The Hidden Threat of MTBE

There’s a pending crisis in America, one that could affect every man, woman and child. It strikes at the very nerve of our everyday lives-our drinking water. It’s a crisis so potentially serious that even the top federal agency over the environment is perplexed as to how to handle it.

On January 16th, 2000, CBS News’ 60 Minutes reported on the concerns over methyl tertiary butyl ether (MTBE) contaminating the water in 49 states. Widely used as a gasoline oxygenate to reduce air pollutants, MTBE has seeped into drinking water wells from underground fuel tanks (as well as other sources). Surface waters have also become contaminated by fuel from recreational vehicles.

MTBE has become the oxygenate of choice in over 85 percent of the time, as ethanol is found in only 8 percent of all reformulated gasoline today. In the words of 60 Minutes’ correspondent Steve Kroft, “Even the government now says that we’re facing a national crisis if something isn’t done to stop MTBE from leaking into our drinking water.”

Through the fall of 1999, MTBE was used at the rate of about one gallon of pure MTBE forevery ten gallons of reformatted gasoline, or 10 percent of every tank. If we multiply the number of gallons of gas used in this country every day, by every person who fills their tank with gasoline, we may only begin to imagine the magnitude of this problem. As was reported, MTBE is highly water soluble and because of leaking underground petroleum storage tanks, has become a contaminant in 35 percent of the nation’s urban wells. Researchers estimate that thousands of community water wells located near leaky underground storage tanks are at risk of being contaminated by MTBE. The city of Santa Monica, California alone found 70 percent of its city wells contaminated, and has spent more than $3 million a year pumping in water from the Colorado River to replace those of the seven city wells it shut down due to MTBE contamination. According to the 60 Minutes interview with Santa Monica officials, a single cupful of MTBE in a 5 million gallon reservoir is sufficient to render the water undrinkableThe lawyer for the city of Santa Monica has said we are “just seeing the tip of the iceberg.”

Since Santa Monica closed its wells, the state of California has identified 10,000 MTBE contaminated groundwater sites. Forty-nine other states have found it in groundwater, with twenty-one of these states having to shut down at least one of their wells due to MTBE contamination. It has been found in at least sixty-five public water supplies in New Jersey, and in one hundred public water supplies in Long Island, New York, where it has leaked from over four hundred gasoline storage tanks.

In 1995, an Italian study on the effects of MTBE showed high doses of this chemical caused three cancer types in laboratory animals: lymphoma, leukemia, and testicular cancer. Further studies between 1992 and 1998 indicated how rats and mice which were fed and forced to breathe air containing MTBE developed significant increases in tumors of the testes and liver, lymphoma, leukemia, and kidney tubules, with some animals developing cancers in multiple places.

It’s imperative that every American take whatever precautions necessary to insure the safety and cleanliness of their drinking water. To fail to act now, in light of these new revelations about MTBE contamination, is fool-hardy. You will be happy to know that the solution to MTBE is already “built-in” to the AquaRain Gravity Water Filter System. Contained within the center of our ceramic elements is a mass of highly effective silvered granulated carbon made from coconut shells which has already demonstrated a superior performance in reducing pesticides, various chemicals, chlorine, halogens, tastes and odors. High quality carbon is a recommended method of removing MTBE. So the answer is a resounding YES! The AquaRain Gravity Water Filter will adsorb the contaminant MTBE!