Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, April 2, 2018

Contact: Hollin Kretzmann, (510) 844-7133,

Board Urged to Halt Oil-waste Pits' Contamination of Kern County Groundwater

FRESNO, Calif.— The Central Valley water board will meet April 5 and 6 in Fresno to decide whether to halt the dumping of oil-industry waste fluid into dozens of disposal pits that are contaminating groundwater in western Kern County.

The board has confirmed that wastewater dumped by Valley Water Management Company into unlined pits in the town of McKittrick has contaminated groundwater serving water-supply wells, and the pollution is spreading. But the board has yet to take any action, even as Valley Water continues to dump millions of gallons of toxic wastewater every day.

“By turning a blind eye to these oil-waste pits, the board is knowingly sacrificing the community’s water to polluters,” said Hollin Kretzmann, a staff attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. “If these public officials aren’t willing to stop the toxic dumping immediately, I don’t know why we even have a water board.”

Valley Water receives wastewater from numerous oil companies and discharges the fluid into a series of unlined pits, named McKittrick 1 and 1-3, where the contaminants are allowed to evaporate into the air or percolate into the soil and groundwater.

The Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board’s staff report confirms that wastewater has reached multiple groundwater sources below, including those connected to active water-supply wells. It also confirms that the discharged wastewater contains hazardous chemicals, including dangerous levels of cancer-causing benzene.

After years of Valley Water discharges and board inaction, the contamination has migrated at least 2.2 miles away from the site and may have spread “far beyond” the last monitoring well capable of detecting the contaminants, according to the staff report. As a result, groundwater that had been suitable for municipal and agricultural use is now unsuitable for both.

The same board recently allowed fracking waste to be dumped into unlined pits despite a state prohibition on the practice. It also allowed another Valley Water pit facility, east of Bakersfield, to continue operations despite more evidence of groundwater contamination.

“This board has a troubling history of blowing off its duty to keep the Central Valley’s water clean,” Kretzmann said. “Now’s the time to start putting the public’s right to safe drinking water above the oil industry’s profits.”

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.6 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

More press releases