MTBE in Missouri
June 9, 2013
C. Audra Bassett-Touchell, Ph.D
MTBE in Missouri
Starting in the 1970’s Methyl Tertiary Butyl Ether (MTBE) was put in gasoline to boost octane. In 1999 the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommended phasing out the use of MTBE which was found to be a cancer causing chemical. MTBE contaminated water thru public and private water wells. In 2002 Missouri lawmakers decided to phase out MTBE. The state wide phase out was complete on July 1, 2005 Methyl Tertiary Butyl Ether was commonly put as an additive in gasoline to reduce engine knocks until 2002. In 2002 a law was passed in Missouri banning MTBE from the gasoline supply. MTBE was phased out by July 1, 2005. MTBE can be discharged from motor boats and other watercraft, it enters the water thought gasoline storage tank leaks and gasoline spills. It is also released into the atmosphere from emissions from vehicles. Showering, drinking or swimming in water contaminated by MTBE can also allow one to be exposed. MTBE contamination can be smelled or tasted long before a harmful level would be reached MTBE has a strong turpentine taste and an unpleasant taste. The EPA advises that people would have the ability to smell MTBE when the levels are twenty to forty parts per billion. Wells all over the country have been contaminated with MTBE. In Missouri all non-community, non-transient and community water supplies are monitored for contamination. Since 1979 a total of sixty six wells and thirty seven sites have been contaminated by MTBE. The earliest discovery of MTBE in Missouri was in 1992 at Blue Harbor Marina in Osage Beach. Five wells were impacted; the highest level of MBTE found there was seventeen thousand parts per billion. All five wells were replaced with new ones. Once every three years the Department of Natural Resources will inspect every active tank. The state of Missouri has very strict safety requirements for tank inspections. All tanks...
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