On April 4, 2013, California’s Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board (Board) issued an investigative enforcement order to Vintage Production California (Vintage) arising out of allegations of improper disposal of fluids from hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking.”
The order (pdf) arises out of an October 6, 2012, video recently posted to YouTube. The video (below) purports to depict the discharge of wastewater to an unlined sump associated with fracking at a Vintage well near Shafter in Kern County.
The order, issued under the authority of Water Code Section 13267, directs Vintage to provide information about its activities at the well. By May 6, 2013, Vintage is required to submit a technical report describing the fracking stimulation process employed at the well, including information about the sump where wastes were discharged, the materials discharged to the sump (including its volume and composition), the volume and chemical characteristics of fresh water sources used for the fracking, volume and trade names of fracking chemicals, type and amount of proppant used, information about flowback fluids, and other details. Vintage must also produce a map of other wells it has subjected to fracking in the drainage area of the San Joaquin Valley in the last two years, a map showing the locations of other sumps, a map showing all wells proposed to be drilled by Vintage and permitted by the Division of Oil, Gas & Geothermal Resources (DOGGR) in the San Joaquin Valley, and an explanation of how Vintage manages and disposes of fracking fluids. The order also directs Vintage to submit a Report of Waste Discharge for all well drilling sites where it proposes to include excavation of a sump to contain discharges from well stimulation and production wastes.
Speaking about the order, Board Executive Officer Pamela Creedon said:
When any unpermitted water discharge activities are brought to our attention, especially one that may involve hazardous materials, we will move swiftly to ensure our regional surface and ground waters are not compromised. Following our investigation we will take the appropriate steps, which could result in the issuance of one or more enforcement orders that may include a cease and desist order, a cleanup and abatement order, and may also include civil liabilities.
What the video actually depicts has yet to be adjudicated. But the scope of the Board’s order confirms that it intends to take a hard look at fracking activities conducted by Vintage generally and will not limit its investigation to the specific incident depicted in the video.