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Fuel oxygenates and water quality: Findings and recommendations of the Interagency Oxygenated Fuel Assessment


U.S. Geological Survey, 1608 Mt. View Road, Rapid City, South Dakota 57702
Phone (605) 355-4560 ext. 214, Telecopier (605) 355-4523,

In response to concerns over the use of methyl tert-butyl ether (MTBE) in gasoline, the Office of Science and Technology Policy, Executive Office of the President, has coordinated an interagency assessment of the scientific basis and efficacy of the Nation's winter oxygenated gasoline program. This program mandates that compounds referred to as oxygenates be added to gasoline during the winter in select metropolitan areas across the United States to reduce the amount of carbon monoxide in the atmosphere. Public-health, air-quality, water-quality, fuel-economy, and engine-performance concerns or benefits were addressed in the assessment. Available information was summarized for MTBE, other alkyl ether oxygenates and alcohol oxygenates, including ethanol, methanol, and tert-butyl alcohol.

The purpose of this paper is to present major findings and recommendations on the water-quality component of the interagency assessment. This work was completed by an ad hoc panel that represented several governmental agencies, industry, and academia. The assessment summarized the scientific literature, monitoring data, and agency information on the sources, concentrations, behavior characteristics, and fate of fuel oxygenates, and their aqueous degradation products, in ground water and surface water. It also attempted to assess the implications for drinking-water quality and aquatic life. Recommendations by the panel for further data-base compilation, monitoring, reporting of information, follow-up assessments, reports, and research efforts are also noted. Although the scope of the assessment was intended to cover all oxygenates in commercial use, little data and few scientific publications are available on the occurrence, behavior, and fate of oxygenates in ground water, surface water, and drinking water, except for MTBE.


1996, Fuel oxygenates and water quality--Findings and recommendatons of the Interagency Oxygenated Fuel Assessment: Conference on Contaminated Soils, 11th, Amherst, Mass., p. 661-679.

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