MTBE Problem Widespread in California
San Francisco Bay Area, CA -- August 31, 2001 -- In the San Francisco Bay Area, 251 underground tank sites are leaking the gasoline additive, MTBE, according to a report in the San Francisco Chronicle. The newspaper's analysis of data from the California Water Resources Control Board and the state Department of Health Services also showed that 48 wells in California public water systems are contaminated with the chemical, which is listed as a potential human carcinogen by the Environmental Protection Agency. The data does not include private wells, which are not regulated or routinely tested by public agencies.
Chevron, Shell, Texaco and Unocal recently signed a settlement requiring them to clean up MTBE contamination at 700 California sites. If the companies do not complete the cleanups, water quality control agencies can ask for a court order with penalties of up to $6,000 a day, according to the Chronicle.
A synthetic, colorless compound with a turpentine-like odor, MTBE or methyl tertiary butyl was originally used to promote more complete burning of gasoline. In California, its use will be prohibited by the end of 2002, but state residents may still be exposed to this harmful chemical during a "phase-out period." See MTBE Exposure for more details. Also, feel free to contact us if you feel you have been exposed to MTBE and have questions about your legal rights.