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Illegal waste pits galore in Central Valley as state looks the other way

In Kern County, where oil companies cough up roughly 9 barrels of polluted water for every barrel of oil they produce by fracking, state water officials have finished an inventory of so-called "disposal pits" where much of the toxic water goes.

Turns out more than 200 of the unlined pits are operating without permits.

Just how lax is the state's oversight?

Even though the oil companies never obtained permits from state water offiicals, as required by law, another arm of Caliornia government, the Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources, has routinely allowed the companies to construct such pits, like those in the LA Times photo above, for decades.

The latter agency, which critics say is a rubber stamp for the industry, explained its actions with some mumbo-jumbo about poor record keeping when evironmentalists -- and the feds -- stepped up the heat last year. Thus the inventory, finished this week, in which the illegal toxic ponds were "discovered."

From the LA Times:

Regional water officials said they believe that none of the pits in the county have linings that would prevent chemicals from seeping into groundwater beneath them. Some of the pits also lack netting or covers to protect migrating birds or other wildlife.

The pits are a common site on the west side of Bakersfield’s oil patch. In some cases, waste facilities contain 40 or more pits, arranged in neat rows. Kern County accounts for at least 80% of California’s oil production.

The facilities are close to county roads but partially hidden behind earthen berms. At one pit this week, waves of heat rose from newly dumped water, and an acrid, petroleum smell hung in the air. . . [Regional water board official Clay] Rodgers said Thursday that the agency’s review found 933 pits, or sumps, in Kern County.

Of those, 578 are active and 355 are not currently used . . . Of the active pits, 370 have permits to operate and 208 do not.

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