Victory! Exxon found guilty of contaminating NYC wells with MTBE
On October 19, 2009, a federal jury ruled in New York City's favor and found the Exxon Mobil Corporation liable for poisoning the city's water supply with MTBE. Exxon, which started using MTBE in the 1980's, was found guilty of contaminating five wells in Queens with the harmful gasoline additive and was required to pay $104.7 million in damages to the city. The funds will be used to build and operate a facility that will purge the water supply of MTBE. Read the full article.
CLEAN WATER VICTORY! Due to public opposition of MTBE groundwater pollution, the federal oxygenate requirement was allowed to sunset on May 5, 2006—marking the end of MTBE in gasoline across the nation!
A Brief Timeline of CCE action on MTBE
- May 5, 2006, Gasoline sold in U.S. is MTBE free! The federal oxygenate requirement sunsets.
- August 19, 2005, New Jersey becomes 25th state to ban MTBE.
- 2005, CCE called upon New Jersey to ban this toxic chemical from gasoline supplies to effectively ban the additive in the entire tri-state area.
- January 2004, MTBE is banned from the gasoline mixture sold in New York or Connecticut
- In 2000 CCE successfully advocated for New York State and Connecticut to remove MTBE from gasoline over a four-year phase out.
- Since 1999, CCE has been urging states to respond to the growing threat to drinking water from the gasoline additive MTBE.
What is MTBE?
Many are now aware of the water-polluting chemical MTBE (methyl tertiary-butyl ether) and its rapidly growing threat to the quality of drinking water supplies in Northeast and throughout the nation. MTBE has historically been used as a fuel additive to make gasoline combust more efficiently and completely, with the intent of reducing tailpipe emissions. The transportation, handling, and storage of gasoline has led to thousands of documented spill sites across New York, Connecticut, New Jersey and the nation which can contaminate soils, groundwater, surface and coastal waters.
Leaking Underground Storage Tanks: A Major Source of MTBE Contamination
MTBE is Problematic
Classified by the EPA as a possible carcinogen, MTBE is just one of many contaminants in the mixture of toxic chemicals known as gasoline. However, unlike gasoline's other ingredients, MTBE dissolves easily in water, and the microorganisms that feed on and break down petroleum products tend to avoid MTBE. When a spill or leak occurs, MTBE separates itself from the other fuel components and moves away from the spill site with water flow. These qualities make MTBE very difficult and costly to clean up, and explain why MTBE is being detected in drinking water supplies so quickly. MTBE is particularly problematic in areas such as northern New Jersey that are dependent on groundwater wells for drinking water.
February 2008 NYSDEC report to US EPA on investigating potential sources of MTBE contamination on Long Island that could impact water supplies or environmentally sensitive areas
For more information about CCE's work on MTBE, contact our or call us at 516-390-7150.
Updated by dglance 3/31/10