The Cornucopia Institute is calling on the USDA to tighten federal organic standards to prohibit the use of wastewater for irrigation from oil and gas drilling, and from the nation’s municipal sewage treatment systems.
Research shows that the copious amounts of wastewater, a byproduct of the hydraulic fracturing technique in gas and oil production, are contaminated with toxic chemicals and oil. Recent reporting has indicated the use of such wastewater in organic food production.
Effluent from sewage plants, which co-mingles waste from domestic and industrial sources, can contain drug residues, including antibiotics and hormones found in birth control pills, in addition to heavy metals and toxic chemicals. Wastewater from this source should similarly be prohibited for use in the growing of organic food.
National Organic Program
United States Department of Agriculture
Dear Mr. McEvoy,
We, the undersigned, respectfully request the USDA take immediate action to ban the use of wastewater for irrigation purposes from hydraulic fracturing processes at gas and oil wells, sewage plants, or any other industrial sources.
Sewage sludge is banned from landspreading in the organic standards for good reason; it can contain heavy metals, industrial chemical residues and pharmaceuticals. This makes wastewater from these sewage treatment plants a risk as well.
Fracking wastewater used for crop irrigation has been found to contain residues of acetone, methyl chloride, bromide, aluminum and hydrocarbons (oil components). Published research indicates that certain plants are very efficient in taking up chemical and pharmaceutical residues from the soil where they then can contaminate the plant’s tissue.
Historically, we would have directly petitioned the National Organic Standards Board, an expert panel set up by Congress, to take up this problem and develop a regulatory proposal to prohibit these risky practices. However, now that you have, unilaterally, without input from the NOSB or the public, taken away the board’s ability to set their own workplan and agenda, we are forced to ask you to take immediate action to remediate the inherent risks of using knowingly contaminated water to irrigate organic crops.
We respectfully ask that you take immediate action to ban treated waste from oil and gas production and sewage treatment plant wastewater from use in organic farming.
[Your name — listed here along with other citizens who signed the petition]