Ca. MTBE Ban Doesn't Match With Lower UST Detections
UST Problem Cited in 1999 Executive Order Said No Longer an Issue
OXY-FUEL NEWS, November 18, 2002
Vol. 14, No. 46
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The number of leaking underground storage tank (UST) detections with MTBE in California is continuing its decline and therefore it doesn't make sense that the state maintain its plans to ban the additive, an analyst told a recent UST conference in the state.
"The problem with MTBE in groundwater was lacking UST program
enforcement/compliance," and not with MTBE itself, said Jim White, of White Environmental Associates. "Statistics maintained by the [California] Department of Health Services clearly demonstrate that following the 1998 UST upgrade requirement, the previously low rate of detections of MTBE in drinking water sources are even lower today," he said. He noted that the DHS statistics are cumulative and many of the wells are now non-detect and many of the newer detects are likely from old releases.
Even more so, the original "problem" that was outlined in California Gov. Gray Davis' (D) original 1999 Executive Order in banning MTBE has been addressed, White noted. In the 1999 Executive Order, Davis said, "because of leaking underground storage tanks MTBE poses an environmental threat to groundwater and drinking water." But in the
governor's 2002 Executive Order, delaying the MTBE ban by one year, he notes, "strengthened underground storage tank requirements and enforcement have significantly
decreased the volume and rate of MTBE discharges." The one-year MTBE ban delay was done due to fears of price and supply problems.
Therefore, California and the U.S. in general should not be banning MTBE. "It is absolutely, totally unnecessary to ban MTBE. It will waste a lot of money," White told OFN.
The California Energy Commission found that just banning MTBE in the state will cost $300-$400 million, he said, noting that didn't take into account any supply problems that could result, which would boost that figure up. "It is a huge waste of money and we ought to be more focused on making sure USTs are enforced," he said. "That fact is that any continued threat to groundwater from MTBE in gasoline...[is] only as great as the deficiencies of the resident petroleum storage integrity assurance programs," White
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