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U.S. Geological Survey
Fact Sheet 064-01
Online Version 1.0

National Survey of MTBE and Other VOCs in Community Drinking-Water Sources

By Rick Clawges, Barbara Rowe, and John Zogorski


Methyl tert-butyl ether (MTBE) is a volatile organic compound (VOC) that is added to gasoline either seasonally or year round in many parts of the United States to increase the octane level and to reduce carbon monoxide and ozone levels in the air. The chemical properties and widespread use of MTBE can result in contamination of private and public drinking-water sources. MTBE contamination is a concern in drinking water because of the compound´s low taste and odor threshhold and potential human-health effects.

Because of this concern, a survey was initiated in collaboration with researchers and water suppliers. The purpose of this survey is to provide sound, unbiased, scientific information on the occurrence of MTBE and other VOCs in ground water, reservoirs, and rivers that are sources of drinking water used by communities of various sizes throughout the Nation. This fact sheet presents a general description of the survey

Download a PDF version of the entire fact sheet [3.3 MB]

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