County supervisors got raked over the coals Tuesday afternoon by an attorney representing a coalition of local farmers concerned about protecting their land and groundwater from encroachment by oil and gas production companies.
Serving as a backdrop for that discussion, a 320-acre almond orchard off Allen and 7th Standard Roads.
Keith Gardiner farms that land and says this summer, he lost three deep water wells because chloride was showing up in the water at levels 40 times of what's considered normal.
There's an oil field tank farm and a disposal well nearby.
"Those wells are 50 years old. We've never had that kind of problem before. But, for some reason now we do. We're gonna lose those three wells," said Gardiner.
"We're gonna find the source of that contamination, but we want laws and regulations in place on a larger scale."
Attorney George Martin represents the Committee to Protect Farmland and Clean Water and railed at supervisors and their staff for shutting him and committee members out of a meeting last week with oil companies that want the county to streamline its permitting process to drill for oil down on the farm.
"And, your planning director said last Tuesday we weren't a stake holder, only oil and gas and dogger. And, that's offensive to me," said Martin. "It's on our land and it's prime ag land. This isn't the oil companies out on their land in Elk Hills, on land they own. This is on our land and we want in that room."
Supervisors have scheduled a hearing for December 11th on the oil industry's request for a streamlined permitting process for oil and gas production on farmland in the valley.
We contacted the local offices of the Western States Petroleum Association for comment Tuesday afternoon, but our call was not returned.