Tonnes of radioactive and toxic waste has been dumped into central California drinking-water by fracking companies, it has been revealed.

Some 3 billion gallons of wastewater has been reported to have been deposited into drinking-water and farm-irrigation aquifers, after the US Environmental Protection Agency ordered a review of possible contamination.

The Center for Biological Diversity, the California State Water Resources Board, found that at least nine of the 11 hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, wastewater injection sites were shut down in July. Documents obtained by the Centre, revealed that the sites were closed because they were contaminated and riddled with toxic fluids used to unleash energy reserves deep underground.

The documents also show that the Central Valley Water Board found high levels of toxic chemicals – including arsenic, thallium, and nitrates – in water supply wells near the wastewater disposal sites.

In addition, the State Water Board also said that 19 more injection wells may also have contaminated sensitive, protected aquifers, while wastewater has been dumped into dozens more aquifers of unknown quality.

The extent of the pollution is still undetermined, as the Central Valley Water Board has thus far only tested eight water wells of the more than 100 in the area, according to the documents obtained by the Central Valley Water Board. Half of those tested came up positive for containing an excessive amount of toxic chemicals.

Commenting on the developments, Hollin Kretzmann, an attorney for the Center for Biological Diversity, said: “Clean water is one of California’s most crucial resources, and these documents make it clear that state regulators have utterly failed to protect our water from oil industry pollution.

“Much more testing is needed to gauge the full extent of water pollution and the threat to public health. But Governor [Jerry] Brown should move quickly to halt fracking to ward off a surge in oil industry wastewater that California simply isn’t prepared to dispose of safely.”

Drought is another major problem that affects these wastewater sites. With fracking using gallons of water, this has only served to exacerbate the problem.

To release oil or gas, fracking requires pummeling large volumes of highly pressurized water, sand, and other chemicals into layers of rock.

A fracking job can use up as much as 140,000 to 150,000 gallons of water per day. This is contributing greatly to the problems experienced in California, with the US Drought Monitor revealing that 58 percent of California is experiencing“exceptional drought,” which is the most serious category on the agency’s five-level scale.

Meanwhile, the fracking companies insist that the chemicals used are harmless, but refuse to name them.

Research by the The Center for Biological Diversity revealed that the flowback water that comes from oil wells in the state can contain levels of benzene, toluene, and other toxic chemicals that are hundreds of times higher than legally allowed. Flowback fluid is then released back into wastewater storage wells.

Toxins such as benzene can take years to eventually find their way to water sources.

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