California Farmers Irrigate Crops With Chevron's Oil Wastewater in Drought-Stricken Central Valley

When most people think of California, the first images that probably come to mind are the state's sun-soaked beaches, the Hollywood hills and the fog-drenched Golden Gate Bridge. But a new documentary web series, Spotlight California, wants to show viewers the California you don't see on postcards.

The five-part series, hosted by actress and comedian Kiran Deol, is investigating the impact of drought, water and air pollution, and gas price gouging in California.

The goal is to "raise awareness of these issues, give voice to the Californians being directly impacted and create an opportunity for people to join together and to take positive actions in communities across the state," explained NextGen Climate, which is funding the project.

"With this project, I want to shed some light on the powerful players who have tilted the economic tables in their favor, profiting at the expense of our families," Tom Steyer, president of NextGen Climate, said. "But I also want to highlight stories from people working hard to balance the scales; folks who maintain a positive attitude during tough times, while making a big difference."

The first episode, which aired Jan. 26, took viewers into the heart of the drought, where half the residents of the low-income community of East Porterville in the Central Valley struggle to find fresh water.

Watch here:

The second episode, which aired last week, highlighted another aspect of the drought. It shows how farmers are using treated oil wastewater to irrigate their crops, despite the fact that nobody has tested the wastewater to see if it's safe.

"There are farmers so desperate for water in one particular irrigation district called Cawelo, they're taking some wastewater to irrigate crops from Chevron. It's being used to grow food for people—citrus crops, grapes, pistachios," Tom Frantz told Deol in the episode.

"You grow an orange—it's 90 percent water when it gets to the consumer," Frantz continued. "Where did that water come from? It's the irrigation water. The irrigation water is toxic, even at very tiny amounts. Is there a tiny amount of toxicity now in the fruit? Nobody is testing that yet. And they're salting up their soil by using this water, which means ultimately they'll have to stop growing everything."

Seth Shonkoff of PSE Healthy Energy explained to Deol that “until we have a list of the chemicals that are going into oil and gas wells and in what volumes and what are their toxicities, we’re flying blind.”

In order to find out the health impacts of using recycled oil water on crops, Deol joined water scientist Scott Smith as he covertly tested the water for toxic chemicals at the Cawelo wastewater treatment plant.

"We found oil and these nasty solvents," which can cause "kidney damage, liver damage and cancer," Smith said.

Watch the second episode here:


Threat of Sea Level Rise Intensifies as Antarctica’s Melting Ice Sheet at ‘Point of No Return’

Witch Hunt Continues Against Climate Scientists at NOAA

The Super Bowl Doritos Commercial You Didn’t Get to See

Neil Young Takes His Anti-Monsanto Message on the Road

Show Comments ()
About 2,700 square miles of Amazonia's forest is destroyed annually. Dallas Krentzel / Flickr

Earth's Intact Forests Are Invaluable, and in Danger

By Tim Radford

The world's unregarded forests are at risk. Intact forest is now being destroyed at an annual rate that threatens to cancel out any attempts to contain global warming by controlling greenhouse gas emissions, according to a new study.

A second study finds that trees in the tropical regions are dying twice as fast as they did 35 years ago—and human-induced climate change is a factor.

Keep reading... Show less
Modern Event Preparedness / Flickr

5 Billion People Could Have Poor Access to Water by 2050, UN Warns

As the world's population grows and the planet warms, demand for water will rise but the quality and reliability of the supply is expected to deteriorate, the United Nations said Monday in this year's World Water Development Report.

"We need new solutions in managing water resources so as to meet emerging challenges to water security caused by population growth and climate change," said Audrey Azoulay, director-general of the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), in a statement. "If we do nothing, some five billion people will be living in areas with poor access to water by 2050."

Keep reading... Show less

28 Activists Arrested at Kinder Morgan Pipeline Construction Site

Despite a court-ordered injunction barring anyone from coming within 5 meters (approximately 16.4 feet) of two of its BC construction sites, opponents of the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline expansion sent a clear message Saturday that they would not back down.

Twenty-eight demonstrators were arrested March 17 after blocking the front gate to Kinder Morgan's tank farm in Burnaby, BC for four hours, according to a press release put out by Protect the Inlet, the group leading the protest.

Keep reading... Show less

Three Outlandish Ideas to Cool the Planet

By Jeremy Deaton

Climate change is a big, ugly, unwieldy problem, and it's getting worse by the day. Emissions are rising. Ice is melting, and virtually no one is taking the carbon crisis as seriously as the issue demands. Countries need to radically overhaul their energy systems in just a few short decades, replacing coal, oil and gas with clean energy. Even if countries overcome the political obstacles necessary to meet that aim, they can expect heat waves, drought and storms unseen in the history of human civilization and enough flooding to submerge Miami Beach.

Keep reading... Show less

Those Little Produce Stickers? They’re a Big Waste Problem

By Dan Nosowitz

Those little produce stickers are ubiquitous fruits and vegetables everywhere. But, as CBC notes, they're actually a significant problem despite their small size.

Keep reading... Show less

Despite Trump’s Bluster, U.S. Officials and Scientists Maintain Climate Work with International Partners

Trump has loudly declared his intention to withdraw the U.S. from the Paris agreement, but, behind the tweets and the headlines, U.S. officials and scientists have carried on working with international partners to fight climate change, Reuters reported Wednesday.

Keep reading... Show less
Gina Loudon and administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Scott Pruitt speaking at the 2017 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Maryland. Gage Skidmore

EPA Sued Over Failure to Release Correspondence With Heartland Institute

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is being sued for its "unlawful and unreasonable delay" in responding to requests for information about the agency's communications with the Heartland Institute, according to a complaint by the Southern Environmental Law Center (SELC) and the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF).

The Heartland Institute is an Illinois-based think tank that rejects the science of man-made climate change and has received funding from the Koch brothers and the fossil fuel industry.

Keep reading... Show less
Trump Watch
Aerial photo of Duke Energy Coal Ash Spill. Wake Forest University Center for Energy, Environment & Sustainability

Trump Administration Seeks to Gut Water Pollution Safeguards, Putting Communities at Risk

By Mary Anne Hitt

A Hollywood scriptwriter couldn't make this up. One day after new data revealed widespread toxic water contamination near coal ash disposal sites, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) head Scott Pruitt announced a proposal to repeal the very 2015 EPA safeguards that had required this data to be tracked and released in the first place. Clean water is a basic human right that should never be treated as collateral damage on a corporate balance sheet, but that is exactly what is happening.

Keep reading... Show less


The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!