Toxic Stew

What’s in Fracking Wastewater

March 10, 2015

Toxic Stew: Conclusion and Recommendations

Continuing to allow more than 2,000 wells to inject fracking wastewater into federally protected drinking water sources for even a limited period is an unacceptable risk to California’s water supply, especially in a time of severe drought. The state Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources must put an immediate halt to the practice, even if that means temporarily shutting down oil and gas drilling at those locations. Once a drinking water supply is contaminated with wastewater containing alarmingly high levels of chemicals, it will be extremely costly or perhaps impossible to clean it up.

It is also unacceptable that the Division plans no further testing of potentially affected drinking water sources beyond the eight water wells tested in the summer of 2014. The Division should call on the expertise of the California Environmental Protection Agency and State Water Resources Board to test each and every water source where wastewater injection was allowed.

In addition, the Division must take steps to correct the significant flaws of its website. Senate Bill 4 was intended to provide California citizens with complete and transparent information about the chemicals in fracking fluid and fracking wastewater, as well as on how wastes are disposed of. The data as reported during the first year of the program fall short of this goal. The agency should:

  • Develop clear, unambiguous instructions for drilling operators on how to fill out the disclosure forms.
  • Specify that the volume of recovered fluid must include both flowback and formation water.
  • Standardize and clearly specify what chemicals must be tested for in the wastewater.
  • Specify when drillers must sample fracking wastewater by clearly defining what constitutes the end of the well treatment.
  • Require that all reports provide full sampling data, including verified sampling dates and laboratory cover sheets.
  • Clearly identify each injection well used for disposal of wastewater from a specific fracking job.