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CA Fracking Wells Shut Down Over Groundwater Concerns

March 9th, 2015

Environmental agencies in California ordered the shutdown of a dozen fracking wells last week due to concerns over potential groundwater contamination. The fracking wells, located in Kern County in the state’s Central Valley, were used to dispose of the waste water used in the fracking process. Ten of the fracking wells were shut down voluntarily, while state regulators issued cease-and-desist orders on two others.

How Fracking Wells Work

The fracking wells allow drillers to reach underground reserves of oil and natural gas that were previously inaccessible by standard drilling methods. The fracking wells inject a mixture of water, sand, and chemicals into the oil and gas deposits at high pressures. The high-pressure fluids break up the rock surrounding the deposits. The process leaves behind waste water that often contains high levels of toxic chemicals, including the carcinogen benzene, and other petrochemical products.

Fracking Wells Could Endanger Water Supply

An investigative report published in the San Francisco Chronicle revealed that state regulators had allowed oil drillers to place 176 fracking wells into aquifers that contained potable water. The state has been suffering from a lack of drinkable water and has placed severe restrictions on water use due to a drought that has lasted for several years. The report prompted officials with the California Environmental Protection Agency to launch their own probe in the location and distribution of fracking wells throughout the state.

State Probes Fracking Wells

The Kern County fracking wells were found to be within 500 feet of an aquifer located less than a mile underground. Steven Bohlen, an official with the California Department of Conservation, stated that the preservation of groundwater supplies “is paramount, particularly in this time of extreme drought.” Mr. Bohlen also told reporters that the state’s orders to stop fracking wells that pose a danger to aquifers “is a significant step toward that goal.” The state’s probe into the relationship between fracking wells and groundwater contamination is expected to take another three months.

Environmentalists Call For Statewide Fracking Wells Shutdowns

While the state takes preliminary steps into examining how fracking wells affect groundwater supplies, environmental activists claim that stopping the Kern County wells is far from an effective measure. Kassie Siegel, Director of the Center for Biological Diversity’s Climate Law Institute, said that closing only a dozen fracking wells “doesn’t even scratch the surface.” She also called for “an immediate halt to fracking and other dangerous oil development.”

Sources: Los Angeles Times, Think Progress

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