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Saturday, July 20, 2024 | Back issues
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Big Oil Polluted Water With MTBE, Village Says

EDWARDSVILLE, Ill. (CN) - A slew of major oil companies, including BP Amoco, Chevron, Exxon Mobil, Shell and Texaco, "needlessly and recklessly" added MTBE to gas in Illinois, contaminating the state's public water wells, the village of Bethalto claims in Madison County Court.

The village claims the oil giants used the gas additive methyl tertiary butyl ether, or MTBE, a possible human and a known animal carcinogen that "even in very small amounts imparts a foul taste and odor to water."

"Despite knowing that MTBE has unique characteristics in water which allows it to contaminate water sources never seen before its addition to gasoline, these defendants chose to make it the second largest chemical manufactured in the United States," the lawsuit states. "In doing so, these defendants have unleashed an unprecedented assault on the water supplied to the citizens of Illinois."

Bethalto claims MTBE is added to boost gasoline profits. The chemical boosts octane levels and allows producers to make money off of gasoline refining waste byproducts, according to the lawsuit.

But Bethalto says the higher profits carry a price. Bethalto claims MTBE is highly soluble in water and may exist in underground aquifers for decades.

"At all times relevant to this investigation, defendants were or should have been aware that MTBE contamination of groundwater was inevitable, as a result of MTBE's water-seeking properties, recalcitrance to biodegradation and bioremediation, and the long history of nationwide gasoline spills, leaks, and other losses during distribution, sale, and use," the complaint states.

Bethalto demands an investigation, water testing and monitoring, alternative water, well-head treatment, a well-head protection program, a ruling requiring the removal of MTBEs from the soil and groundwater, and damages.

The village is represented by Robin Greenwald of Weitz & Luxenberg in New York.

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