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Crops grown with oilfield water safe, panel finds

 •  by Lois Henry
The Kern River oilfield can be seen behind Ethel's Old Corral diner on Alfred Harrell Highway in March. Credit: Lois Henry

Fruits and vegetables grown with recycled oilfield water in Kern County got a final stamp of approval last month, nearly five years after the Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board began what it thought was going to be a three-month process investigating the water’s safety.

Findings from numerous, wide-ranging studies commissioned by a Food Safety Advisory Panel assembled by the Water Quality board showed “no red flags” in crops grown with the water, according to Water Quality board chair Karl Longley.

The recycled oilfield water, blended with regular irrigation water, was tested for more than 140 chemical compounds. And 13 different crops — some grown with the oilfield water, some not  —showed no uptake of potentially hazardous chemicals from oil production methods.

“The bottom line is, there is no significant increase in health hazards from consuming produce that’s treated versus untreated,” Longely said in reference to the different types of irrigation water used.

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