View Full Version : 3 BILLION GALLONS of Fracking Wastewater Pumped Into Clean California Aquifiers: “Errors Were Made” State Admits

18th November 2014, 17:22

By The Event Chronicle on November 17, 2014 · N. America


(Zero Hedge) Dear California readers: if you drank tapwater this morning (or at any point in the past few weeks/months), you may be in luck as you no longer need to buy oil to lubricate your engine: just use your blood, and think of the cost-savings. That’s the good news.

Also, the bad news, because as the California’s Department of Conservation’s Chief Deputy Director, Jason Marshall, told NBC Bay Area, California state officials allowed oil and gas companies to pump up to 3 billion gallons (call it 70 million barrels) of oil fracking-contaminated waste water into formerly clean aquifiers, aquifiers which at least on paper are supposed to be off-limits to that kind of activity, and are protected by the government’s EPA – an agency which, it appears, was richly compensated by the same oil and gas companies to look elsewhere.

And the scariest words of admission one can ever hear from a government apparatchik: “In multiple different places of the permitting process an error could have been made.”

Because nothing short of a full-blown disaster prompts the use of the dreaded passive voice. And what was unsaid is that the “biggest error that was made” is that someone caught California regulators screwing over the taxpayers just so a few oil majors could save their shareholders a few billion dollars in overhead fees.

And now that one government agency has been caught flaunting the rules, the other government agencies, and certainly private citizens and businesses, start screaming: after all some faith in the well-greased, pardon the pun, government apparatus has to remain:

“It’s inexcusable,” said Hollin Kretzmann, at the Center for Biological Diversity in San Francisco. “At (a) time when California is experiencing one of the worst droughts in history, we’re allowing oil companies to contaminate what could otherwise be very useful ground water resources for irrigation and for drinking. It’s possible these aquifers are now contaminated irreparably.”

The process, for those confused, explained by NBC:

In “fracking” or hydraulic fracturing operations, oil and gas companies use massive amounts of water to force the release of underground fossil fuels. The practice produces large amounts of waste water that must then be disposed of.

Marshall said that often times, oil and gas companies simply re-inject that waste water back deep underground where the oil extraction took place. But other times, Marshall said, the waste water is re-injected into aquifers closer to the surface. Those injections are supposed to go into aquifers that the EPA calls “exempt”—in other words, not clean enough for humans to drink or use.

But in the State’s letter to the EPA, officials admit that in at least nine waste water injection wells, the waste water was injected into “non-exempt” or clean aquifers containing high quality water.

For the EPA, “non-exempt” aquifers are underground bodies of water that are “containing high quality water” that can be used by humans to drink, water animals or irrigate crops.

If the waste water re-injection well “went into a non-exempt aquifer. It should not have been permitted,” said Marshall.

Yet it was, to the tune of 3 billion gallons. And nobody said a word about it until someone finally did a little research and found that people, especially those in power, lie.

And lie they did because the severity of the pollution is only now becoming clear:

In its reply letter to the EPA, California’s Water Resources Control Board said its “staff identified 108 water supply wells located within a one-mile radius of seven…injection wells” and that The Central Valley Water Board conducted sampling of “eight water supply wells in the vicinity of some of these… wells.”

“This is something that is going to slowly contaminate everything we know around here,” said fourth- generation Kern County almond grower Tom Frantz, who lives down the road from several of the injection wells in question.

According to state records, as many as 40 water supply wells, including domestic drinking wells, are located within one mile of a single well that’s been injecting into non-exempt aquifers.

That well is located in an area with several homes nearby, right in the middle of a citrus grove southeast of Bakersfield.

Cue the just as angry community organizers:

“That’s a huge concern and communities who rely on water supply wells near these injection wells have a lot of reason to be concerned that they’re finding high levels of arsenic and thallium and other chemicals nearby where these injection wells have been allowed to operate,” said Kretzmann.

“It is a clear worry,” said Juan Flores, a Kern County community organizer for the Center on Race, Poverty and The Environment. “We’re in a drought. The worst drought we’ve seen in decades. Probably the worst in the history of agriculture in California.”

“No one from this community will drink from the water from out of their well,” said Flores. “The people are worried. They’re scared.”

It remains to be seen just whom that other, far more prominent community organizer will blame for this latest environmental debacle. Surely it will somehow be the fault of the Keystone pipeline?

In the meantime, the oil companies are already taking defensive measures, blaming the fiasco on… a “paperwork issue.”

The trade association that represents many of California’s oil and gas companies says the water-injection is a “paperwork issue.” In a statement issued to NBC Bay Area, Western States Petroleum Association spokesman Tupper Hull said “there has never been a bona vide claim or evidence presented that the paperwork confusion resulted in any contamination of drinking supplies near the disputed injection wells.”

Well, actually, there is:

However, state officials tested 8 water supply wells within a one-mile radius of some of those wells.

