There is an old joke among activists that you know your campaign is having an impact when a corporation threatens to sue you.
Food & Water Watch’s #JustBanIt campaign to ban the use of toxic oil field wastewater for crop irrigation has prompted two cease and desist letters from lawyers for Grimmway Farms, which owns Cal-Organic and Bunny Luv carrots. Dark humor aside, we take our research and our campaigns seriously.
Back in 2015, the California Regional Water Quality Control Board permitted the California Resource Corporation (CRC—formerly Occidental Petroleum) to discharge its oilfield wastewater into the North Kern Water Storage District’s groundwater aquifer. North Kern purchases it from CRC as a cheap way to boost its water supply for the farms in the district. Grimmway is a landholder and sources many of its carrots from North Kern.
Grimmway is demanding that we take down our video, which factually states that the company “grows its carrots in a district where oil field wastewater is mixed with the groundwater.”
Grimmway’s lawyers say the company makes its farmers sign a contract that they won’t use oil wastewater for irrigation. However, this does not mean the groundwater being used to irrigate the carrots hasn’t been tainted and mixed with the oil wastewater from CRC. In fact, Grimmway’s fields are only a mile and a half from the point where water from CRC Kern Front Field is discharged into the Calloway Canal, which provides groundwater recharge through the Rosedale Spreading Basin.
Last September, Food & Water Watch Executive Director Wenonah Hauter gave Grimmway a chance to prove that none of the oil-tainted groundwater makes its way into its fields. In a letter to company attorneys, she called on Grimmway to make a public statement with scientific evidence showing that the water from the North Kern Water Management District used to irrigate its carrots is never mixed with oilfield wastewater, including through wastewater recharged into the aquifer. Our letter referenced an order from the California Regional Water Quality Control Board outlining the practice in the district. Hauter also asked the company to take a public stand against the practice and to call on the local water district and California state officials to put an end to it. No such evidence or statement was provided.
Another corporation doesn’t want us to tell the truth. We will NOT be intimidated. https://t.co/SPrL4Bdx2S
— Wenonah Hauter (@WenonahHauter) February 8, 2018
It’s no wonder agricultural corporations are worried. Our video Oil Wastewater + Crops? Not on Our Watch has 53,000 views on Facebook and almost 11,000 on YouTube, so far. Thousands of our supporters have vowed not to buy produce grown with the toxic oil water until lawmakers ban the practice. And consumers are calling the companies named in our video and petition.
They have cause to be concerned. The oil companies that provide water to the Central Valley water districts report using 173 different chemicals in their wells. Fully 40 percent of the chemicals are undisclosed. But a recent study by researchers at PSE Healthy Energy, UC Berkeley, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, and the University of the Pacific shows that:
- 10 are known or suspected to cause cancer, according to the World Health Organization.
- 8 are on California’s Proposition 65 list of chemicals known to cause cancer, birth defects or reproductive harm.
- 5 are highly toxic to mammals when consumed.
“Such attempted intimidation will not deter FWW from stating facts."
Scott Edwards, Co-Director of Food & Water Justice, believes that given the documented evidence, the only reason Grimmway would threaten to sue Food & Water Watch would be to intimidate the organization. “Such attempted intimidation will not deter FWW from stating facts, nor will these continuing legal threats be tolerated,” he said in our most recent letter to Grimmway lawyers.
Our supporters helped us get the attention of Grimmway and other companies, like the Wonderful Corporation, which admits that it uses oilfield wastewater to grow Halos Mandarins. Together, we can force the facts to light and put an end to this unappetizing, dangerous practice!