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Scientists Question Safety of Using Waste Water From Oil Fields on Food

From NBCBayArea.com

A new report reveals oil companies use at least 10 carcinogens to extract oil.

Tom Frantz has been growing almonds near Bakersfield, California most of life, like his father and grandfather before him. He’s concerned about what is known as “produced water.”

“We’re not using it on my land,” he says.

Produced water comes from the Kern River Oil Fields a few miles to the east. It’s a byproduct of extracting oil. To extract one barrel of crude out of the earth, oil companies use between 10 and 100 barrels of water. That water is then filtered through tanks that contain crushed walnut shells, which adhere to the oil. The water then travels into ponds where it is skimmed to remove oil from the surface. If necessary, the water returns once again to the filtering process before being blended with fresh water.  It then travels down canals where it is delivered to about 90 farms in the Bakersfield area. Farmers in the area are using more than 20 million gallons of this water each day. Oil companies and the Cawelo Water District have tested the water and assured the farmers that the water is safe. Those farmers sell their produce to the Bay Area and throughout the country, sometimes as organic products.

While there are regulations that require companies involved in fracking to reveal the chemicals in their operations, no such rules exist for traditional oil extraction. Last year, the Central Valley Water Board ordered the oil companies to reveal the chemicals they are using. The companies responded with a list of 173 chemicals. Sixty-six of those chemicals are proprietary “trade secrets.”

“From a food safety perspective, the thing we’re most concerned about,” says Seth Shonkoff, “is whether these chemicals are going to migrate from the water into the plant, and particularly into the edible portion of the plant.”Shonkoff and a team of scientists from UC Berkeley, Lawrence Berkeley Labs and PSE, an Energy Science Institute – have recently completed a report that identifies the chemicals and their toxicities. While they couldn’t analyze the chemicals classified as trade secrets, with respect to the rest of them, Shonkoff says, “Forty percent of those rise to the ‘chemicals of concern’ category.

Shonkoff and a team of scientists from UC Berkeley, Lawrence Berkeley Labs and PSE, an Energy Science Institute – have recently completed a report that identifies the chemicals and their toxicities. While they couldn’t analyze the chemicals classified as trade secrets, with respect to the rest of them, Shonkoff says, “Forty percent of those rise to the ‘chemicals of concern’ category.

A total of 10 chemicals from the list were classified as either carcinogenic or possibly carcinogenic in humans by IARC, the International Agency for Research on Cancer.

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