The Spark

the Voice of
The Communist League of Revolutionary Workers–Internationalist

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.”
— Karl Marx

Oil Field Wastewater Is Used for Crop Irrigation

Feb 28, 2022

California corporate farms in Kern County, one of the largest almond and pistachio growers in the U.S. and exporters worldwide, use highly toxic wastewater from Chevron’s oil fields to irrigate their crops.

Kern County, located just north of Los Angeles, has large oil reserves and produces 120 million barrels of oil each year. That is 66% of all the oil produced in California. But, since the oil companies have exploited this oil field for more than 120 years, the remaining oil needs to be extracted deeper from the ground by using water.

Chevron first mixes this water with many different chemicals, without which this extraction is not possible or economical. Only Chevron knows which chemicals it mixes with the extraction water since this knowledge is Chevron’s trade secret. So, Chevron keeps the public in the dark about the toxicity of these chemicals used.

After Chevron injects this extraction water into the ground, this water returns to the surface along with groundwater and oil. The resulting wastewater, together with oil, contains naturally occurring toxic elements extracted from the ground, such as arsenic and uranium, along with the numerous chemicals Chevron uses. So, this oil field wastewater is exceptionally toxic.

Since Chevron uses 18 barrels of water to extract one barrel of oil, the amount of toxic wastewater this oil company generates is enormous.

For Chevron, treating or keeping the vast quantities of toxic wastewater is costly. So, after a minimal treatment to remove particulate material, Chevron sells this wastewater, which is supplied to the corporate farms, making money from poisonous material.

Kern county is a desert. Chevron uses underground water, which is drastically depleted because of overuse. Because the water is scarce, the corporate farms need Chevron’s toxic wastewater to irrigate their, particularly water-thirsty, almond tree fields.

As a result, we get poisoned by eating these crops grown by this toxic wastewater.