July 20th, 2015
Toxic tour & State Water Board meeting on Ponds, SB4, and UIC (Kern County)
On Monday July 20th, 2015 Clean Water Action members Andrew Grinberg and Rosanna Esparza guided a tour alongside Sierra Club members Ann Gallon, Kyle Jones, also attending was Katharine Moore from the Sen. Natural Resources and Water and CCEJN project coordinator Gustavo Aguirre Jr to East Bakersfield in a location known as Race Track Hills (Comanche Rd & Breckenridge Rd). This location has been highlighted because of practices oil operators have been doing there known as the “spray fields”. These spray fields have been closely looked at by the state water board for discharging produced waste water into a hill side. Technically, it is discharging produced oil waste water into a hillside using sprinklers and a large diesel pump. The problem with these practices is that this location is upstream from the City of Bakersfield and the potential to pollute ground water and the Kern River is high. The Kern River is classified as “Waters of the U.S.” creating a concern with water quality and possibly polluting what is considered some of the cleanliest waters in Kern County. The spray fields are only one factor in a bigger picture of what the oil industry has been doing with waste waters in Kern County along with evaporation ponds and injection wells to discharge water.
Shortly after the tour was adjourned, we met with State Water Board officials, Clay Rogers, Dale Harvey, Karl Longley, and Julie Macedo from the Fresno office who provided updates on problems we have here in the Central Valley. The main topics we covered were open waste water pits and ponds, UIC, and SB4. State Water Board officials updated community organizations on activities surrounding ponds. They also gathered information on where the ponds are located and who discharges into these ponds. The board sent out various “13267” orders to disclose where all the oil producers/land dischargers are. Based on all the ”13267”orders, there will be around 100 Clean-up & Abatement enforcement orders covering about 500 ponds and one possible Cease & Desist order for a land discharger in the San Joaquin Valley oilfields. The ponds range from permitted ponds to unpermitted ponds discharging waste water. Some of the efforts the State Water Board will be doing in order to insure compliance and enforcement is open a total of 17 new positions within quality control. These new positions will focus heavily on matters such as the waste water ponds and UIC operations. Continuing with the efforts from the State Water Board to ensure water quality, there is now a Technical Advisory Committee to review current data on potential water and food contamination.
Water Board officials also stated that these enforcement orders have requirements that need to be met, some include ground water quality testing and evidence that contaminants don’t reach ground water. If contamination does occur, the violator needs to show data and provide information on how far the pollution spread, and/or show ground water quality is safe.
In conclusion, the meeting with Clay and staff was an update from where the water board stands in regards to oil operations and land discharges in the Central Valley, more updates to come to KEEN and FERN task forces.