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Lawmaker Wants Label On Food Made With 'Fracking Water'

Richard Vogel / AP
 

Richard Vogel / AP

A California lawmaker has proposed a new label for food irrigated with what he calls “fracking water."

Assemblyman Mike Gatto, D-Glendale, said such water might include harmful contaminants, including carcinogens.

Oil companies sell Central Valley farms millions of gallons of treated wastewater every day for irrigation. Some water extracted from the ground during hydraulic fracturing is also used for irrigation.

Gatto says consumers have the right to know what kind of water is being used on their food.

“This is not water that you would want to drink. I think a lot of the people doing this have the attitude that the soil should just be the filter.”

Representatives for two farm industry groups, the California Farm Bureau Federation and the Western Growers Association, declined to comment on Gatto’s proposal or could not be reached for comment.

Some agriculture experts say not enough is known about the topic to say a label is necessary. Others said it’s misleading to declare that “fracking water” is being used on crops.

Blake Sanden is the irrigation and soils farm advisor with the University of California Cooperative Extension in Kern County.

He said water pumped out of the ground during hydraulic fracturing is separated from oil, treated and then used for irrigation in rare cases in Kern County. The high-pressure mix of water and chemicals used to break up and fracture rocks, however, is not used to water crops, he explained.

Sanden said there hasn’t been much research on the affects of oil field produced water on crops. Given the role soil plays in filtering contaminants and the microorganisms that consume impurities, he said it’s much too early to stick labels on food.

“I think it’s way premature,” he said.

Asked whether crops grown with the water present a food safety risk, Sanden added: “At this point in the game, there is not a shred of evidence.”