The Environmental Protection Agency is not protecting underground drinking water supplies from oilfield contamination and in several instances has allowed companies actually to dump wastewater into aquifers, the US Government Accountability Office (GAO) says in a new report.
The report blasts the EPA for its oversight in California, where, since 2014, the state has allowed oil companies to violate safe-drinking water laws. An AP analysis in 2015 found that California had handed out 2,000 permits giving oil companies permission to dump wastewater into federally protected drinking water. The tragedy impacted at least 11 aquifers.
“It shows a massive failure to protect our drinking water,” Kassie Siegel, senior counsel at the Center for Biological Diversity, told AP. “The takeaway overall is that the EPA doesn’t collect and states don’t provide the information for the EPA to exercise the oversight that’s its job.”
The GAO report found that the “EPA has not consistently conducted oversight activities necessary to assess whether state and EPA-managed programs are protecting underground sources of drinking water.”
“For example,” the report found, “GAO found in June 2014 that EPA does not consistently conduct oversight activities, such as annual on-site program evaluations.”
The EPA mostly agreed with the report, AP said.
The report also found that the EPA did not have enough personnel on staff to inspect the oilfields, and that EPA administrators did not have adequate data about oilfields or aquifers to conduct inspections.