News Feature | February 17, 2017

Concern Grows Over Oil Injection In San Ardo Aquifer

Dominique 'Peak' Johnson

By Peak Johnson

oil injectionregular

California officials this month announced that they will consider expressing their concerns about ongoing injections of oil-contaminated water into a South County aquifer in the face of a voter-approved measure against it.

According to The Monterey County Herald, “injection into any aquifer that has not received an exemption from the Environmental Protection Agency or is not on a list of 29 pending cases, must cease, according to the Department of Conservation.”

The San Ardo McCool Ranch aquifer, which encompasses the San Ardo Oil field, is overseen by “officials with the Department of Conservation, Division of Oil, Gas Geothermal Resources and State Water Resources Control Board.” Each have been working together since 2015 to make sure that all underground water injection programs are in compliance with federal regulations.

An application was submitted in August as part of the U.S. EPA review of Chevron for an exemption to allow continued injections into the aquifer. The same review involved the Department of Conservation having a public hearing about the application.

Cindy Pollard, a spokeswoman with Aera Energy, told the Herald that the hearing will allow the public a chance to see their data and conclusions from it.

“The water in these aquifers is unfit for human consumption,” Pollard said. “They have high salt content and oil deposits. Those aquifers are oil producing aquifers, not drinking water aquifers.”

However, while the application was processing through the necessary channels, Monterey County voters approved Measure Z, “intended to stop oil extraction techniques such as hydraulic fracturing, or ‘fracking,’ the drilling of new wells, and the injection of millions of gallons of wastewater pumped out of the ground with crude oil back into the aquifers where they originated.”

“After Nov. 8, why would the state feel compelled to move forward with the same activity that has been prohibited?” said Hollin Kretzman of the Center for Biological Diversity, referencing the presidential election. “Wastewater injection is supposed to be phased out in the next five years with Measure Z. There’s no reason to expand the number of places where wastewater injection could occur in the county.”

Image credit: "Oil, February  2014" Marcy Leigh © 2014 used under an Attribution 2.0 Generic license: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/