As California continues to limit water for agricultural production more and more, a potential expanded source of water is being condemned by food safety critics.

The Los Angeles Times brought to light concern about an approximate 20-year-old program of treated oil-field wastewater being used for crop irrigation. The newspaper reporter, Julie Cart, noted that the petroleum company, Chevron, recycles 21 million gallons of water and sells it to farmers to irrigate about 45,000 acres of crops.

With the need for water becoming even more critical, additional oil production recycled water from other companies has been targeted as possible agricultural irrigation water.  

New scrutiny of this recycled water is being demanded by food safety activists who think chemicals might be in the water that could enter the foods grown using the water and soil contaminated. Cart wrote, “Until now, government authorities have only required limited testing of recycled irrigation water, checking for naturally occurring toxins such as salts and arsenic, using decades-old monitoring standards. They haven’t screened for the range of chemicals used in modern oil production.”

Water Defense, an environmental activist group, has tested oil-field recycled water and claims it contains small levels of chemicals such as acetone and methylene chloride solvents along with small amounts of oil. Some water district and oil-company officials are claiming the testing was improperly conducted.  

Although no repercussions have been identified from using the water in crop production during the past two decades, some state legislators are stepping in to sponsor legislation requiring new water testing and purity of the water.

Waiting on further analysis to determine possible problems in using the wastewater or waiting for legislative action is not acceptable to environmental activists. The California-based Courage Campaign announced that it is petitioning Gov. Jerry Brown to “immediately halt the use of oil-contaminated wastewater until rigorous and impartial testing can be put in place to determine the safety of California’s food supply.”

The Los Angeles Times article can be read by clicking here.