toxic chemicals in the irrigation canal system,” said Smith. “The levels of these toxic chemicals exceeded what I have tested in official oil spill disasters.” Water Defense reported that its tests found industrial solvents, including acetone and methylene chloride, as well as oil.
“California grows the lion’s share of the fruits and vegetables we eat in the United States,” said Wenonah Hauter, Food & Water Watch Executive Director. “It is inexcusable that the oil and gas industry is allowed to use American families’ dinner plates as a disposal site for toxic oil field wastewater. Governor Jerry Brown must take immediate action to protect our food by ending the use of this industrial waste for irrigation.”
To learn more about Water Defense’s testing methods, read the interview with Scott Smith and view the video on our blog.
Food & Water Watch works to ensure the food and water we consume is safe, accessible and sustainable. So we can all enjoy and trust in what we eat and drink, we help people take charge of where their food comes from, keep clean, affordable, public tap water flowing freely to our homes, protect the environmental quality of oceans, force government to do its job protecting citizens, and educate about the importance of keeping shared resources under public control. For more information, visitfoodandwaterwatch.org.
Water Defense is dedicated to clean water, rooted in the belief that access to clean water is a fundamental human right. Our mission is to use technology and public engagement to inform people about what is in their water, hold water polluters accountable, and keep our waterways and drinking water sources free from contamination and industrial degradation. For more information, visit waterdefense.org.