Air-pollution additive contaminating California water
By Environmental News Network staffJune 3, 1998
Web posted at: 5:59 p.m. EDT (2159 GMT)
(ENN) -- California water leaders recently took action to protect the state's drinking water from contamination by a gasoline additive designed to reduce air pollution.
In a policy statement adopted by the Association of California Water Agencies (ACWA) board of directors on May 29, the leaders said there's an urgent need for research into the health effects of methyl tertiary butyl ether (MTBE) and how to remove it from contaminated water sources.
Water association members agreed that water agencies and their customers should not be forced to pay the costs associated with MTBE contamination, including the cost of replacement water. In addition, they called for legislation requiring regulatory agencies to evaluate the environmental impacts of any fuel additives before they are approved for use.
The action comes in response to the growing instances of MTBE contamination of the state's drinking water. MTBE was added to California gasoline beginning in 1992 to help the state reduce pollution and meet federal Clean Air Act standards. But it has contaminated groundwater and surface water in California, primarily as a result of leaking from underground storage tanks and pipelines and the use of motorized watercraft on lakes and reservoirs.
The additive is a possible carcinogen and gives water a bad taste and odor even at low levels. Water agencies are pursuing ways to recoup the cost of cleaning up contaminated sites and protect water sources that have not yet been polluted.
"ACWA members are concerned about the potential for widespread contamination of California's water sources by MTBE," said ACWA Executive Director Stephen K. Hall. "This policy will help water agencies respond to MTBE contamination issues and help us find solutions that protect water sources and drinking-water consumers from the impacts of MTBE use."
"We cannot afford any erosion in the public's confidence," Hall said. "California's water agencies have spent billions of dollars to provide the safest, most healthful water in the world and MTBE threatens to undermine that investment."
Highlights from the new policy include support for:
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