Calif. Board Says Oil Wastewater Is Safe for Irrigation; Experts Doubt It

"Studies in Kern County, performed by oil industry consultants, cannot answer fundamental safety questions about irrigating crops with “produced water,” the board’s own panel of experts concedes."

"After years of controversy, the Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board assured the public in the fall that eating California crops grown with oil field wastewater “creates no identifiable increased health risks,” based on studies commissioned as part of an extensive Food Safety Project.

Yet a review of the science and interviews with a public health scientist affiliated with the project and other experts show that there is scant evidence to support the board’s safety claims.

The “neutral, third-party consultant” the board retained to conduct the studies, GSI Environmental, has regularly worked for the oil industry. That work includes marshaling evidence to help Chevron, Kern County’s biggest provider of produced water, and other oil giants defend their interests in high-stakes lawsuits around the country and globe.

GSI did not tell water board officials about its ties to the oil industry, which shared the roughly $3.4 million in costs for the firm’s studies and related work with the water districts that benefit from the distribution of wastewater from oil extraction, known as “produced water.”

One member of the board’s Food Safety Expert Panel that reviewed GSI’s studies was nominated by Chevron and initially paid by the oil industry, and a second panel member worked as a consultant for an oil company selling produced water."

Liza Gross reports for Inside Climate News February 6, 2022.

Source: Inside Climate News, 02/07/2022