By Elizabeth Zach RCAC, staff writer

Waste water from fracking operations in California is significantly contaminated with the carcinogenic chemical benzene, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) says that the state’s oil field waste water program is seriously flawed.

In some cases, the fracking waste water, which is often injected into aquifers, contained benzene levels thousands of times greater than state and federal agencies consider safe.

State officials say that California’s Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources regulating the oil and gas industry has been prone to poor record-keeping and data collection.

The problem is particularly difficult to solve because, while the EPA can administer federal water laws, a 1983 agreement gives California the responsibility for monitoring water quality in its injection well program. The EPA also notes that periodic reports it receives from California are often late and incomplete.

Fracking has been a divisive issue in many American communities. Some ban the practice altogether and others impose moratoriums until more is known about the effects on water quality and public health.

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