The Association of California Water Agencies (ACWA) has called on Governor Davis to protect the state's water resources by standing firm on plans to phase out the use of MTBE in gasoline by the end of this year.
In a March 8 letter signed by ACWA Executive Director Stephen Hall, the association urged Davis to resist pressure to delay the ban on MTBE, a gasoline additive that has been detected in groundwater and surface water sources throughout California. Davis issued an executive order in 1999 calling for a ban on MTBE by December 31, 2002.
"Delaying the ban on MTBE by even one more day is another opportunity for MTBE to find its way into another community's water supplies," ACWA said in the letter. "We believe that given the choice between continued MTBE use or protection of our water supplies, the public would put our water supply sources first -- even if it means paying a little more at the pump for a short time."
ACWA noted that MTBE contamination has forced the closure of drinking water wells in South Lake Tahoe, Santa Monica, San Jose, Cambria, Kern County and other locations. It has resulted in millions of dollars in water treatment, cleanup and replacement water costs and has diminished the public's confidence in the safety of water supplies.
Although one consultant's report suggests gasoline prices will rise if MTBE is banned at the end of this year, ACWA cautioned that any increases in gas prices would pale in comparison to the cost of ongoing cleanup and replacement of contaminated water supplies.
The letter expressed support for the governor's efforts to obtain a waiver for California from the Clean Air Act's oxygenate requirement. However, it pointed to recent MTBE contamination in Ventura County as evidence of the need to remove MTBE from gasoline as soon as possible.
"It is patently obvious that MTBE is a threat to our state's water resources. It is an expensive problem that will only grow more expensive in the future, and it is costing us precious water supplies that California simply cannot afford to lose," the ACWA letter said.
ACWA is a statewide association whose 440 members are responsible for about 90 percent of the water delivered in California. For more information, visit www.acwanet.com.