KERN COUNTY - Seven Kern County oil companies experienced a setback in production Monday. The Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources shut down eleven injection wells at noon for fear they could be contaminating ground water.
These wells are used to get rid of toxic wastewater from the oil production process, not necessarily fracking. According to state officials, these wells may have been injecting hazardous liquid near usable groundwater.
One of these wells is right off Highway 58 near Weedpatch Highway near a neighborhood.
"It's very concerning," said Les Clark, Executive Vice President for the Independent Oil Producers Agency.
The Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources or DOGGR and the State Water Resources Board sent emergency closure letters to the owners of eleven injection wells last week. An injection well is used to get rid of tainted water used in the oil production process. The state worries these wells may be sending the waste to good groundwater.
"The last thing you want to do is contaminate usable water," said Clark.
DOGGR said problems with these wells were discovered while the agency was implementing SB4, the state's new fracking law. The agency says it discovered permits that allowed the operators to inject waste into fresh water for wells that varied in location and age.
"I would call it one of those fact-finding missions, if you will," said Clark. "But in the meantime, to tell my member he has to shut down his well, the fact is that puts him out of business. That's the fact."
Clark represents two of the producers who had to shut down injection wells. He says a closure like this, even if it's temporary, could be devastating.
"You can't produce oil without producing water, so if you shut down the water ability you shut down the water," said Clark.
The Division admitted last week they have no direct evidence water was contaminated in these areas, but said immediate closure is needed so tests can be done on all 100 wells within a mile radius.
Companies have to prepare a plan of action for the State Water Resources Board by Friday and provide test results from nearby wells by next month.