Fracking Contaminates California Groundwater and Promotes Micro-seismic Activity

by Vins
Published: Updated:

Fracking or natural gas production is as controversial as it is a boom in U. S. energy production. In July, 2014, injection disposal wells in central California were shut down after almost 3 billion gallons of oil industry wastewater laden with toxic materials — arsenic, thallium, and nitrates, all related to natural gas production — were pumped into central California clean water aquifers. These are aquifers that could have been used for drinking water or irrigation and are supposed to be off-limits to that kind of activity, and protected.

State and Federal regulatory agencies are woefully unprepared to effectively monitor and act on these findings. One state agency official claimed that errors in the permitting process for wastewater injection could have occurred in multiple places. Adding to the magnitude and duration of the danger, toxic chemicals such as benzene can migrate into water sources for years making accurate risk assessment difficult.

A report from the Center for Biological Diversity shows that not only is California’s water at risk but that more than half of the 2583 active wastewater injection wells are within 10 miles of active faults. Micro-seismic activity from fracking has been well documented in other states such as Oklahoma and Texas as a result of underground injection wells. Hydraulic fracturing induced earthquakes can occur for weeks or years after initial underground disposal and miles away from the injection site.

California is currently experiencing the worst drought in modern history, highlighting the critical issue of protecting the states clean water resources. State regulators and citizens cannot allow it to be traded for cheap energy.


Jhon Arbeleaz, Shaye Wolf, and Andrew Grinberg, “On Shaky Ground: Fracking, Acidizing, and Increased Earthquake Risk In California,” Center For Biological Diversity, March 2014,

Lucy Nicholson, “California Aquifers Contaminated with Billions of Gallons of Fracking Wastewater” Russia Today, October 11, 2014,

Student Researcher: Steven Feher (San Francisco State University)

Faculty Evaluator: Kenn Burrows (San Francisco State University)