Stop Use of Oil Industry Wastewater on Organic Crops

Target: Tom Vilsak, Secretary of Agriculture

Goal: End the use of toxin-laced water on crops later sold as organic foods to consumers.

Current USDA standards allow organic crops to be hydrated with water used in fracking and other oil industry activity as they do not regulate water sources for these food sources. As California continues an unprecedented period of draught, its farmers have partnered with the oil industry to irrigate their crops. Polluted and toxic wastewater is a product of both drilling and fracking.

Fracking wastewater also contains other chemicals as a by-product of the fracking process, but those remain an undisclosed industry secret. This toxic water contains chemicals like those found after the BP oil spill, but in higher quantities, according to Scott Smith, Chief Scientist for Water Defense.

Smith describes walking through fields during irrigation and being able to smell the chemicals even before testing the water. In addition to oil, tests revealed shockingly high amounts of acetone and methyl chloride, which are used as solvents to aid in softening raw oil for extraction.

California currently supplies the majority of Americans’ food, including organic meat and produce. Consumers concerned about their health and the environment pay for organic items believing them to be free of pollutants and toxins. Instead, they’re likely purchasing lettuce or other produce watered with oil industry wastewater and unknowingly ingesting high levels of harmful chemicals.

These standards must be updated to include anything that goes into crops or farmland, not just fertilizers, pesticides, and similar items. Water must be included and regulated. Oil industry wastewater must not be allowed on certified organic crops. Demand the USDA update 15-year-old organic standards to include water used in irrigation.


Dear Secretary Vilsak,

Consumers who spend their hard-earned money to purchase organic produce are being duped. Current standards for certifying products as USDA organic do not include the water used in irrigation. In California, this has led to a toxic collaboration between farmers and the oil industry.

Wastewater from oil drilling and fracking efforts contains oil, acetone, and methyl chloride in extremely high amounts. According to the Chief Scientist for Water Defense, if a corner gas station were releasing pollutants at the levels found in irrigation water, they would be shut down.

It is counter to everything organic is supposed to mean to allow such water to be used for irrigation purposes. The standards for certifying organic food must be updated to include water and farms that are unwilling or unable to comply with the updated standards must lose their USDA organic designation.


[Your Name Here]

Photo credit: Paulkondratuk3194

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