Sep 26, 2014

Family Farm Suing Over Pollution of Freshwater Supply in San Joaquin Valley

Palla Farms brings the lawsuit to recover costs to be paid for remediation of the environmental damage caused by the oil companies

Palla Farms oil companies salt water freshwater aquifers San Joaquin

A consortium of law firms throughout California filed a lawsuit alleging that freshwater supplying a 92-year-old family farm is being polluted by salt water injected by oil companies in the San Joaquin Valley.

Palla Farms owns orchards in the San Joaquin Valley, growing almonds, pistachios, and, until recently, cherries. Palla Farms is suing several oil companies, including Crimson Resource Management Corp., Dole Enterprises, San Joaquin Facilities Management, Inc., and E & B Natural Resources Management. According to the lawsuit filed in Kern County Superior Court, these oil companies store, transport and then inject salt water underground near the freshwater used by Palla Farms.

In the last six years, these oil companies injected more than 1.9 billion gal of salt water within a three mile radius of Palla Farms. Salt water pulled up during oil production contains high amounts of total dissolved solids and high concentrations of boron and sodium chloride. All three are toxic to cherries and almonds. Palla Farms ultimately was forced to remove the dying cherry orchard in 2012. High amounts of chloride (a component of salt) and boron in the water injected by the oil companies underground makes the freshwater unsuitable for irrigation. If the salt levels remain high, Palla Farms will have to remove the almond trees too.

"Palla Farms is just beginning to experience the detrimental impact as they attempt to pump clean water from the aquifer to grow the trees in their remaining orchards," said lead attorney Patricia K. Oliver, with the R. Rex Parris law firm. "The Palla family must now decide whether to continue farming in a valley once so natural for farming because of the unique Mediterranean climate and abundant fresh water." Palla Farms brings this lawsuit to recover costs to be paid for remediation of the environmental damage caused by the oil companies. The complaint states that the oil companies should comply with the regulations to confine the salt water or clean it before injecting it so close to the aquifer.

"This case seeks to abate environmental harm and prevent future harm to all farmers in the San Joaquin Valley and to the 25 million people who depend on water from the California Aqueduct for drinking," Oliver said.