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Saturday, February 23 , 2019, 12:06 pm | Fair 57º


Letter to the Editor: Yet More Filth from Oil Companies

To the never-ending instances of environmental filth — pollution threatening our health and safety — caused by oil conglomerates in our state, add this:

Methylene chloride, classified as a potential carcinogen, and acetone have been found in oil companies' recycled waste water that they are selling to California farmers for use in agricultural irrigation.

The disposal of drilling's wastewater is a pain in the butt for oil companies — more so since the recent disclosure of their illegal dumping of the toxic-laden stuff into 2,500 disposal wells drilled through California aquifers containing clean water.

So “cleaning up” this wastewater and selling it to farmers is a sweetheart deal for them; they get about $30 per acre foot for it, and farmers are delighted to pay only half the open market price.

What's in this recycled water? Over the last two years, Scott Smith, chief scientist for the environmental group Water Defense, “collected samples of the treated irrigation water that the Cawelo Water District buys from Chevron. Laboratory analysis of those samples found compounds that are toxic to humans, including acetone and methylene chloride — powerful industrial solvents — along with oil.”

“Sarah Oktay, a water testing expert and director of the Nantucket field station of the University of Massachusetts Boston, reviewed Smith's methods … 'My next step would be most likely to look and make sure the crop is healthy.'” (Los Angeles Times, May 2)

Who's doing that? Who's testing the crops fed with this water?

Or, to shift for a moment, who in the state is verifying or refuting Mr. Smith's findings?

“Jonathan Bishop, chief deputy director of the State Water Resources Control Board, said that monitoring oil field activities has been a 'low priority' in recent years. He said the onus for disclosure and testing rests on the discharger, in this case Chevron.”

How many replays of this unfunny movie do we have to see? The gluttonous, law-breaking fox is appointed to guard the chickens. And yet another California regulatory agency, charged with seeing to our health and safety, says, “Gee, we just haven't gotten around to that.”

State Sen. Fran Pavley, D-Agoura Hills, whose efforts have made her a heroine to anyone concerned with environmental matters in the state, said it is “'obviously unacceptable' that oil contaminants are found in irrigation water. 'Anyone would be extremely concerned.'”

Smith, who has consulted for the Environmental Protection Agency, took samples from 10 points along the eight-mile Cawelo Canal, which contained “concentrations [of acetone and methylene chloride] higher than he said he had seen at oil spill disaster sites.”

So is this toxic material getting into the food plants it waters?

Carl K. Winter at UC Davis, who studies the detection of pesticides in foods: “'It's difficult to say anything for sure because we don't know what chemicals are in the water.'”

Seth B. C. Shonkoff, a researcher analyzing hydraulic fracturing for the state legislature: “'You can't find what you don't look for.'”

No kidding!

William Smithers
Santa Barbara

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