California regulators have ordered seven companies to stop injecting wastewater from fracking operations into underground aquifers in Kern County out of concern they could be contaminating drinking water.
The Bakersfield Californian reports the emergency cease and desist orders apply to 11 wells east and northeast of Bakersfield. State oil and gas regulators are also reviewing more than 100 other injection sites in the Central Valley.
Companies are allowed to inject fracking waste – a mix of water and chemicals – into some aquifers that were presumed to be unfit for drinking and farming. But state officials say the companies appear to be pumping waste into fresh water aquifers that are protected by law.
The Central Valley contains a patchwork of aquifers at various depths, which has created some confusion about which wells are protected and which are not.
ProPublica writes about how the “state’s drought has forced farmers to rely on groundwater, even as California aquifers have been intentionally polluted due to exemptions for oil industry.”