Oil companies: They're kind of like pet cats, it turns out. They don't care what you want, they're only out for themselves, and they love to bury their waste wherever they feel like it. And thanks to the Environmental Protection Agency, they're able to bury it via aquifer injection at hundreds of sites across the country where the EPA says the water is not "reasonably expected" to be used for drinking.
In some of America's most drought-stricken communities, this practice is polluting what little drinkable water there is left. A new report from ProPublica digs into the EPA's spotty record on issuing exemption permits for dumping in the nation's precious aquifers -- starting with the fact that the EPA itself hasn't kept great records on which permits it has issued at all.
Federal officials have given energy and mining companies permission to pollute aquifers in more than 1,500 places across the country, releasing toxic material into underground reservoirs that help supply more than half of the nation's drinking water. ...
Though hundreds of exemptions are for lower-quality water of questionable use, many allow grantees to contaminate water so pure it would barely need filtration, or that is treatable using modern technology.
The EPA is only supposed to issue exemptions if aquifers are too remote, too dirty, or too deep to supply affordable drinking water. Applicants must persuade the government that the water is not being used as drinking water and that it never will be.
Sometimes, however, the agency has issued permits for portions of reservoirs that are in use, assuming contaminants will stay within the finite area exempted.