Threat to drinking water is the pits in Central Valley

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The operators of 10 of the wells voluntarily flipped the switch, but state officials issued cease-and-desist orders for two others.

The orders came just as California’s Environmental Protection Agency issued a report saying that lax oversight and years of confusion among overlapping agencies is responsible for failing to stop the injection of drilling waste into aquifers used for drinking water and irrigating crops.

A recent review found more than 2,500 cases when the state authorized oil field injections into protected aquifers.PitsCalif

State officials said the decision to shut down the oil and gas wells doesn’t necessarily mean they have contaminated drinking water. The wells still have to be tested. But the injections are a growing concern as communities rely increasingly on underground drinking water supplies because of the drought.

Meanwhile, the search goes on for chemical-laden water pits that dot Kern County. The pits – some permitted, some not – contain wastewater that was forced out of the ground during drilling and fracking operations. Hundreds of the unlined pits have already been discovered. Officials hope to have a complete inventory by the end of the week.

The next step will be coming up with a plan to contain the wastewater and prevent it from seeping into drinking water.