MTBE ban in Nevada? |

MTBE ban in Nevada?

by Andy Bourelle

The controversial fuel additive MTBE is not used nearly as much in Nevada as it is in California, but that doesn’t mean water officials in the silver state aren’t worried about it.

The Nevada Rural Water Association, representing more than 100 utility districts, is urging Gov. Kenny Guinn to ban MTBE in Nevada.

“MTBE has been detected in both surface water and ground sources, Lake Tahoe and Lake Mead being the most visible,” said Charles Lawson, vice president and legislative director for the association. “It’s only a matter of time before it will be found in all other sources of water.”

The association recently sent a letter to the governor, recommending “an immediate ban on the use of MTBE in the state of Nevada.”

Bob Loding, general manager of the Round Hill General Improvement District and board member of the Nevada Rural Water Association, said he hopes, at the very least, the association’s urging will increase awareness of the controversial fuel additive in Nevada.

“What’s it doing to our groundwater aquifers? Do we have a problem in the state? I don’t think that has really been addressed,” Loding said. “We need to protect our water supply in Nevada, also. It’s too late to get anything into the Legislature, but by going to the governor and requesting this, maybe it will create some public awareness.”

MTBE – methyl tertiary butyl ether – is a gasoline additive that has contaminated more than 10,000 sites in the state of California. The South Tahoe Public Utility District, South Shore’s primary water supplier, has had to shut down more than one-third of its drinking water wells because of contamination in groundwater aquifers.

Last month, California Gov. Gray Davis ordered a three-year phaseout of the additive’s use, and so far two oil companies have agreed to provide MTBE-free gasoline to the Lake Tahoe area within the next few months.

The U.S. Geological Survey last summer detected MTBE at concentrations of 0.54 to 5.6 parts per billion at near-shore sites in Lake Tahoe.

At least two utility providers who take their water from the lake have served water with low levels of MTBE contamination – below 5 parts per billion and below any state or federal action requirements. Round Hill and the Lakeside Water Utility District, serving 137 customers, found traces of MTBE last summer.

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