If you live in New Hampshire, the words methyl tertiary-butyl ether may have made it into your general vocabulary lately. News escalated recently around a lawsuit claiming multiple oil companies allegedly contaminated the water supply with the gasoline additive methyl tertiary-butyl ether, or MTBE (1). In a state like New Hampshire where 60 percent of the population relies on private well water, we think it’s important to always be aware of local events that could impact your water supply (2). We’d like to take the chance to help you understand what MTBE is, how it gets into your water, how it affects your drinking water, how to know if you have MTBE in your water and how you can reduce its presence.
What is MTBE?
MTBE is a chemical compound that has been used almost exclusively as a fuel additive since 1979 (3). Because of its ability to raise the oxygen content of gasoline, MTBE is used to help gasoline burn more completely, reducing harmful emissions from motor vehicles (3). Since 1992, higher concentrations of MTBE have been used in some gasoline to fulfill oxygenate requirements set by Congress in the 1990 Clean Air Act Amendments (3). So, MTBE has advantages for the environment, but when the chemical shows up in water supplies through leaks or spills, it can cause these water supplies to be undrinkable.
How MTBE Gets Into Your Water
According to the EPA, MTBE can end up in ground and surface water through underground gasoline storage tanks and pipes leakages or spills. It can also come from emissions into lakes and reservoirs through boats and other personal water crafts (4).
How Does MTBE Affect Drinking Water
Small traces of MTBE in your water supply can cause it to be undrinkable because of its unpleasant taste and color (5). According to the EPA, MTBE in drinking water is not likely to cause adverse health effects at concentrations between 20 and 40 ppb or below (5). While the EPA has not set a national standard for MTBE in water, some states have set their own limits (5). If you are curious about your neck of the woods, check to see if your state has set a limit for MTBE in water.
How to Know if You Have MTBE in Your Water
Traces of MTBE in your water can have an offensive odor or taste (5), but the only way to know for sure is to have your water tested. If your water supply comes from a municipal source, you can contact them directly for a water quality report. These water quality reports are also usually available on your water supplier’s website. If you have a private well water supply, and have reason to be concerned about possible MTBE contamination, you can get this tested. Contact your local Culligan Man to get a water test set up today.
How to Reduce MTBE in Your Water Supply
Now that you know a little bit more about MTBE, we can get to the important discussion of how to reduce it if water that has been confirmed to have MTBE contamination. Culligan offers the Culligan Aqua Cleer Drinking Water System with Total Defense Cartridge that is certified for MTBE reduction. This powerful drinking water filtration system will reduce the presence of MTBE in your water and leave you with better tasting drinking water. To find out if this is the right system for you, contact your local Culligan Man and he can assess your water supply and make a recommendation based on your specific needs!
*MTBE and other impurities are not necessarily in your water.