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Methyl-tert-butyl-ether

methyl tert-butyl ether or MTBE

MTBE in Drinking Water

1979 Methyl tert-butyl ether replaces tetra-ethyl lead in gasoline.

Methyl tert-butyl ether, also known as methyl tertiary butyl ether and MTBE, is an organic compound with molecular formula (CH3)3COCH3. MTBE is a volatile, flammable and colorless liquid that is sparingly soluble in water.

It has a minty odor vaguely reminiscent of diethyl ether, leading to unpleasant taste and odor in water.

MTBE is a gasoline additive, used as an oxygenate to raise the octane number.

Its use became controversial when found in ground water.

After that federal and state legislation favored ethanol.

1992 MTBE is being used at higher concentrations in some gasoline to fulfill the oxygenate requirements set by Congress in Clean Air Act amendments.

1996 Santa Monica closes 7 of 11 drinking water wells in its Charnock well field after discovering MTBE contamination.

1999 MTBE, manufactured by the chemical reaction of methanol and butylene, is being produced in very large quantities of more than 200,000 barrels per day in the US.

October 15, 2000 Chevron announces acquisition of Texaco.

2001 An associate professor of chemistry at Purdue University finds MTBE in gasoline supplies in systems where the fuel additive is not required.

The study examines 200 samples of gas taken from stations in Indiana, Illinois and Michigan and finds that over 70% of the samples contained MTBE and 25% of the samples contained "significant amounts of MTBE.

One ounce of MTBE can contaminate 1,000 tons of water.

California's Water Resources Control Board reports 48 public water drinking systems serving hundreds of thousands of residents have been contaminated with MTBE.

This is in addition to tens of thousands of private wells throughout California and hundreds of thousands of private wells nationwide.

Shell, Chevron, Texaco, Equilon Enterprises and Unocal settle a lawsuit filed by an environmental group which requires the oil companies to remediate MTBE ground water contamination at a minimum of 700 sites in California.

Exxon agrees to pay $12 million in partial reimbursement of what South Lake Tahoe Public Utility to remediate MTBE from ground water which had to close 12 of its 34 drinking water wells.

2003 ChevronTexaco agrees to pay $9.1 million to settle a lawsuit arising from MTBE ground water contamination in Cambria, California.

2004 California Superior Court judge approved a settlement agreement between a dozen firms and the City of Santa Monica, California over ground water contamination MTBE.

The settlement, which is valued at $312 million, includes $100 million in cash payments plus "a potentially unlimited obligation to cleanup up the wells." Defendants included in this settlement are:

ChevronTexaco, Chevron USA Inc., Chevron Products Co., ExxonMobil, Shell Oil, Shell Oil Products, Shell Pipeline, Equilon Enterprises, Equilon Pipeline, Texaco Refining, Thrifty Oil, and Best California Gas.

This is believed to be the largest settlement to date for MTBE contamination.

New York State had identified over 13,000 sites with ground water contamination by MTBE.

New York had allowed gasoline sold in the state to include 12 to 15% MTBE, some of the highest mixtures in the nation.

MTBE contamination has been discovered in ground water in 28 states and estimates of the costs to cleanup the contamination range from $30 billion to $100 billion.

The estimated costs to filter some 130 municipal drinking water wells in Plainview Long Island (New York) ranges from $390 million to $1 billion.

New York has removes some 6,000 leaking underground storage tanks.

By January, 2005 oil companies agreed to pay nearly a half billion dollars to settle lawsuits filed on behalf of municipalities over MTBE contaminated ground water.

2005 Worldwide production of MTBE has been constant at about 18 million tons/y owing to growth in Asian markets which are less subject to ethanol subsidies.

ChevronTexaco agrees to settle a lawsuit by paying $850,000 for ground water contamination with MTBE. The suit is filed by the Los Osos Community Services District after MTBE from a former gas station contaminated ground water and at least one drinking water well.

EPA announced another settlement with a dozen oil companies over MTBE contaminated ground water beneath Santa Monica, California.

The settling companies, which will pay $1.5 million to end the suit, include:

Shell Oil; Shell Oil Products; Equilon Enterprises; Shell Pipeline; TRM; ChevronTexaco; Chevron USA; ExxonMobil; Mobil Oil; Thrifty Oil; and Best California Gas.

The companies have already extracted nearly 350 million gallons of contaminated ground water.

Estimates of cleanup costs necessary to remediate MTBE contaminated ground water nationwide run between $29 billion and $92 billion. Some 140 municipalities and water companies have filed lawsuits against petroleum industry defendants over ground water contamination with the fuel additive MTBE.

Twelve oil companies, Premcor Refining, Conoco, Tosco, Shell Oil, Shell Oil Products, Phillips Petroleum, BP Products North America, BP Amoco, Union Oil, UNO-VEN, Citgo Petroleum, and PDV Midwest Refining LLC, have agreed to pay $8 million to the village of East Alton, Illinois to settle their liability for drinking water wells contaminated with MTBE.

Two gas stations are believed to be the source of the contamination.

Twenty-one US Senators ask the EPA to provide them with information contained in a draft report being reviewed by the agency that concludes that the gasoline additive MTBE should be labeled a human carcinogen.




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