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The Association of California Water Agencies (ACWA) issued an urgent call for action from the federal government to help halt the spread of Methyl Tertiary Butyl Ether (MTBE). In a letter to President Clinton, ACWA's Executive Director Steve Hall appealed for prompt action to end use of the additive affecting a growing number of local water supplies.
"As of today," wrote Hall on July 10, "it has been '455 days and counting' since Governor Gray Davis petitioned the Clinton/Gore administration to grant California a waiver from the Clean Air Act oxygenate mandate so that he can address the ever increasing MTBE water contamination crisis." Governor Davis has yet to receive a positive response to his request, which is strongly supported by the drinking water suppliers of California.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on March 20 announced a national "phaseout" of MTBE, and seeks to replace the additive with a renewable fuel such as ethanol. However, these measures amount to compromise action that will take years to implement, with no assurance that MTBE will ever be completely removed as a threat to our drinking water.
The waiver is needed because it will permit immediate removal of MTBE, with or without a new "renewable fuels" mandate.
"Many of our member agencies, from Lake Tahoe to Santa Monica, are experiencing drastic decreases in the water supply they can deliver to their customers because they are forced to retire wells due to MTBE contamination," Hall said Wednesday. "We do not need more studies or proclamations on the harmfulness of MTBE. We already know it jeopardizes our drinking water. What we need is action."
The California Department of Health Services announced June 5th that MTBE had been detected in 32 public water systems in 20 counties located throughout the state. The fuel additive has been found in 55 drinking water sources, including 34 groundwater and 21 surface water supplies.
Each day, the need for a waiver from the oxygenate mandate increases. California's public water agencies ask the Clinton/Gore administration to grant Governor Davis the waiver he requested before more California communities lose drinking water supplies.
The Association of California Water Agencies (ACWA) represents 443 public water agencies responsible for over 90% of the water delivered in California.