Weekend Open Thread: Fracking and Aquifers News — or, Rather, NOT News

San Francisco Bay Guardian

Ave atque vale, and aquifers vale as well.

So this was in my Facebook feed:

California Aquifers Poisoned by Fracking While State’s Water Shortage Becomes Grim

In July, during the height of the drought, state regulators halted operations at 11 injection wells used to dispose of wastewater used in hydraulic fracturing. The state found that the wastewater might have contaminated aquifers used for drinking water and farm irrigation. The Environmental Protection agency had ordered the state to send them a report regarding the situation within 60 days.

Last week, in compliance with the EPA demand, the California State Water Resources Board sent the agency a letter confirming that at least nine of the sites closed down by the state were indeed dumping contaminated water into aquifers protected by the Safe Drinking Water Act and California regulations.

A copy of the letter was obtained by the Center for Biological Diversity. The letter reveals that some three billion gallons of toxic wastewater was illegally released when injected into wells and spread into aquifers in the central part of the state. The State Water Resources board also stated that water samples taken from eight water supply resources close to the injection sites have excessive levels of toxins and carcinogens, including thallium, a chemical found in rat poison, and arsenic, a known carcinogen which can also wreak havoc on the endocrine and immune systems of humans and animals.

“Arsenic and thallium are extremely dangerous chemicals,” said Timothy Krantz, a professor of environmental studies at the University of Redlands. “The fact that high concentrations are showing up in multiple water wells close to wastewater injection sites raises major concerns about the health and safety of nearby residents.”

State regulators believe that up to 19 other fracking wastewater injection wells could have contaminated aquifers. To date, the Water Resources Board has only tested the eight wells indicated in its letter.

But, you know, that’s Alternet.  I like Alternet, but it’s left-wing, sometimes alt-health, and not always reliable (as if the traditional media is); it’s not my first choice of sites when I want to convince people of something — even of something as apparently factual as the existence of this letter. So I looked for more information: Google News search, last month, {California | Aquifers | Fracking}.

Massive Dumping of Fracking Wastewater into Aquifers Shows Big Oil’s Power in California

OK, good story — but it’s from the San Diego Free Press.  It’s slogan is “Grassroots News and Progressive Views.”  People may dismiss it out of hand.  What’s next?

California aquifers contaminated with billions of gallons of fracking wastewater

That’s Russia Today.  RT does some excellent reporting on the deficiencies of the United States — just as the U.S. media does excellent reporting on the deficiencies of Russia — but it does seem compromised to me and I don’t entirely trust it.  I can’t expect that others will do so more.

You Thought California’s Drought Couldn’t Get Any Worse? Enter Fracking.

That’s from Mother Jones.  I consider it to be quite a good news source, but … well, I have no illusions about what non-lefties would think.

Frackers are dumping toxic waste into California’s groundwater

Grist.  I don’t read them much.  I don’t expect people who don’t share my politics to credit what they say, though I don’t see why they shouldn’t.

All of these stories appear since October 7, by the way, when a site called (*sigh*) “DeSmogBlog” seems to have broken the story with the massive journalistic effort of … publishing a press release from the Center for Biological Diversity.  (D’ohhh!  Could been us!)  Is that letter true?  If it isn’t, then isn’t that a story worth telling?  Surely someone should have checked, right?  Poisoned water — big deal, right?

I continued looking.  Clean Technica, Care2.com, Earth Times, Al Jazzera, Truth-Out — all perfectly reasonable stories from perfectly reasonable sources that I don’t expect most people reading this blog, let alone in the broader and less smart and sensible world, would necessarily afford the credibility of the Los Angeles Times or, uh, the Register or KABC or KOCE or KPCC or what have you.

Where is the establishment media?  Don’t their readers and viewers and listeners drink water?


Maybe I was looking in the wrong place.  The Center for Biological Diversity, that’s what I’ll look up!

I don’t recognize the people on their Board of Directors (but then, not being that deep into environmental activist groups, I wouldn’t expect to, either.)  They have a nice story — battling the National Forest Service in New Mexico — but that doesn’t mean that they get automatic credibility.  Maybe the whole thing is a prank!  (If so, someone sure is putting a lot of effort into it.)  CIA front organization?  Cleverly disguised cocaine smuggling cartel?  Space aliens coming for our thallium?

Let’s see what the traditional media has to say about them!

Almost half a million hits!  I’ll just read you a list of the sources writing about them:

National Journal
One NPR story (!)

Oh, and then a bunch of stories from the EPA and such discussing their lawsuits to protect Endangered Species.

I don’t know if the story that they kicked off is true — but I’d be very surprised if it isn’t.  If it’s not true, then it deserves to be exposed!  But if it is true, then it deserves a spot in the news — not just the fringe lefty news, but the newsy-news-news.  And the lack of interest that the traditional media shows in covering this story — POISON!  DRINKING!! WATER!!! — given the crap and crud that they do cover just amazes me.

When people look back years from now and ask “why wasn’t the public more engaged when it mattered?”, please try to remember to point them to stories like this one, that show that they weren’t engaged largely because they weren’t told.  And that they aren’t told because they don’t want to be engaged really isn’t much of an excuse.

This post is published in memory of one-time alt-media titan the San Francisco Bay Guardian, which blinked out of existence this weeks after 48 years, and which I think would have published news about this topic as well.

This is your Weekend Open Thread.  Talk about that, or anything else you’d like, within reasonable bounds of decency and decorum.

(And if you haven’t yet registered to vote, Monday is your last day to do it.)

About Greg Diamond

Somewhat verbose attorney, semi-disabled and semi-retired, residing in northwest Brea. Occasionally ran for office against jerks who otherwise would have gonr unopposed. Got 45% of the vote against Bob Huff for State Senate in 2012; Josh Newman then won the seat in 2016. In 2014 became the first attorney to challenge OCDA Tony Rackauckas since 2002; Todd Spitzer then won that seat in 2018. Every time he's run against some rotten incumbent, the *next* person to challenge them wins! He's OK with that. Corrupt party hacks hate him. He's OK with that too. He does advise some local campaigns informally and (so far) without compensation. (If that last bit changes, he will declare the interest.) His daughter is a professional campaign treasurer. He doesn't usually know whom she and her firm represent. Whether they do so never influences his endorsements or coverage. (He does have his own strong opinions.) But when he does check campaign finance forms, he is often happily surprised to learn that good candidates he respects often DO hire her firm. (Maybe bad ones are scared off by his relationship with her, but they needn't be.)