It comes as no surprise that the oil industry is willing to put our safety at risk for the sake of making a profit. While we know we’ll regularly have to fight oil spills, pipe leaks and other natural disasters, we were absolutely outraged last year when our friends at Water Defense revealed that the Cawelo Water District was accepting oil wastewater and selling it to farmers.
Because of the severe drought sweeping through California, some farmers have little choice other than to turn to this potentially polluted water to grow their crops. The thought of just one farmer being forced to use possibly poisonous water on our food is ridiculous enough—but Food & Water Watch has discovered that the sale of oil field wastewater is more widespread than we thought.
After months of research, Food & Water Watch has discovered that the North Kern Water Storage District is also using this outrageous practice, meaning those crops are potentially being grown with toxic chemicals, including methylene chloride and benzene.
California grows 83% of fresh carrots produced in the U.S. — and Kern County, CA, is a leading producer. Eighty-eight percent of all grapes produced in the U.S. are grown in California, and Kern County is a leader in table grape production. And mandarin oranges, like Halos? Kern County's a top producer there too. Odds are, something you packed for lunch or cooked for dinner yesterday very well may have been irrigated with this water – and there’s no way for us to tell at the store.
The potential scope of this mess can’t be understated. Some of the United States’ most popular brands grow some of their food in the Cawelo and North Kern water districts, like Trinchero Family Estates (makers of Sutter Home wines), Halos Mandarins (formerly known as Cuties), and The Wine Group (makers of Cupcake and Fish Eye wines)—and many other producers.
Since complicated supply chains and practically nonexistent regulations make it hard to know where food raised with oil wastewater ends up, we can’t solve this problem by shopping—or not shopping—a certain way. We have to hold our politicians accountable to fix this mess.
What’s happening in California has consequences for everyone across the country—so we need to stand together with Californians to tell Governor Brown to stop the oil and gas industry from using our food to get rid of its waste. We need to stop irrigating crops with oil field wastewater—right now.