You might have heard that Halo “Cutie” mandarin oranges (previously called Clementine’s) are being grown with waste water from oil fracking. In fact, some of the click-bait headlines tell you to look out because “almost all organic fruits and veggies (especially those in California) could be grown with fracking waste water.”
There are several problems with these kind of statements and we are going to take a look at them so that you can feel good about putting one of those Halo Cuties in your child’s lunch sack.
First, a quick peek at what fracking is, in case you have heard the word, but don’t really know what it is. In a nutshell, fracking is a fairly new way of getting oil and natural gas from shale rock. By drilling deep into the earth, then injecting water at high pressure, the gas and oil will flow to a well, where it is collected for use. The objections people have to fracking is that, first, it uses a whole crap load of water, and secondly, the potential for the contamination of groundwater that is located near fracking sites.
OK, now that we know what fracking is, let’s talk about what happens to the water that is used when the job is done. Contrary to what most people think, it isn’t removed from the ground and resold. So where does it go? In some cases, the water is discharged into creeks, rivers, and streams, which is just as bad as if they did use it to water crops.
Central California is prime farmland, as well as containing more than a few oil wells. There is some oilfield waste water (but not fracking water) that is being used within Kern County, for use on crops. However, before you start with the “Ah Ha!”, this water is treated, then mixed with fresh water, and is constantly monitored for safety before it hits the fields. What isn’t known is how this oilfield waste water, even after it is treated, might affect the land when used over, say, a 100-year time period. Generally speaking, however, this water is considered to be safe for irrigation purposes.
We want to point out, again, that this is not fracking water, but treated and diluted waste water from oil/gas producing refineries. By the way, this practice has been going on for at least the past 30 years.
Early in 2015, a Newsweek article looked into this controversy and found that, while concerns over waste water from oil fields were not without merit, all available evidence had not proved that this use of waste water had caused anyone harm nor had it polluted drinking water or damaged fields.
The Los Angeles Times reported that studies on the water used in July of 2015 also found no detectable levels of one of the most dangerous pollutants that can be found in oilfield waste water: methylene chloride.
One more thing we would like to talk about here. All of the articles you will read, regardless of whether the crops are Halo tangerines or any other type of fruit or vegetable from Central California, the key phrase used is “could be”. This is because only 10% of all water used to grow crops in California comes from treated oil field waste water. So, yes, your food could have been watered with treated waste water from oil fields, but chances are slim that it was.
The last thing we think you should be aware of is that, while the waste water is continuously tested, claims by those who state that these fruits are filled with toxins and poisons have not released one single test, not one study, showing that any produce is contaminated. (Nor so they say what, exactly, these fruits and vegetables are supposedly contaminated with) How can anyone say that something is contaminated when they produce no tests to back up these statements?
In short, the idea of oil field waste water being used on produce in California is a complicated one, to be sure. Research is still ongoing to ensure that all produce is safe for consumers, however, as of right now, all data collected shows that crops that have been irrigated with waste water have been proven to be safe.
Of course, “Halos Grown with Waste Water Shown to be Safe” isn’t a good headline, but, then again, some websites have little or no interest in the truth, only in clicks.