MCKITTRICK, Calif. (KGET) — A cease and desist order has been issued requiring Valley Water Management Company to bring its McKittrick facility into compliance with water regulations or stop discharging wastewater at the facility.

The order was issued by Central Valley Water Regional Quality Control Board, which found the cumulative effect of disposing “produced water” at the facility over decades has created a “highly saline wastewater plume” migrating to the northeast. That water is threatening higher-quality groundwater designated for municipal and agricultural use.

The oil industry defines produced water as water brought to the surface during oil production.

“Valley Water provides a valuable service to the oil industry in Kern County, but discharges from the McKittrick facility must not put groundwater beneficial uses at risk,” Patrick Pulupa, executive officer of the Central Valley Water Board, said in a release.

The cease and desist order requires Valley Water Management to demonstrate that its wastewater discharges at the facility aren’t causing pollution, according to the release. If it can’t, it must either upgrade the facility or cease discharging produced water.

Valley Water Management disposes of produced water from the South Belridge, Cymric and McKittrick oil fields at the facility, where 2.8 million gallons of produced water are discharged each day into 163 acres of unlined disposal ponds, the release says.