Four water samples came back with higher than allowable levels of nitrate, arsenic, and thallium.

Those same chemicals are used by the oil and gas industry in the hydraulic fracturing process and can be found in oil recovery waste-water.

And now back to the source of it all: the California Department of Conservation, where we are confident a little further investigative reporting will find millions in kickbacks and corruption, all funded by the oil and gas “lobby.”

When asked how this could happen in the first place, Marshall said that the long history of these wells makes it difficult to know exactly what the thinking was.

“When you’re talking about wells that were permitted in 1985 to 1992, we’ve tried to go back and talk to some of the permitting engineers,” said Marshall. “And it’s unfortunate but in some cases they (the permitting engineers) are deceased.”

Kern County’s Water Board referred the Investigative Unit to the state for comment.

We hope to learn who the state will refer the unit for comment next.

Finally, for those living around the blue dots, avoiding the tapwater for the time being may be a good idea.

As for whether the public’s opinion about fracking is changed as a result of revelations such as this: we reserve judgment until comparative Investigative Units piece uncover how many billion gallons in fracking wastewater was dumped in other states where the shale miracle is (still) alive and well.

Baby Steps
18th November 2014, 17:47
I believe the whole industry is secretive about the content of fracking water as they are using it to dump toxic waste, this would probably be as profitable as the actual fossil fuels yielded!!

18th November 2014, 18:17
This is so disturbing and we are so ridiculously stupid. (sarcasm alert) Oh, gee, how'd this happen?


18th November 2014, 18:37
This is not at all surprising since the big industries control "our" (tongue-in-cheek) government. Here's a simple thought. While California, and many other parts of the country, are seeing their water levels dropping at an alarming rate, has anyone asked the oil and gas industry where they're getting all those billions of gallons of water to pump into (and waste in) their fracking operations? Oh I'm sure it's been reported on the MSM, err, um, well, somewhere. ;)

18th November 2014, 19:28
I believe the whole industry is secretive about the content of fracking water as they are using it to dump toxic waste, this would probably be as profitable as the actual fossil fuels yielded!!

Good point -- the industrial complex has been dumping waste in our air, our rivers, our oceans, our land, our drinking water, our toothpaste, our food, our medicine, our ... whatever ... for almost long as there has been an industrial complex.

Of course, they'd leap at the opportunity to dump yet more waste into our aquifers.

18th November 2014, 19:50
This is called EndGame, the culling of the human population, sheeple first.

18th November 2014, 20:06
I remember reading that concentrated sulfuric acid was sent down in holes to FRAK the shale or whatever and then a highly caustic substance was sent down in the hole to counteract the acid. I dearly wish that the Rockefeller's of W. Virginia would drink the resulting poisoned water as it joins a stream on its way to their drinking water; but perhaps reptilians drink acid. Nostradamus predicted that this acid would be dumped into the reservoir in Central Park for New Yorkers to savor. How would you like your dear little niece to be killed by drinking sulfuric acid. These murderers and their enterprises need to be exterminated by citizen action, since the courts, politicians, etc., are all paid off..

18th November 2014, 20:31
I am 100% against existing fracking techniques. I think they use excessive force, use toxic chemicals and run the risk of opening up microfractures which can lead to the surface through existing fault zones both unknown zones and known.

I am extremely familiar with this industry as I have mapped out with analysis equipment various oil/gas and water wells across the US and elsewhere. I have mapped out mineral mining of other substances besides oil and gas.

To be accurate in any report citing high nitrate, thallium and arsenic (all 3 are found normally in rocks). California has been in drought conditions, and taking readings under those conditions can lead to abnormally high concentrations due to insufficient dilution.

To be accurate one would need to understand the total amount of nitrate present prior to any drought conditions, and understand the farming and irrigation happening prior to giving some arbitrary value present and then attempt to connect dots saying it is fracking doing it. That keeps the data accurate in a realistic before an after report.

As far as aquifer contamination. Nobody directly pumps waste water from drilling, or from production (dewatering the oil/gas production) knowingly into an aquifer.

This is a horizontal well design, frack'd into the HORIZONTAL portion ONLY - all water aquifer regions are cemented, sealed and non-porous in a properly maintained WELL. An OLD WELL with a leaking casing is a potential disaster..

Extracting oil where water/oil interfaces are very close together (separation by hundreds of feet, or less) is a potentially dangerous situation. Normally hydrocarbon zones are FAR AWAY, many thousands of feet away from AQUIFERS..

IN CALIFORNIA though, depending on WHERE one is, the separation can be minimal..


What is done for proper waste water disposal, is an OLD WELL is used which has a deep formation many thousands of feet, sometimes 10's of thousands of feet below where aquifer water is located.

There is shallow water, and deep water - example:

(Source - http://pubs.usgs.gov/ha/ha730/ch_b/B-text3.html)


Deepest depths are slightly below 3500 feet below the surface..

