Mystery Below Ground

Reads 1682

By Seth Steiner in Los Alamos

Water is necessary for life. We all drink it. In addition, it makes this agricultural economy strong, providing over 25,000 jobs in Santa Barbara County. And the quality of our water is as important as its quantity. 

Water that is contaminated with toxic and cancer-causing chemicals causes illness and makes land unproductive. Our health and that of a large sector of our economy are dependent on sufficient sources of clean water.

Agencies have recently been established throughout the state to manage our water for sustainability. I happen to be on the advisory committee of one of them, although I do not speak for it here. 

Geologists and hydrologists at the U.S. Geological Survey are studying the movement of water that refills our aquifer. These scientists have recently told our agency that they do not understand and cannot explain some flows underground.

At the same time, oil companies claim that their activities will not affect our water because they are careful above ground and because there are impermeable layers underground that block toxic chemicals from reaching our aquifers. Oil companies have spilled thousands of gallons of oil on our land that seeps below the surface. They have also illegally injected millions of gallons of poisonous liquid waste into many protected aquifers. 

For the proposed drilling of hundreds of new wells in Cat Canyon, here in our “backyard”, these companies would use extreme methods of extraction. Their plan is to heat water to 500 degrees and force it underground at high pressure. This can cause fracturing and, along with naturally-occurring seismic activity, create new pathways of travel for liquids below ground to contaminate our water. 

The U.S. is already the world’s largest producer of oil and we don’t need any more from our county. While we think about New Years resolutions to lose a few pounds or to exercise more, we might also consider what we can do to stop this coming assault by the oil companies. Their shareholders see the potential for big profits, but our health and economy are at stake.

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Luvaduck Dec 15, 2018 12:07 PM
Mystery Below Ground

You guys misunderstood! In oil company terms "being careful" means assuring that whatever damage they do only affect their own top-tier people's income, health, bank/brokerage accounts in positive ways, the more the better. A few employees here and there are expendable, and damages to people or anything else the company doesn't pay for is immaterial. Look at Super Fund locations on the map at Wikipedia if you're curious about who pays for extractions/processing industry clean-ups.

rubaiyat Dec 15, 2018 11:17 AM
Mystery Below Ground

As soon as we stop driving carbon fueled cars oil companies will be obsolete.

RHS Dec 15, 2018 10:15 AM
Mystery Below Ground

"Being real careful" worked well at Fukashima, Three Mile Island, Chernobyl, Hanford, New Mexico, et al. It also sufficed to protect us from the Gulf Oil disaster, the Alaskan oil disasters, the Nigerian oil disasters. Not to mention the care exercised at Bhopal, India. This list is endless because the ability to "exercise care" is limited by technology, cost and the greed of the operators of these facilities. We have to protect the basic resources of the planet from such callous people.

Factotum Dec 15, 2018 11:33 AM
Mystery Below Ground

How are the Norwegians doing so well in their North Sea oil drilling that funds their own version of Nordic socialism. What can we learn from Norway about their drilling operations.

Red Creek Dec 15, 2018 09:54 AM
Mystery Below Ground

in 1985 powerful rich Ken Hunter Jr. assured naive SB County staff and politicians that somehow all that toxic waste being driven by leaking toxic waste trucks into our Casmalia would not penetrate the ground water due to a very special rock formation. Of course we now know that was a bunch of hooey and the area has become a toxic leaking superfund site. Mr. Hunter died an early death of cancer, and I've wondered if his exposure on his own land resulted in his illness. We don't have to wonder or speculate these days about contamination; when toxics are poured on the earth, they eventually penetrate the aquafer. Approvals of this contamination are now more a matter of bought off politicians, staff more concerned about short term tax proceeds and a public that is unaware of what is heading their way. Casmalia is a ghost town these days, and I hope we don't create more with oil industry pollution. And it is interesting that County supervisor Peter Adams owns a farm that recently contaminated lettuce and caused millions of dollars of damages for the romaine industry.

cloudsneverdie Dec 15, 2018 09:08 AM
Mystery Below Ground

There are multiple compelling reasons to deny the three oil expansion applications (ERG, AERA & Petrorock). Not only are these 750 new oil wells (of 30-40 year durations) proposals planning to ALL drill through the Santa Maria Aquifer, but the draft environmental impact reports to date fail to demonstrate ANY viable solution once contaminate occurs. There are seismic faults within the proposed drilling area, and it is also in a high fire risk area. There are multiple ways that pipes could crack or be damaged enough to irreversibly contaminate the drinking water source for 200,000 people. Moreover, as the Independent details this week, Santa Barbara County is already doing a miserable job of reducing the greenhouse emissions that are driving climate change and destroying our atmosphere. The very last thing we need in Santa Barbara County is any expansion of the fossil fuel industry. Tp approve new oil drilling permits would be unconscionable, and in conflict with County, State, National and Global goals to reduce carbon dioxide in any hope of stabilizing an already impacted climate atmosphere.

a-1561600949 Dec 15, 2018 08:55 AM
Mystery Below Ground

How do they heat water to 500 degrees?

sea dog Dec 15, 2018 08:02 AM
Mystery Below Ground

We are drilling enough oil if we all want to drive electric cars. Electric cars East of the Mississippi run on coal ! ... That sure beats 50 mpg on a gas hybrid ! (not)

JudiMagda Dec 14, 2018 08:53 PM
Mystery Below Ground

Being "careful" doesn't mean a thing. It is a known fact that there is no way to ensure that ground water will not be contaminated. In fact, the risk and potential of it actually being contaminated is so high that everyone should assume it will be. There are still thousands of chemicals that the fossil fuels contain that are unknown to us because they haven't been tested. The ones that ARE known have been proven to lead to autoimmune diseases, cancer, and autism. They particularity attack our endocrine system, which regulates our hormones and it gets into our genes so we pass them on. You might think you're growing organic, you might think you're buying organic, but if the crops were grown where the water is contaminated, it is far from organic. The research is there. We can ignore it but it's serious and it's affecting us all.

a-1561600949 Dec 14, 2018 02:53 PM
Mystery Below Ground

Love this: " ...oil companies claim that their activities will not affect our water because they are careful above ground..." Sure! Like Greka Oil Company's history of never polluting the ground. Hah!

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