By Elizabeth Zach, RCAC staff writer
While states, Tribes and oil companies have recently been given more discretion on drilling, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is struggling with how to protect the environment and human health from the industry’s wastewater.
In a report this month, the agency indicates that it is seeking how best to respond to issues such as discharging wastewater into waterways or treating it for agricultural use. Both the agency and oil producers say there is a lack of data and standards on how to respond to the matter.
Nichole Saunders, an Environmental Defense Fund attorney, told Circle of Blue that this knowledge gap should make all parties cautious.
“Priority number one is making sure we have the data and science needed to make an informed decision,” Saunders said. “The priority shouldn’t be how to incentivize reuse.”
In Wyoming, wastewater is discharged into streams, according to the study, whereas in Kern County, California, some oil companies sell treated wastewater to farmers for crop irrigation, prompting the State Water Resources Control Board to evaluate potential hazards for human consumption.