Something in the Water

California Regulators Say Growing Crops with Oil Wastewater is Safe – But They Don’t Really Know

In Kern County, California drillers need to inject a lot of water into their wells to get the oil out. It resurfaces contaminated with arsenic, uranium, underground toxins and chemicals used in extraction. Regulators say it’s safe to use that water on crops: every year 12.4 billion gallons of it gets used to irrigate California farmland.

We took a look at the science behind the claim in the series of stories below. We found scant evidence, conflicts of interest and potential dangers to an unsuspecting public. 

Our findings are vital to climate and energy policymaking, not only in California but in other states imitating the practice, and everywhere California’s agricultural output is consumed.