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Ground-Water Issues and Recent Findings on MTBE in Ground Water

Stephen Grady, and John S. Zogorski

U.S. Geological Survey
101 Pitkin Street
East Hartford, CT 06108
Phone (860)-291-6758,

Numerous reported incidences of ground-water contamination by gasoline oxygenate methyl tert-butyl ether (MTBE) have raised questions such as: What levels of MTBE contamination of drinking water and ambient ground water have taken place? How well have drinking-water-monitoring programs, wellhead protection, and education of water resource managers and planners prevented loss of community water-supply wells and domestic wells or the need for expensive treatment to remediate MTBE contamination? What are the sources, pathways, and fate of MTBE contamination of ground water?

This presentation will review recent findings on the occurrence, distribution, sources, fate, and transport of MTBE in ground water that indicate the following: Low concentrations of MTBE are frequently detected in ambient ground water and community water-supply wells in some areas of the country with high MTBE use. MTBE concentrations exceeding the 20 microgram per liter U.S. Environmental Agency Drinking-Water Advisory are rare, although some wells have been removed from use or have required treatment because concentrations exceeded this level. Both point and nonpoint sources of MTBE contamination have been identified. Active remediation of MTBE may be required at some gasoline release sites where MTBE has migrated much farther than conventional gasoline hydrocarbons.


1999 Maine Water Conference, "MTBE and Toxics in Maine's Environment", April 15th, Augusta, Maine.

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