Black Water and Fear-Mongering in Gardena

Several families in a Gardena, CA neighborhood are experiencing a problem with their tap water. There have been multiple reports of malodorous, ink-black water running from the faucet. Residents are understandably concerned and have turned to Golden State Water Company for answers. The company’s response:

“We have had some discolored water and some odor complaints in the surrounding area over the past few months, but we don’t know what the cause is at this time.”

ABC, KTLA, NBC and UPI were just some of the outlets that were either on site or have followed the story of this Los Angeles-adjacent neighborhood’s water troubles. Their collective coverage all featured the footage of blackened water filters and murky drinking glasses. As all these outlets report, the water company continues to search for the cause of the problem.

However, one blog,, took it upon itself to report that hydraulic fracturing is the source of the families’ water problems:

“Families in Gardena, California turned on their taps to find only black sludge pouring out of them this week, and even when the water ran clear, it smelled of sewage. Is this yet another water crisis caused by the shale gas industry?” [Emphasis added]

The author is apparently unaware that shale gas development does not occur in Los Angeles County. The headline, “Black, Foul-Smelling Sludge Pours From Taps In California As Fracking Takes Its Toll,” suggests this anyway, but then backs off in the last paragraph where the author writes:

“It is too early to say if Fracking was directly responsible for the cases in Gardena.”

On this point, we’d have to agree… and then some. A search on shows that hydraulic fracturing has not taken place in Gardena any time recently. A recent study in the Los Angeles Basin found no adverse impacts from fracking.



Of course, if hydraulic fracturing were taking place in Gardena, it would be safe. Experts and regulators have repeatedly said that hydraulic fracturing does not contaminate groundwater:

  • Ernest Moniz, Secretary of U.S. Dept. of Energy: “To my knowledge, I still have not seen any evidence of fracking per se contaminating groundwater.” (Aug. 2013)
  • U.S. Geological Survey: “This new study is important in terms of finding no significant effects on groundwater quality from shale gas development within the area of sampling.” (January 2013)
  • U.S. Govt. Accountability Office (GAO): “[R]egulatory officials we met with from eight states – Arkansas, Colorado, Louisiana, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, and Texas – told us that, based on state investigations, the hydraulic fracturing process has not been identified as a cause of groundwater contamination within their states.” (September 2012)
  • Lisa Jackson, former EPA Administrator: “In no case have we made a definitive determination that [hydraulic fracturing] has caused chemicals to enter groundwater.” (April 2012)

The claim that hydraulic fracturing poses grave risks to groundwater is the single most pronounced source of criticism against the practice responsible for the U.S. energy revolution. The proponents of this claim tend to be national environmental activist groups that want to cut out fossils entirely from the U.S. energy portfolio. When these groups are asked provide evidence, they can’t. During a U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources hearing in 2013, representatives from both the Sierra Club and the Natural Resources Defense Council could not name a single confirmed case of hydraulic fracturing contaminating groundwater.

The author of the piece, Kerry-anne Mendoza – a self-described activist – didn’t bother to learn anything about oil and gas development in California, or about the safety record of hydraulic fracturing, before making her sensationalistic claims. According to her bio:

“Kerry-anne Mendoza is a writer and activist. After a career as a management consultant holding senior positions in Banking, Health and Local Government – she gave it all up to live in a tent at Occupy London and has been writing ever since. She is based in the UK.”

When four credible media outlets that represent local, national and international media don’t breathe a word about fracking during their coverage, there is a reason for it. The families in Gardena and the local water authority have more pressing issues than the unfounded speculations of an activist writing from a tent 5,000 miles away.

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