California is heavily sedimented and heavily volcanic depending on where one is. Therefor the water source and what rocks and sediments it has been exposed to varies, and the chemical content IS very varied.

Interlaced with all this is extreme amounts of OIL which in some cases comes to the surface, i.e. La Brea in Los Angeles - this area isn't the only spot in California leaking oil into the water table(s) - La Brea is the most famous, but two other asphalt pits in southern California contain fossils: the Carpinteria Tar Pits in Carpinteria, Santa Barbara County and the McKittrick Tar Pits in McKittrick, in Kern County. (note in the OP Kern County being mentioned..)


California oil drilling - how deep?

The upper Monterey Formation contains a large pool in a zone of fractured shale at an average depth of 3,350 feet (1,020 m) below the ocean floor. Beneath that, a separate pool exists in the Rincon Sand, 5,000 feet (1,500 m) below the ocean floor, and yet another in the Vaqueros Formation at a depth of 5,900 feet (1,800 m). The deepest well drilled to date is 6,490 feet (1,980 m) into the Rincon Formation.

Shallow oil seeps as shown in the tarpits come right up to the surface RIGHT THROUGH AQUIFERS.. THAT OIL CONTAMINATION IS NATURALLY OCCURRING in other words..

If a waste-water injection well is used to put liquids BACK IN to preserve hydrostatic pressure (pressure between surrounding liquids, faults, oil and rocks at depth) that well should have certain characteristics.. The volume removed of oil and water equals some "virtual chamber size". If the chamber let's say is 1 billion gallons capacity, for hydrostatic equilibrium, and one puts in 1/2 a billion gallons, things are generally "still ok".. If one puts in 2-3 billion gallons of liquid, one is NOT generally OK because fracturing will happen.

Try overfilling a sponge.. it absorbs until it can hold no more and then it leaks..


Considering the oil formation for instance near Bakersfield are like a layer cake - one can find water layers, oil layers all the way down to 18,000 feet - in some spots oil can be found a couple hundred feet below the surface, and a few hundred feet away, it may be about 10,000 feet deep..

AND considering the immense amount of earthquakes continually happening NATURALLY in California, and ALL of the mineralogy (silver, gold, arsenic, lead, tellurium, thallium, copper, etc..) and having farming happening with nitrates, and phosphates being used, and a decreasing water table, just blaming it on fracking is irresponsible because the rest of the variables have not been taken into account.


FULL STUDY is needed with prior understandings of water quality and production depth and especially for irrigation seeping back into the water table and the mineralogy of the nearby mountains supplying rainwater runoff..

With any injection well, the exact depth BELOW the water table has to be looked at.. ASSOCIATED WATER ALWAYS exists in the majority of formations being used to extract production grade oils.. Putting the associated water or the fracked waste water back into a similar depth well is about as safe as anything if the hydrostatic balances are maintained and if the natural faults in the area are stable, and if no direct pathways exists between the production sands or shales..

That is a bunch of IF's.. And only proper analysis and study can reveal what's there. Existing technology, seismic does not have the capacity to resolve contamination issues.

Some of my studies to date deep analysis of direct hydrocarbon and or water present in zones, or formations has shown in OLD WELLS being used can have cracked casing pipes and cements which allow for co-mingling of water into shallow formations (i.e. aquifers)... Knowingly using a defective well is an issue..

If that happened in California, a defective well directly connected to an aquifer, then one should be concerned about that incident..

That California has so much OIL already leaking into aquifers and ground water (see La Brea image above), it is really hard to say it is fracking doing it, without the complete study..

Multiple layer cake structures/faults production sands and shales


Like I said, I am AGAINST the existing methods of fracking and the existing methods of analysis because they don't properly deal with deep to surface faults and deep to aquifer existing connections..

With a hydrostatic balance in a formation consisting of different grades of water AND OIL naturally present, sucking out too much water will start to suck OIL out of the formation.. A water well can show up as producing hydrocarbons or other contaminants, because so much has been pulled out - the balances are OFF..

That is the issue to look at in my opinion. Seeing EXACTLY what is going on looking at those points above.. OIL/WATER/HYDROCARBON naturally exists, and contamination is happening because natural balances are being upset. MOSTLY from pulling out so much water from the water tables, hydrocarbons are being extracted. Seepage from farming/agriculture/ranching is allowing surface contaminants into the water-table from seepage. The existing water-tables are LOW (drought conditions). Balances are upset. Natural oil seepage is all over the areas people are upset about.

19th November 2014, 01:13
The balance is upset the minute stuff is injected into the earth that does not happen naturally IMHO, no matter how effectively or efficiently it is done................it is not natural to the laws of nature therefore can never really have balance.................?

20th November 2014, 01:03
This makes me soo sick, WTF. Vivienne Westwood said we need Ecocide Laws, NOW Please. I think the harshest penalties should be enforced, PERIOD.:sick: