Horse News

Waste Water from Oil Fracking Injected into Clean Aquifers

I repeat, wild horses being driven to extinction by the BLM is the canary in the coal mine of what is happening on America’s public lands and to America’s water.  –  Debbie Coffey


In a time when California faces an historic drought, the NBC Bay Area Investigative Unit has uncovered that state officials allowed oil and gas companies to pump billions of gallons of waste water into protected aquifers. Investigative Reporter Stephen Stock reports in a story that aired on November 14, 2014.

State officials allowed oil and gas companies to pump nearly three billion gallons of waste water into underground aquifers that could have been used for drinking water or irrigation.

Those aquifers are supposed to be off-limits to that kind of activity, protected by the EPA.

“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.”

California’s Department of Conservation’s Chief Deputy Director, Jason Marshall, told NBC Bay Area, “In multiple different places of the permitting process an error could have been made.”

“There have been past issues where permits were issued to operators that they shouldn’t be injecting into those zones and so we’re fixing that,” Marshall added.

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.

Read EPA’s letter to state regulators

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.

Are Regulators Ignoring California’s New Fracking Law?

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

The department ended up shutting down 11 wells: the nine that were known to be injecting into non-exempt aquifers, and another two in an abundance of caution.

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.

This well is one of nine that were known to be injecting waste water into “non-exempt” aquifers. It’s located just east of Bakersfield.

State records show waste water from several sources, including from the oil and gas industry, has gone into the aquifer below where 60 different water supply wells are located within a one mile radius.


20 replies »

  1. And I believe we can assume that this and similar “errors” have and continue to happen every day … and it is ignored and/or hidden for the sake of greed.


  2. Have advocates considered whether there is a relationship between where our once protected wild horse and burros were found in 1971 and protected for the present and future generations of the American people and the location of oil and gas fields?

    Where are the best preserved horse and other mammal species usually found?

    Where in California have fossils of E. lambei been found? Where is Wyoming were fossils of E. lambei found? E. lambei is E. caballus. Caballines share over 100,000 genetic traits, and include the Prezwalkski horse as a relatively new or very, very old version of the species.

    Where was the well preserved remains of a 43,000 year old horse found in the Yukon?

    Where was the pregnant mare found in Germany?

    When we can answer these questions, we may begin to see a pattern. if we can see and understand this pattern, we may begin to see what is happening to our wild horses and to our country in ways that make a different sense.


  3. This is inexcusable – who is going to be held responsible? They may have been shut down but who REALLY will be held accountable? Sadly, probably nobody. Guess what people? (the ones working for the fracking companies) You all are going to have to drink the same water… you are not special.. You all are the same as everybody else. So was it really worth it? Greed is disgusting. We have ruined this planet in about a hundred years. Didn’t take long – all for greed and power.


  4. This is the worst of the worst for our country.
    Fracking with aquifer drinking water is not a forever and ever commodity.
    We will never again see those natural wells make it back to pure and available…..Were so screwed!


    • This war is already underway–although I am not sure it is a war. Different groups, many of them affiliated with The Nature Conservancy are entering into conservation contracts to control wetlands and other bodies of water. If The Nature Conservancy were not activity engaged in the destruction of our native horses—and have been since 1973—I might consider this a good thing. But it has taken enormous resources to sell people, particularly in the West, science fiction and then get people to dedicate more resources.


      • In my original source that laid out this picture from a historical and faux science point of view, The Nature Conservancy and the IUCN were listed as the non-governmental partners that worked with FWS to get an exclusion of “exotic” species implemented to prohibit some species on public lands. But after FWS had no success implementing President Carter’s 1977 E.O. 11987, The Exotic Organisms Act, the IUCN took this provision to write into Article 8 (h) of the UN Convention of Biological Diversity. President George H. W. Bush had his lawyers review it, and they advised him not to sign this CBD because it undermined private property rights. They were right. The government controls what flora and fauna can exist anywhere. The timeline of events and language are related to the blog you and I both wrote on written by TWS’s Michael Hutchins testified about the Corolla Wild Horse Protection Act. It looks like NC’s horses were the guinea pigs. No action was taken until after the 1996 FAO decision to include “invasive” in the 1997 update of the IPPC which went into force in 2005—which corresponds to a couple of other timelines. The IUCN has done most of the damage at the policy and university level.


  5. Joni Ernst is committed to shutting down EPA. Now doesn’t that just make a whole lotta sense? Shut down the ONE agency in Washington who is trying to protect all of us from fracking chemicals…

    Wish we could make her squeal like a pig and send her home…


  6. It seems that mankind does not get it, contaminating water suppllies at this time espeically with the droughts, is affecting environments, our horses, all our wildlife and environments, what is wrong with these actions, how are they allowed, again its all about money and greed and to hell with everything else.


  7. It is called fraking or hydraulic fracturing and it doesn’t always contaminate the ground water 100% of the time. These people who have their knickers in a twist about this fraking business don’t know two cents about fraking nor the oil business. Surface water may be contaminated through spillage and improperly built and maintained waste pits, and ground water can be contaminated IF the fluid is able to escape the formation being fractured (through, for example, abandoned wells) or by produced water (the returning fluids, which also contain dissolved constituents such as minerals and brine waters).
    Of course, this is all provided that the fraking companies are following all regulations set forth and they have to be because that industry is now highly regulated.
    Please, please don’t get me wrong nor take this the wrong way. I feel 1000% o the plight of our poor horses and even though my family has been and still is in the oil business 3 generations now, I cannot speak for anyone else in the oil business doing right nor wrong but my own family. We are also horse people too, also several generations now.
    Please be educated in the future before you jump on any bandwagon and know your facts. Not everything everyone says is bad is really bad. Just certain irresponsible people give something a bad name.
    Greed lines the pockets of both sides here. Each side has its good points and bad points but it is the protection and program reforms of our horses that need the most help and attention than any other issue at hand and I am more Apt to side with our horses than anything else any day.

    Thank you.


  8. I live in Colorado, please don’t insinuate I don’t know about fracking. Fracking is not only contaminating aquifers, it is drying up wells, causing sink holes and earthquaks.
    Here in CO. they have delisted the sage grouse to just a threatened species – from endangerd so they can frack.
    We have a town hear called Fredrick, where several years back you could light the water from their facets with a match. The fracking adds on TV say it only has a double car garage foot print – when I drive I see units that have a 50 foot wall around them and they are the size of a Costco or Sams club building, and they are side by side. Coming past them the other night after dark these enclosures are lighted up and a are a town unto themselves.
    The Forest service has just opened up George Washington National Forest to fracking and the Sioux Nation says if the pipeline crosses their land it will be considered an act of war.
    The whole world is trying to stop fracking.
    Those of us who don’t make money from it can see the truth
    Fracking interests are from other countries and could care less about our environment and I just read where IKEA has bought the largest or second largest wind farm in the US
    So please don’t tell me I should learn more I live right in the middle of fracking.


    • I’m with you, geri! And there are many more people who feel the same way. I live in NY – no fracking so far – but I worry that its only a matter of time – over the border in PA its a mess. Honestly, do not comprehend how this industry, which does NOT always follow regulations, is allowed to contaminate our air & water & tear up the land. Doesn’t seem common sense to me to allow this industry to ignore regulations to keep our water & air pure. I guess its “follow the money”!


  9. Right on, Geri. I’m in KY where we’re fighting “repurposing” of gas pipelines to carry fracking fluids. In this karst filled state an explosion or leak would be catastrophic.


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